Make the switch! To Switchgrass Panicum virgatum

Wed. Sep. 9, 2020

Click below to listen to my 2 min. Garden Bite radio show: Make the switch! To Switchgrass Panicum virgatum

Every season is great for native grasses, oh but Fall is when they really start rockin’. They are one of my all time favorite staple plants, they add height (at least in some) movement, an ethereal beauty and are host plants for many caterpillars. Catch my Labor Day installment on the variety of grasses!

Karl Forester reed grass in background with Switchgrass in the fore

I talked about the new Big bluestem ‘Blackhawks’ last week, today, I’m making the switch for a pitch on Switchgrass aka Panicum virgatum.

Switchgrass is a native and there are bunches of beautiful cultivars. They look lovely in mixed borders, some standing as lieutenants guarding entrances, in rain gardens or naturalized areas.

Native Switchgrass from Prairie Nursery in WI

They look great up against a dark background such as evergreens or dark fences.  Choices in height, fall color and the blueness of their foliage abound. 

‘Dallas Blues’ has broad steel blue to gray-green foliage with purple panicle flowers.  Plant height is 4 feet with the showy flowers topping it out at 5 feet in all their glory in late summer and fall. 

Switchgrass – Dallas Blues from Monrovia
Switchgrass – Dallas Blues flowering photo from Hoffman nursery

While my new big bluestem is a great accent, so are Switchgrasses. The difference is they will tolerate some shade and some road salt. 

‘Heavy Metal’ looks like it sounds, truly a steel blue color with rosy flower plumes, the seed heads are brick red.  The foliage turns an orangy/yellow in the fall. This guy is a non-flopper! (more like a sentinal!)

Switchgrass – Heavy Metal photo by Walters Gardens

‘Northwind’ is another switchgrass with some real class standing sturdy and upright. It’s foliage is an olive green that turns gold in the Fall and again has pretty rosy plumes with red seedheads. If planted in full sun almost all switchgrass will grow taller and deliver better color. 

Northwind photo by Monrovia
Northwind fall foliage photo by Monrovia

Here’s a great article on grasses from Friends of Eloise Butler – it includes all the native grasses!