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Extension > Garden > SULIS > Implementation > Developing a Residential Prairie

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Developing a Residential Prairie

Jillian Lay


A residential prairie is a site 1/4 acre or larger which has been planted with native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers. It reflects the original grassland vegetation dominant in the Midwest prior to European settlement. It is a landscape which encourages a diversity of plant and animal species. Following establishment, it becomes a low-maintenance landscape.

Image of Roadside with Residential Prairie

Tools and Equipment:


Site Considerations:

Site Design:

Check on local weed ordinances before developing a prairie. You may need to apply for variances.

Some prairies look more "naturalized" then other landscapes. Discuss the prairie with neighbors to inform them of the changes and that the site is being maintained.

A Residential Prairie Landscape

A Prairie Garden Bed

Site Analysis:

Prairie plants are adapted to specific soil types and moisture levels. To select appropriate plants for your prairie:

Plant Selection:

Prairie Grass

Site Preparation:

Planting Grasses:

Planting Wildflowers:

Care After Planting:

Long-term Management:

Burning Prairie 1 Burning Prairie 2 Burning Prairie 3

    Controlled burns are recommended for larger sites.

    Burning in April or early May is most advantageous.

    Check with your local fire department to obtain information and required permits.

  • On smaller sites, mowing is an alternative to controlled burning.
  • Mow once a year after prairie seeds have fallen, or in the early spring.

    Early Spring

  • Remove clippings to expose crowns of plants.


    For assistance in establishing and maintaining your prairie, contact:

    Center for Urban Ecology & Sustainability

    University of Minnesota Extension

    Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

    For a list of companies in Minnesota specializing in prairie development and prairie plants, contact:

    Minnesota Native Wildflower/Grass Producers Association
    Roy Robison, 651-488-3142

    For catalogs of prairie plants, contact:

    Landscape Alternatives

    Prairie Moon Nursery

    Prairie Nursery

    Prairie Restorations

    Prairie Wild Enterprises
    (507) 423 - 5575


    Balmori, Diana, F. Herbert Bormann, and Gordon T. Geballe. 1993. Redesigning the American Lawn, A Search for Environmental Harmony. Yale University Press.

    Daniels, Stevie. 1995. The Wild Lawn Handbook: Alternatives to the Traditional Front Lawn. Macmillan, Inc., New York, NY.

    Kyhl, John F., Mary H. Meyer, and Vera A. Krischik. 1997. Establishing and Maintaining a Prairie Garden. Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota.

    Meyer, Mary, H. Roy Robison, and Donald B. White. 1995. Plants in Prairie Communities. Minnesota Extension Service, University of Minnesota.

    Packard, Stephen and Cornelia F. Mutel. 1997. The Tallgrass Restoration Handbook. Island Press, Washington, D.C..

    Pauly, Wayne R. 1998. How to Manage Small Prairie Fires. Dane County Park Commission, Madison, WI.

    "Planting Prairies and Wildflowers." Spring 1997. Living on a Few Acres Update. Center for Urban Ecology and Sustainability, University of Minnesota.

    Shirley, Shirley. 1994. Restoring the Tallgrass Prairie. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Iowa.

    Wildflowers and Native Grasses. 1998. Prairie Nursery, Westfield, WI.

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