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Panicum virgatum

Switch Grass
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants

Native to much of the U.S. except the far West. This handsome, reliable grass forms an upright, 2–4-ft.-wide clump of narrow deep green or gray-green leaves. In midsummer, slender flower clusters rise above the foliage, increasing height of clump to 4–7 ft.; clusters open into loose, airy clouds of pinkish blossoms that fade to white, then brown. Foliage turns yellow in fall, gradually fades to beige. Both foliage and flowers persist all winter, providing interest in cold-weather gardens. Tolerates coastal winds. The following varieties reach 5 ft. tall in bloom unless otherwise noted.

‘Cloud Nine’: Metallic blue foliage that turns gold in autumn; billowing clouds of reddish brown flowers bring height to 6 ft. tall.

‘Dallas Blues’: Wide, powder blue leaves and reddish purple flowers; robust and dependable.

‘Hanse Herms’: Open, fountainlike shape, with delicate, light green leaves that turn bright red in fall, then deepen to burgundy; reaches 4 ft. tall in bloom.

‘Heavy Metal’: Silvery blue, sturdy leaves that turn bright yellow in fall.

‘Northwind’: Strongly vertical form, with olive green foliage that turns yellow in autumn.

‘Prairie Sky’: Grows quickly into an upright column of blue leaves that turn yellow in autumn.

‘Rotstrahlbusch’: An upright grower, to about 4 ft. tall in flower, with green, red-tinged leaves that turn rich, deep red in fall and burgundy flowers.

‘Shenandoah’: Cascading form, with red-tipped blue-green leaves that turn maroon in early fall and airy red flower clusters; reaches 4 ft. tall in bloom.

‘Squaw’: Resembles ‘Shenan­doah’, but its leaves are solid green until turning red in fall.


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