Foxtail barley is a grass native to much of Illinois. This short grass tolerates a wide range of tough conditions. It should be used with care as it readily self-seeds and can become weedy.
- North America
- Mixed border,
- Medium plant (12-24 inches)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7,
- Zone 8,
- Zone 9
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Mid summer,
- Late summer,
- Early fall,
- Mid fall
Size and Form
Foxtail barley grows 1 to 2 feet tall with an upright form. When in flower and fruit, the whole plant takes on a windswept look. It is a clumping grass, but will self-seed.
Prefers full sun and a moist, well-drained soil. It can tolerate heat, salt, dry sites and alkaline soils.
This is a cool season grass, so its most active growth occurs in spring. Unlike other cool season grasses it does not provide winter interest as the plant tends to fall apart late in the season. Foxtail barley is usually a short-lived perennial and is often used as an annual in the garden. It will readily self-seed.
Disease, pests, and problems
No serious pests.
It should be used with care as it readily self-seeds and can become weedy.
Native geographic location and habitat
Native to much of North America, including central and northenr Illinois.
Often found in difficult sites and in sites without larger plants that might compete with it.
Light green leaves alternate along the stem and are 4 to 5 inches long.
Flowering occurs in late spring to early summer. Tiny flowers are held in foxtail-like spikes that feature very long (2 to 4 inches) awns (bristles). The flower spike is green with tones of pink or purple.
The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) are held in the long-awned spikes. As the fruit mature, they turn brown. The spikes that hold the fruit will start to break apart in late summer and autumn.