Panicum virgatum: Switch Grass Information and Care

Panicum Virgatum, or Switch Grass, is a beautiful perennial with reddish-purple seedheads. Why consider it and how do you take care of it?

Panicum virgatum is a North American grass with a wide genetic variety. It is one of the most common plants in North America’s tallgrass grasslands. Except in California and the Pacific Northwest, it grows naturally throughout the continental United States on residual prairies and native grass pastures, as well as along roadsides.

General Information

Switchgrass is a perennial with reddish-purple seedheads that are big, open, and finely textured. In the fall, the grass takes on a pale golden color, when the beautiful green leaves become bright yellow.

Switchgrass may reach heights of 3 to 4 feet, 7 feet when counting its bloom plumes. It forms a dense columnar leaf cluster that spreads slowly through creeping rhizomes and looks beautiful all year.

Agriculturally, it has mostly been used as fodder, grazing, and groundcover. It has lately emerged as one of the most promising biofuel crops for ethanol production.

Switchgrass, elephant grass, and miscanthus are all great candidates for biofuel crops because of their ability to create a lot of biomass. Switchgrass, however, has a higher potential for output and soil conservation and is grown from seed rather than by rhizome division.

Tall wild grass growing abundantly before the summer ends

Care and Maintenance

Plant the grass in full sun in moist clay or sandy soil. It can also be grown in partial shade, though it will not grow as strongly and may flop over.

After the flowers have gone to seed, leave them on the plant to provide winter food for birds and small animals. The leaves turn a wonderful yellow-orange color in the autumn, then fade to a light brown tone that lasts into the winter. 

Plants should be heavily pruned from late winter to early spring.

How to Use It in Landscapes

Use this grass as a screen or bulk plant it at the back of a border. It’s ideal for use as a focal point in a native or water garden.

Panicum virgatum is resistant to deer grazing, drought, erosion, and air pollution. It’s also salt tolerant, can withstand flooding, and can be cultivated alongside black walnut trees.

Healthy bushes of ornamental wild grasses good for garden lanscaping

Companion Plants

Try planting switchgrass with any of the plants listed below.

Echinacea purpurea

The purple coneflower is a perennial plant in the Asteraceae (daisy) family that is only found in the central and eastern United States. It can reach 3 to 4 feet in height and has pinkish-purple blooms from early summer to mid-fall.

Because it flowers for a long period, this plant is ideal for native gardens, meadows, pollinator gardens, and naturalized areas.

echinacea purpurea flower in the garden

Rudbeckia fulgida

Rudbeckia fulgida is a herbaceous perennial with golden yellow blooms and characteristic brown or black center cones that add stunning warm tones to the late summer garden. From mid-summer to early autumn, they blossom profusely, borne on robust stalks and literally covering the lance-shaped, deep green foliage.

They have a limited color spectrum that ranges from yellow to orange-yellow, but they differ in height and behavior. They are very easy to grow and have a lovely appearance.

Aster laevis

The smooth aster is a hardy shrub that blooms lavishly with lavender-blue, star-shaped flowers. The golden blossom center turns scarlet later in the season. The leaves of this species are smooth to the touch, which distinguishes it from other asters.

Little purple flowers growing healthily with wild grasses
Jeffrey Douglas
Jeffrey Douglas own a landscaping company and has been in the business for over 20 years. He loves all things related to lawns or gardens and believes that proper maintenance is the key to preventing problems in the first place.
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