Switch Grass

Switch Grass, Panicum

A native of the prairie grasslands, switch grass naturalizes equally well in an informal border and a natural meadow.

Growing

Switch grass thrives in full sun, light shade or partial shade. The soil should be of low fertility and well drained, though this grass adapts to moist or dry soils and tolerates conditions ranging from heavy clay to lighter sandy soil.

The flower stems may break under heavy, wet snow or in exposed, windy sites. Cut switch grass back to 4–6" from the ground in early spring.

Tips

Plant switch grass singly in small gardens or in large groups in spacious borders or at the edges of ponds or pools for a dramatic, whimsical effect. The seed heads attract birds, and the foliage changes color in fall, so place this plant where you can enjoy both features.

Recommended

P. virgatum is suited to wild meadow gardens. It comes in both blue and red varieties. Some of its popular blue cultivars include ‘Heavy Metal,’ an upright plant with narrow, steely blue foliage flushed with gold and burgundy in fall, and ‘Prairie Sky,’ an arching plant with deep blue foliage. ‘Shenandoah’ is a small, compact selection with red-tinged, green foliage that turns burgundy in fall.

Features: clumping habit; green, blue or burgundy foliage; airy panicles of flowers; fall color; winter interest

Height: 3–5'

Spread: 30–36"

Hardiness: zones 3–9

Notes: Switch grass’ delicate, airy panicles fill gaps in the garden border and can be cut for fresh or dried arrangements.

Back to top

Tips in your inbox

E-Newsletter

Sign up for the E-Newsletter for industry info, gardening trends & tips.