Common Name: switch grass
Type: Ornamental grass
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to February
Bloom Description: Yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Leaf: Good Fall
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Wet Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution
Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates a wide range of soils, including dry ones, but prefers moist, sandy or clay soils. Tolerates occasional flooding. May flop in overly rich soils. Generally performs best in full sun. Will grow in part shade, but begins to lose its form in too much shade, growing more openly and possibly falling over. Grows primarily in clumps, but will slowly spread by slightly creeping rhizomes. Cut back clumps to the ground in late winter to early spring. Plants may self-seed in optimum growing conditions but cultivars may not come true from seed.
Panicum virgatum, commonly called switch grass, is a Missouri native ornamental grass which was an important component of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large areas of the State. It occurs in both wet and dry soils in prairies and open woods, gravel bars and stream banks and along railroad tracks throughout most of the State. Switch grass is generally noted for its stiff, columnar form, and typically retains its vertical shape throughout the growing season. It is a clump-forming, warm season grass which typically grows to 3' tall. When in flower, flower panicles may bring total plant height to 6'. Features medium green leaves which turn yellow (sometimes with orange tints) in autumn, fading to tan-beige in winter. Foliage clump is topped in mid-summer by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles which hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. Panicles turn beige as the seeds mature in fall with the seed plumes persisting well into winter. Seeds are a food source for birds in winter.
Genus name comes from an old Latin word for millet.
Specific epithet means twiggy.
'Northwind' features one of the best vertical forms of any of the many panicum cultivars currently available in commerce. Olive-green to bluish-green foliage forms a compact, narrow, erect, 4-5' tall clump. Foliage turns yellow-beige in fall and provides good winter interest. An introduction of Northwind Perennial Farm.
No serious insect or disease problems. Some susceptibility to rust, particularly in hot and humid summer climates. Crown or root rot may occur, particularly as a result of improper growing conditions. Japanese beetles, thrips and spider mites may appear.
Accent, group or mass. Also effective as a screen. Perennial borders, wild gardens, native plant gardens, prairies, meadows or naturalized areas. Also appropriate for water gardens, bog gardens and along ponds.