As grasses grow hotter and fall sales fire up, natives like Andropogon gerardii fit the bill and fill trays fast. And ‘Red October,’ a hot new introduction, is a great big bluestem grass to get any fall perennial and ornamental grass program off to a great start.
‘Red October’ was selected for its fine, thin foliage and sizzling autumn color show. It boasts red stems and red flowers and has dark-green foliage that deepens to purple in late summer. Cool nights in August can add to the interest, turning foliage tips red. After a frost, this new native turns almost entirely brilliant scarlet for fall, displaying spectacular late-season color.
‘Red October’ has an upright, clumping habit and loves sun. It reaches a height of 5 to 6 feet and typically stays less than 2 feet wide. It’s hardy in Zones 3 to 8.
Plant one liner per 1 gallon pot. A 38-cell liner will finish in six to eight weeks for spring sales. Irrigate well, keeping plants evenly moist. Fertilize with a constant liquid feed. Use very low levels of nitrogen, approximately 50 to 75 ppm.
Andropogons, including ‘Red October’, benefit from production in a commercial medium that drains very well. Strive to keep electrical conductivity (EC) at 0.6 to 0.9 mS/cm using the 2:1 extraction method. Maintain pH levels between 5.8 to 6.2. Provide high light levels (5,000 footcandles or more). No supplemental lighting is required.
For growing on, provide moderate night temperatures of 55ºF to 65ºF and keep day temperatures at 65ºF to 75ºF. ‘Red October’ does not require pinching. Plant growth regulators generally are not needed.
Pests won’t be a problem if standard sanitation practices are followed. Monitor vigilantly for leaf spots and rust. Preventative measures should include maintaining good air circulation and managing humidity levels.
Apply a broad-spectrum fungicide drench at liner planting. A monthly preventative broad-spectrum fungicide rotation can also be used to help protect foliage, although the need for this has been greatly reduced by the introduction of increased disease resistance through breeding.