Chapter 3. Common Native Grasses of the Northern Midwest

3.12 Switchgrass

‘Praire Fire’ switchgrass in flower, showing fall color.
‘Praire Fire’ switchgrass in flower, showing fall color.

Panicum virgatum

Warm season; Perennial

Characteristics: 3–6’; upright, foliage greenish purple; flowers bronze to beige; upright open; self-seeder

Growing Conditions: average to wet soils; full sun; hardy zones 3–8

Native to the tallgrass prairie, switchgrass is competitive and can be aggressive. It is attractive through every season, even providing winter interest. Some nativars are prone to , others self-sow large amounts of seed. Form and foliage color vary widely between nativars.

  • ‘Cloud 9’: upright arching to 6’ or more, equally as wide; plant in the middle of a border with support for the huge 36” flowers.
  • ‘Heavy Metal’: upright, dense, thick foliage, 4–5’
  • ‘Northwind’: very stiff and upright, wide olive green foliage with flowers borne partially in foliage, good for creating a vegetation screen when planted close together, 5’.
  • ‘Prairie Fire’: red and purple tipped foliage, 3.5–4’.
  • “Rehbraun’: red tipped foliage and red seeds, red-brown switchgrass, 3–4’.
  • ‘Shenandoah’: red and green foliage, 3–4’.
  • ‘Thundercloud’: very tall, upright, thick and massive, 6–7’.

Species that use switchgrass according to the literature are the noctuid moth Dichagyris acclivis, the tortricid moth Aethes spartinana, Delaware skipper (Anatrytone logan), the blastobasid moth Blastobasis repartella, pink-streak moth (Faronta rubripennis), Leonard’s skipper (Hesperia leonardus), silvered haimbachia moth (Haimbachia albescens), Texas mocis moth (Mocis texana), stalk borer (Papaipema nebris), and tawny-edged skipper (Polites themistocles).

 

Switchgrass nativars from left to right: ‘Northwind’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Thundercloud’, and ‘Cloud 9’. Shape and color vary greatly between nativars.
Switchgrass nativars from left to right: ‘Northwind’, ‘Warrior’, ‘Thundercloud’, and ‘Cloud 9’. Shape and color vary greatly between nativars.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Gardening with Native Grasses in Cold Climates by Diane M. Narem and Mary Hockenberry Meyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book