Switchgrass or Panicum virgatum is a lovely native ornamental grass. Because there is a lot of variation in seedling populations, a number of wonderful variants have been selected and named (‘Shenandoah’, ‘Heavy Metal’, ‘Northwind’, ‘Purple Tears’ to name a few). Panicum virgatum handles a very wide range of soil and site conditions, and keeps its attractive habit well into the winter. Switchgrass is a very important food source for wildlife in fall and winter. A popular winter forage for birds and bees overwinter in base. It is also a food source for skipper caterpillars.
'Cape Breeze' Switch Grass has clean green foliage which retains its color into late October, before turning an attractive tan throughout the winter. The airy tan inflorescences float above the upright compact plants, and serve as an important winter food source for birds. Panicum 'Cape Breeze' is an excellent native grass for its tolerance of sterile soils and salty conditions. Developed and introduced by North Creek Nurseries.
‘Gunsmoke’ Switchgrass is a midsize Panicum with bluish green foliage topped by airy tan seedheads in late summer and fall. Panicum virgatum ‘Gunsmoke’ is sturdy enough to be upright through the winter, with lovely tan foliage that moves attractively in breezy conditions. The seeds feed wildlife in fall and winter, and small grassland birds depend on Switchgrasses for protective cover in winter. An introduction by Walters Gardens.
'Heavy Metal' Switchgrass has blue-green foliage that is very upright, with attractive seedheads appearing in July and lasting throughout the winter. One of the earliest Switchgrasses introduced to the trade like all the Panicums this is an important seed source to feed winter birds. Selected by Kurt Bluemel.
'Northwind' Switchgrass has green-tan seedheads above blue-green foliage with a very upright habit. Introduced by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm in Wisconsin. Our favorite upright Panicum, and the perfect tall grass for tight spots. An excellent tan in the winter. 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year. Bruce Neary of BCN Horticultural Services loves 'Northwind' because it never flops.
‘Purple Tears’ Switch Grass was found by Piet Oudolf in his garden, and is presumed to be a seedling of Panicum ‘Shenandoah’. The seedheads are stunning, starting with tiny reddish seeds in August which mature to shades of smoky purple and then tan as fall progresses. The green stems are upright and hold up well under winter conditions. Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Tears’ is definitely one of the showiest Switchgrasses to grow.
‘Rotstrahlbusch’ Switchgrass is a lovely selection of our native grass selected originally in Germany (‘Rotstrahlbusch’ means ‘Red Ray Busch’ in German). The silvery green summer foliage begins to develop red tips in late summer, and the blades of Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ become distinctly red in fall before turning tan in winter. The airy seedheads add to the beauty from late summer through winter, and the seeds are an important food source for wildlife. This Panicum is surprisingly tolerant of wet sites.
'Shenandoah' Switchgrass has reddish-tan seedheads above reddish-green foliage with burgundy tips. The fall color is a burgundy-red, turning to a soft tan in winter. Selected by Dr. Hans Simon in Germany and brought into this country by the US National Arboretum. Important food source for winter birds.
PRN Preferred: One of the shortest and showiest Panicums, with red blade tips in early summer.
'Summer Sunrise' Switchgrass is a compact Panicum, with a neat upright habit and clean bluish green foliage. The inflorescences are striking, appearing in shades of soft pink in late summer. They take on shades of pinkish gold in the early fall and Panicum 'Summer Sunrise' turns light tan in late fall and all winter. This versatile grass is an Introduction by Hoffman Nursery in North Carolina.
‘Thundercloud’ Switchgrass is a cross between Panicum ‘Northwind’ and Panicum ‘Cloud Nine’, hybridized by Gary Trucks of Michigan. Panicum ‘Thundercloud’ shares the best characteristics of both its parents in that it is both tall and consistently upright. Its foliage is blue green and the airy seedheads are beautiful, from their appearance in mid summer to their tan dried winter presence. Once established, Panicum ‘Thundercloud’ should not be irrigated or fertilized. All Panicums should not be cut down in the fall, since their winter beauty is wonderful.
'Cassian' Fountain Grass has light gold seedheads above fine green foliage. The seedheads are a little more colorful than 'Hameln' when they first emerge. Introduced by Kurt Bluemel. The winter foliage is a pale tan.
'Hameln' Dwarf Fountain Grass has creamy white seedheads, above fine green foliage. This is the most well-known of the Pennisetums, and a real workhorse. Like all Pennisetums, 'Hameln' does best with good drainage. The thin leaves take on an ivory winter color.
Lumen Gold™ (‘JS Jommenik’) Fountain Grass produces golden foliage in spring with a tight mounded form. The yellow blades hold their striking color throughout the spring and early summer, maturing to lemon or light green later. Pennisetum Lumen Gold™ comes from Belgium where it was found by Jan Spruyt. Like Pennisetum 'Hameln', Lumen Gold™ is crowned by attractive 2" plumes in fall and winter. Best if not cut back until spring.
'Piglet' Fountain Grass is more compact than P. 'Hameln' and hardier and showier than P. 'Little Bunny'. 'Piglet' is a good choice for a really compact space. Seedheads are a soft tan, lasting into early winter. Introduced by Brent Horvath of Intrinsic Perennials
'Red Head' Fountain Grass has huge smoky burgundy bottlebrush seedheads above wide green leaves. Earlier blooming than 'Moudry' and showier. Selected by Brent Horvath from seedlings of P. 'National Arboretum'. It really turns heads when in bloom, and the winter foliage is attractive.
PRN Preferred: The huge seedheads sport very showy shades of burgundy and black before turning tan in late fall.
'Karley Rose' Oriental Fountain Grass has very colorful rose-pink inflorescences over green foliage. 'Karley Rose' blooms all summer, with the older seedheads becoming a dark tan. This grass has an open habit.