Panicum 'Prairie Fire'
Common Name: switch grass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 5 to 9
Height: 4.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 1.50 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to February
Bloom Description: Rose
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

Culture

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. May flop in overly rich soils. Generally 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 may slowly spread by creeping rhizomes. Cut back clumps to the ground in late winter to early spring.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Panicum is a genus of about 470 species of annual and perennial grasses that may be either deciduous or evergreen. They are found in tropical areas worldwide, in Europe and in temperate North America. Some are grown for their edible seeds or fodder for livestock but others are grown for their attractive foleage.

Genus name comes from an old Latin word for millet.

‘Prairie Fire’ is a switch grass cultivar that is best noted for its tall, upright, blue-green foliage that turns deep wine red early in the season. It is a patented plant that results from a cross performed in 2001 between Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal' and Panicum virgatum 'Rotstrahlbush'. This is a warm season grass that typically grows in a dense, erect, narrow clump to 4-5’ tall and to 2' wide. Stems retain good upright form throughout the growing season. The foliage clump is topped in late summer by large, finely-textured, rose-tinted flower panicles that eventually fade to beige in fall. Seed plumes often persist throughout winter, providing visual interest as well as food for birds. U.S. Plant Patent PP19,367 was issued on October 21, 2008.

Problems

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.

Garden Uses

Accent, group or mass. Perennial borders, wild gardens, native plant gardens, prairies, meadows or naturalized areas. Also appropriate for water gardens, bog gardens or along streams or ponds.