When to plant switchgrass

Contents

Culture September 2007

Perennial Solutions: Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire’
By Paul Pilon

With the increasing demand for ornamental grasses and the popularity of the annual purple fountain grass pennisetum ‘Rubrum’, the perennial red switch grass Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Fire’ is well-positioned to catch on like wildfire. Many perennial enthusiasts believe ‘Prairie Fire’ is destined to become one of the hottest grasses to reach the market in the next few years. ‘Prairie Fire’ was hybridized by Gary Trucks of Amber Wave Gardens, Benton Harbor, Mich.

During spring the foliage of ‘Prairie Fire’ emerges blue green, and by early summer the leaves turn wine red, held above blue-green stems. The red coloration appears much earlier than other red panicum cultivars, which often do not change color until the late summer. In the late summer as flowering approaches, the leaves curl slightly creating the image of red ribbons woven throughout the rosy panicles that rise above the foliage.

Panicum virgatum is a popular clump-forming, warm-season, American Indian ornamental grass that tolerates a wide range of growing conditions and performs well across USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9. Being a warm-season grass, they do not begin to flush in the spring until the temperatures are conducive for plant growth; usually they begin growing in late March or April. ‘Prairie Fire’ forms large upright clumps reaching 4-5 ft. tall and 18-24 inches wide.

Switch grass is highly valued for such ornamental characteristics as its erect upright form, showy inflorescences and the year-round contributions it provides to the landscape, including brilliant fall colors and the winter effects it provides while in the dormant form. Red switch grass is very versatile and is commonly used as accent plants, background plantings, mass plantings or in mixed containers.

Propagation

Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ is vegetatively propagated by division. Division of switch grass is best when done in the late winter or early spring while the plants are still in a dormant state. It entails dividing or splitting the crown into smaller sections containing at least one stem, commonly referred to as a culm or tiller, and several adjoining roots. Plant patent protection has been applied for and self-propagation of ‘Prairie Fire’ is strictly prohibited.

Production

‘Panicum Fire’ is most commonly produced in 1-gal. or larger-sized containers using 3-inch or larger-sized plugs obtained from a licensed propagator. Panicum performs well in a wide range of growing mixes. A medium with both adequate drainage and water holding capacity is recommended. While transplanting, try to avoid planting them too high or too low; always plant to match the original soil line of the plug with the growing mix of the final container.

It is important to keep the root zone of newly potted grasses moist, but not wet, until they become established. Once they are fully rooted, they can be allowed to dry out more fully between waterings. Established containers require average to above-average amounts of irrigation and often need to be watered daily when actively growing. Panicum can tolerate short periods of dry conditions but perform best when an adequate amount of irrigation is provided.

‘Prairie Fire’ is considered a moderate to heavy feeder. When fertilizer applications are applied weekly or on an as-needed basis, it is necessary to use high rates, such as 300- to 400-ppm nitrogen from a balanced water-soluble fertilizer source. When constant liquid feeding, lower rates, such as 100- to 200-ppm nitrogen, are applied with each irrigation. Growers using controlled-release fertilizers incorporate 1_-1_ lbs. of elemental nitrogen per yard of growing medium prior to planting or top-dress the media surface using the medium or high rate recommended on the fertilizer label. The pH of the growing medium should be maintained within the range of 6-6.5.

For plant establishment, it is recommended to maintain average temperatures of 65-75¡ F. Panicum performs best when grown under high light intensities with a minimum of 5,000 foot-candles. Plants grown under low light levels tend to become floppy and have lower-quality characteristics.

Several growers have expressed a need to reduce the plant height of ornamental grasses when they are grown in containers. Foliar applications of plant growth regulators are rather ineffective as the chemical has difficulty getting good contact with the stems which are covered by the leaf sheath. Drenching PGRs provides the most height reduction. I recommend beginning with the following rates for each of the effective products: 10-ppm flurprimidol, 10-ppm paclobutrazol and 2-ppm uniconazole. Since there has only been limited research using PGRs on grasses, it is best to conduct small trials before making wholesale applications over the entire crop. Drenches should be applied by the time the plants are 6-12 inches tall. Later applications seem to be less effective and will not provide the desired results.

Switch grass is easy to over- winter when provided minimum amounts of protection. In the late fall after they have gone dormant, trim the plants back to 2-3 inches above the top of the container. Once they are trimmed, group the pots together inside a cold frame, greenhouse or outdoor production bed. In many parts of the country, grouping them together is the only protection necessary, especially if they are located within covered structures. In colder zones, I recommend covering them with a protective frost blanket during the winter months. Do not allow them to dry out during the winter months. Overly dry conditions during this time usually will result in crop losses.

Pests and Diseases

Insects, including Japanese beetles, spider mites and thrips, may occasionally be observed feeding on panicum but rarely become problematic. Control strategies may not be necessary unless the scouting activities indicate actions should be taken.

Plant pathogens are not very common when producing panicum. Crown and root rots are the most common diseases observed. The onset of these diseases often is caused by improper planting practices, poor irrigation management, high salt levels in the growing medium, poor physical properties of the media (namely too much water-holding capacity and decreased aeration), or the crop has been grown in the same container and growing mix for too long. Any of these conditions could lead to plant stress and the onset of root rot pathogens. Choose a growing mix that has good water-holding and drainage characteristics and will not deteriorate or settle over time. Monitor the irrigation practices and the fertility levels on a regular basis, making adjustments accordingly. When possible, do not hold panicum in the same container for an extended period of time (12 months or more). When these measures are taken, most crown and root rots can be prevented.

Growing Conditions

Most producers of ornamental grasses do not market them as flowering plants. In fact, unless they are produced and sold on-site, it is often very expensive to ship tall flowering grasses to retail sites. When maintaining 65-75¡ F throughout crop production, 1-gal. pots of non-flowering panicum can be produced from large plugs in 7-9 weeks.

Switch grass has an obligate cold requirement for flowering. Growers wishing to produce flowering ‘Prairie Fire’ should provide a minimum of 12 weeks of temperatures less than 40¡ F. They are obligate long-day plants and will not flower while they are grown under short days. In fact, panicum will not grow and often goes dormant under short day conditions. There has been relatively little research conducted to determine the exact forcing time for flowering panicum cultivars. I recommend producing them at 68-72¡ F for at least 14 weeks.

Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ is available exclusively from Walters Gardens, Inc. (www.waltersgardens.com).

Paul Pilon

Paul Pilon is president of Perennial Solutions Consulting, Jenison, Mich. He can be reached at or (616) 366-8588.

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Switch grass ‘Northwind’)

Botanical name

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’

Other names

Switch grass ‘Northwind’, Panicum virgatum ‘North Wind’

Genus

Panicum Panicum

Variety or Cultivar

‘Northwind’ _ ‘Northwind’ is a narrowly upright, clump-forming, deciduous perennial grass with flat, linear, olive- to blue-green leaves, turning yellow-brown in autumn, and feathery panicles of tiny, yellow flowers in early autumn.

Native to

Garden origin

Foliage

Deciduous

Habit

Clump-forming, Upright

Create your free Shoot garden

Create your free SHOOT garden and make a record of the plants in your garden.

Add your own photos, notes, get monthly email reminders on how to care for your plants, and connect with other gardeners. Get started now.

Colour

Flower

Yellow-brown, Pale-yellow in Autumn

Blue-green, Olive green in Spring; Olive green, Blue-green in Summer; Olive green, Blue-green in Autumn; Yellow-brown in Winter

How to care

Watch out for

Pests

Generally pest free

Diseases

Generally disease free

General care

Pruning

Cut back in late winter or early spring.

Propagation methods

Division

Get access to monthly care advice

Create a free SHOOT account and get instant access to expert care advice for this and other plants in your garden.

You’ll also receive handy monthly email reminders of what needs doing. Create your free account.

Where to grow

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Switch grass ‘Northwind’) will reach a height of 2m and a spread of 0.75m after 2-5 years.

Suggested uses

Architectural, Beds and borders, City, Cottage/Informal, Flower Arranging, Low Maintenance, Prairie planting

Cultivation

Grow in full sun in moderately fertile, well-drained or moist but well-drained soil. May flop in fertile soils. Primarily clump-forming but may slowly spread by creeping rhizomes.

Soil type

Chalky, Clay, Loamy, Sandy (will tolerate most soil types)

Soil drainage

Moist but well-drained, Well-drained

Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral

Light

Full Sun

Aspect

North, South, East, West

Exposure

Exposed, Sheltered

UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Hardy (H4)

USDA zones

Zone 9, Zone 8, Zone 7, Zone 6, Zone 5, Zone 4

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Switch grass ‘Northwind’)

Common pest name

Corn borer; Corn moth; European corn borer; European maize borer; European stalk borer; Maize pyralid

Scientific pest name

Ostrinia nubilalis

Type

Insect

Current status in UK

Present (Limited)

Likelihood to spread in UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Polyphagous boring pest present in the UK since the 1930’s. A maize-affecting race was detected for the first time in 2010. Industry may wish to monitor for its presence and mitigate against impacts.

Defra’s Risk register #2

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Switch grass ‘Northwind’)

Red rice root aphid; Rice root aphid

Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominalis

Insect

Absent

Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Potentially significant glasshouse pest; growers should monitor for its presence. Routine aphid control should be effective in mitigating risk.

Defra’s Risk register #3

Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ (Switch grass ‘Northwind’)

Rice leaf nematode; Strawberry crimp disease nematode; White tip nematode; White tip nematode of rice

Aphelenchoides besseyi

Nematode

Absent

Damaging nematode affecting rice crops and strawberry production in warmer climates; could potentially present a threat to strawberry production and ornamental production in protected environments. But modern production practices seem to reduce likelihood of impacts. Pest is also regulated at EU level; which reduces likelihood of entry.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit: https://planthealthportal.defra.gov.uk/

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’

switchgrass Interesting Notes

WOW! Rick Darke first alerted us to this fabulous new grass and as always…he was right! This selection of our native panicum from Germany’s Hans Simon makes a small and neat 3′ tall clump. The foliage has a lovely, dark purple cast on its tips throughout the summer, but when fall hits, you won’t even notice the nice airy plumes because of the dark, black-purple foliage! This is a standout in our garden that draws raves from everyone who visits! Plant Delights
The honeymoon with ornamental grasses is over. That doesn’t mean most of us won’t stay married to them.
As time goes on, our relationships have simply grown deeper, more mature, with a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Those whose marriages remain intact appreciate the good times–ornamental grasses look great during drought–while we tolerate, and even grow stronger through, the bad–dividing those huge, overcrowded crowns.
Good marriages usually require some compromise, a bit of give-and-take on both sides. In the union between gardener and grass, gardeners sacrifice color and blooms for structure, texture, movement and drought tolerance (a pretty good trade, in my opinion).
Today, though, gardeners don’t even have to give up color. Some of the newer selections or ornamental grasses deliver cool blues, glittering golds and sultry reds. I’m not sure what effect it will have on their marriages, but it does mean that gardeners can now have it all.
My favorites of the lot are two varieties of switch grass (Panicum virgatum). A native grass, and tough as nails, Panicum provides vertical accent to any border or mixed shrub bed. In a pinch, it can also serve as a seasonal hedge, offering nearly complete privacy behind dense upright clumps. Home & Garden TV
Panicum virgatum is native to North American tall-grass prairies from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean and was one of the most prominent prairie species. This grass was one of the important components of the tall-grass prairie that once covered the vast interior of the United States. A versatile grass, it tolerates a wide range of soil and climatic conditions. As the habitats of Panicum are taken over by humans, these grasses are found in wetter sites than before.
Panicum is valued as an ornamental for its erect form, showy flowers and interesting winter silhouette. Switch grass is a clumping, warm-season, noninvasive grass. Foliage color ranges from deep green to steely blue. Plant height varies from 4 to 7 feet with feathery panicles rising 1-2 feet above the foliage. Flowers are pinkish to reddish, maturing to silvery gray. Autumn color of the plants is various shades of yellow. Plants remain upright throughout the winter or until cut back.
Panicum is used effectively alone or in clumps. Taller cultivars are excellent background plants. Since this grass tolerates moist soils, it is a fine choice for water gardens or along stream banks and pond edges. Switch grass can be used as a groundcover to control erosion and for the transition areas between garden and wood areas. Foliage and flowers of Panicum are effective in flower arrangements, both fresh and dried.
Panicum prefers full sun, and moist, fertile soil; however, the plant will tolerate sand, heavy clay, dry slopes and boggy areas. Switch grass thrives along the coast by the ocean, tolerating salt spray and wind. ttp://www.greenbeam.com/features/plant041999.stm

Switch grass

Size and Form

Switch grass has a fairly upright form, but may take on a more relaxed form at times. It can grow up to 8 feet tall.

Plant Care

Switch grass prefers full sun but is fairly adaptable to a range of soils including sand and clay. It prefers moist soils, but can also tolerate a fair amount of drought. It is also tolerant of salt.

This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer. It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest.
Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins. At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious pest problems.

Switch grass can be an aggressive seeder and this can lead to excess seedlings in the garden.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 5

Native to the majority of North America. This is one of the main grasses found in the tallgrass prairie.
Commonly found in moist, fertile sites.

Leaf description

The green leaves are about 1/2 inch wide and 18 to 24 inches long. Fall color is golden, fading to beige for winter. There are cultivars available with blue green leaves or red-tinged leaves that may vary also in their fall color.

Flower description

Flowering occurs in mid-summer. The tiny, pink to reddish flowers occur on open, airy clusters called panicles. The flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the light, airy that held the flowers. The grass takes on a very cloud-like appearance in full flower or seed.

Cultivars and their differences

“These plants are cultivars of a species that is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm’s Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research. Cultivars are plants produced in cultivation by selective breeding or via vegetative propagation from wild plants identified to have desirable traits.”

Apache Rose (Panicum virgatum Prairie Winds™ ‘Apache Rose’): This is a relatively new introduction with an upright, columnar form and rose-colored flowers/seeds. Tips of leaves turn rose-colored in fall. 4 feet tall.

Cape Breeze (Panicum virgatum ‘Cape Breeze’): A compact cultivar growing only 2 1/2 feet tall; leaves will be edged in red, yellow and orange in late fall.

Cheyenne Sky (Panicum virgatum Prairie Winds™ ‘Cheyenne Sky’): A compact cultivar growing only 3 feet tall; blue green leaves turns wine red in summer; wine-red flowers/seeds.

Cloud Nine (Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’): 7 to 8 feet tall with blue leaves and golden fall color.

Dallas Blues (Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’): 5 to 6 feet tall with blue-gray leaves and purplish-rose flowers/seeds.

Hot Rod (Panicum virgatum ‘Hot Rod’): 4 feet tall. Blue green leaves develop burgundy tips and then turn completely burgundy in summer. Seed clusters also burgundy.

Heavy Metal (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’): 3 to 4 feet tall, with an upright to columnar form; metallic blue leaves.

Northwind (Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’): 5 to 6 feet tall; with blue green leaves; very sturdy and drought tolerant.

Prairie Sky (Panicum virgatum ‘Prairie Sky’): 5 feet tall with an upright to arching form; blue-green leaves topped with blue flower clusters.

Rotstrahlbusch (Red Switch grass) (Panicum virgatum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’): 5 feet tall with an upright habit; green leaves change to burgundy in fall; pink to burgundy seed heads.

Ruby Ribbons™ (Panicum virgatum ‘RR1’): 4 feet tall; blue green foliage turns reddish purple by mid-summer; flower clusters also purple-red.

Shenandoah (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’): 4 feet tall; green leaves tipped with red purple in summer changing to all red-purple by fall.

Last post, I covered some invasive trees and suggested alternatives. Today, we cover some shrubs, ground covers, and ornamental grasses.

Dwarf fothergilla are not always this red, but they always have great fall color.

Invasive shrubs

Instead of Japanese barberry, use Dwarf Fothergilla

Taking a hike through the woods and you quickly know when you find a bunch of thorny invasive barberry. Dwarf fothergilla doesn’t spread into the woods; all it does is have sweet scented flowers in the spring, attractive clean foliage in the summer, and great fall color.

Instead of Burning bush, use Red Chokeberry ‘Brillantissima’ , Fragrant Sumac, or Dwarf Fothergilla

Well I had to come clean on this one. Yes, I have recommend burning bush for a great splash of color in the fall. Heck, I even bought two cute little guys last fall on clearance, which my local rabbits promptly chewed down this winter. (I swear the rabbits were wearing Earth First hats!)

The three plants I now try to recommend instead are all natives with fall color that can rival the burning bush. I have started using them more and would recommend you consider doing the same, unless you’re a heartless evil BP executive!

Highbush cranberry viburnum
photo credit: annahesser via photopin cc

Instead of European cranberry bush viburnum, use Highbush cranberry, otherwise known as American cranberry bush viburnum

Most people can’t tell them apart, except the American variety gets better red fall color. This is kind of a “well duh?!” choice if there ever was one. Of course if you are one of my readers from Europe, I would recommend you use YOUR native variety.

Invasive ground covers

Instead of English ivy, or Vinca minor (yikes one of my favorites), or even Japanese pachysandra (yeah that stuff that is EVERYWHERE at a certain garden I know pretty well), plant Allegheny spurge or Canadian ginger or if your soil is dry, Barren strawberry or coral bells. If it’s pretty sunny, native perennial geranium is a great choice for a perennial ground cover!

Alleghany spurge
photo credit: Joy Weese Moll via photopin cc

Allegheny spurge is a native evergreen gem. Note in the colder part of its range, it may be “semi-evergreen”. It does have fragrant, white flower spikes appear in spring, later becoming camouflaged by a new flush of crisp green foliage. Canadian ginger is a deciduous choice that is good for moist woodland or naturalized areas in light to dense shade. They both do need soil that does not get dry. If that’s your soil, barren strawberry or coral bells may be a good deciduous ground cover choice for you.

Invasive grasses

Instead of Japanese silver grass or Ribbon grass use Switch Grass, Prairie Dropseed or Little Bluestem

Non native grasses are some of the most invasive plants I have seen. Actually so are some natives! Luckily there are many cool non-invasive, native ornamental grasses. Try any of the native switch grasses such as Blue Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’) or Cloud Nine Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Cloud Nine’), as well as little bluestem or Prairie Dropseed.

panicum virgatum
photo credit: Matt Lavin via photopin cc

So that’s a list of some invasive nonnative plants you may wish to avoid, as well as some native plants that could be used instead. Oh and yes, I know I have Amur maple, Burning bush, Vinca minor, Japanese pachysandra, Japanese silver grass (although my cultivar does not set seed) all in MY yard. Maybe, I should go shopping for replacements!

Donations accepted!

Prairie dropseed in a landscape setting
photo credit: sharon_k via photopin cc

As with the last post, here is the proper Latin names of the plants I talked about to avoid confusion due to regional differences in common names.

  • Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii),
  • Dwarf Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenia),
  • Burning bush (Euonymus alatus),
  • Red Chokeberry ‘Brillantissima’ (Aronia arbutifolia ‘Brilliantissima’),
  • Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatic),
  • European cranberry bush viburnum (Viburnum opulus),
  • Highbush cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)
  • English ivy (Hedera helix),
  • Vinca minor (duh!)
  • Japanese pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis)
  • Allegheny spurge (Pachysandra procumbens),
  • Canadian ginger (Asarum canadense),
  • Barren strawberry (Waldsteinia fragarioides),
  • Coral bells (Heuchera),
  • Perennial geraniums (Geranium maculatum)
  • Japanese silver grass (Miscanthus sinensis),
  • Ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinancea),
  • Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum),
  • Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis),
  • Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Panicum

Digging Deeper

With roughly 400 species, our best-known Panicum come from temperate regions. However, they are also is also found in tropical areas, such as the Hawaii native P. torridum.

P. virgatum was one of the major grasses in the Great Plains Tall Grass prairie of North America. It also occurs naturally on dry slopes, sand, open oak or pine woodlands, shores, river banks, and brackish marshes. It ranges primarily on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, from southern Canada through the United States to Mexico and into Central America. It is a very adaptable species, as demonstrated by its wide geographic range and presence in varied ecosystems.

The closely related P. amarum grows in the coastal dunes, wet sandy soils, and the margins of swamps. It ranges along the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico from Connecticut to northeastern Mexico. P. amarum has adapted to the harsh environment of dune systems, which are subject to salt spray, occasional inundation, high temperatures, and low soil moisture and fertility. It can manage very dry, sterile sites and will flourish on fertile, well drained soils.

P. miliaceum, an ancient grain crop known as millet, is responsible for feeding a large portion of the world population. And it is believed that the name, Panicum, comes from the Latin panis, meaning bread—perhaps because bread was made from millet.

Switchgrass was important to native peoples in the Americas. They ground seeds to make flour, mixed roots with soapweed for washing hair, stuffed it into moccasins for padding, and made concoctions of the leaves for fevers. In the U.S. today, it’s used as a landscape plant, as livestock forage, and for biofuel.

The Ins and Outs of Grasses

08 Oct 2016

Learn which grass is best for your particular garden. We’ll help simplify grasses by height, width, light conditions, colour and interest.

Soil Preparation: The first step towards success! If you don’t prepare your soil right, then size, sun, shade and plant choices are completely irrelevant. When planting grasses, or any perennials for that matter it is best to use organic compost. If you are preparing a new garden bed you will want to fill the whole bed with at least 12″ of compost. If you are just adding a few things here and there throughout the garden, then be sure to dig your hole one and a half times as wide as your pot, and six inches deeper so that you can put compost at the bottom and backfill with compost. This will ensure the plant is getting the nutrients it needs to succeed!

Once you have committed to proper preparation, now we can start talking about varieties and sun conditions. With the exception of a few grasses, most grasses are drought tolerant. In saying that, they do require regular watering for the first year to get them established, and water during periods of drought. “Low maintenance” does not mean “NO maintenance”.

Japanese Blood Grass – Imperata cylindrica ‘Red Baron’

Japanese blood grass grows 18-24″ and can tolerate full sun to partial sun. It is easy to care for, and non aggressive. It is most known for it’s blood coloured foliage. In the fall this blood red, turns a dark red which makes it a perfect addition to a fall collection. A great accent in the garden, especially when paired with contrasting coloured foliage such as Elijah Blue Fescue, or Hakonechloa.

Shenandoah Switch Grass – Panicum Virgatum ‘Shenandoah’

Shenandoah switch grass grows 4′ tall (including it’s flowers) and 2-3′ wide. It is one of my absolute favourite grasses as it has strips of purple throughout it. In late summer into fall the purple becomes more pronounced and is a show stopper in the garden. It grows well in full sun to partial sun. Pair it with sedum autumn joy, coral bells and hydrangea for a beautiful and long lasting show. If planting this non invasive grass you will want to underplant it with another perennial as it tends to be leggy for the first few inches.

Heavy Metal Blue Switch Grass – Panicum Virgatum ‘Heavy Metal’

Heavy Metal switch grass grows 5-6′ tall with very rigid and upright foliage. This is one of few grasses that does prefer moist soil. Spreading up to 3′ wide you want to make sure this grass has some room to grow. It’s blue foliage is a great backdrop to your garden and constrasts nicely to shrubs such as the smaller growing Weigela’s – like ‘Spilled Wine’, ‘My Monet’, or ‘Fine Wine’. This blue foliage will turn shades of orange in the fall.

Silberfeder – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberfeder’

Silberfeder grass is an absolutely stunning grass, especially in the fall. It is perfect for privacy and mass planting, growing 5′ tall. It does however tend to spread, as long as you are a diligent gardener and thin it out each spring or fall as it starts to wander then you will love it. If you are a low maintenance gardener, you may not want to plant this one. It is perfect for areas on a property that allow it to spread, and has a magnificient show if planted in a large mass. It grows well in full sun to partial sun and for aesthetics purpose you will want to under plant as it tends to be leggy at the bottom. Pair it with asters, mums or sedums and have a magnificent fall display.

Little Zebra Dwarf Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Little Zebra’

Little Zebra grows well in full sun to partial sun and can reach 3-4′ tall. Spreading 3′ wide, Little Zebra can make a statement in any garden. Planted well in large swaths, it also does well as a stand alone plant amongst other perennials such as ‘Rozanne’ Geranium, ‘Angelina’ Sedum, and ‘Bubblegum Blast’ Monarda. The flowers on top of the foliage are a bold red that appear late summer. Non invasive and well behaved with great fall colour.

Karl Foerster Reed Grass – Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’

Karl Foerster reed grass is one most people are familiar with. You’ve seen it planted in boulevards, on town property, in parks. It is tall, upright and rigid. Growing 5′ tall, and spreading between 2-3′, this grass can adapt to dry areas as well as moist. It can be mass planted for privacy or interest as well as interest pieces throughout a garden. Paired with Russian Sage, Echinacea and Hibiscus you can have a long lasting display of colour. In late summer and fall the grass leaves will turn tan and almost wheat like, holding their flowers throughout the season.

Hameln Dwarf Fountain Grass – Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’

Hameln is another low maintenance and beautiful grass! Growing to only 28″ and spreading 24″ this is another grass favourite. Low growing, mound forming with fluffy blooms on top provide an excellent show throughout the summer. This grass prefers full sun and is best planted in groupings. It makes an attractive border and pairs great with fall blooming sedums.

Little Bunny Dwarf Fountain Grass – Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’

Little Bunny fountain grass is very similar to Hameln, however is even more petite. Growing to only 14″ tall and spreading 18″ wide, this grass is great for small spaces, borders, or rock gardens. It also prefers full sun. It’s green foliage turns to a golden tan in the fall and holds its flowers into the winter months.

Karley Rose Fountain Grass – Pennisetum Orientale ‘Karley Rose’

Graceful, flowing, smokey rose flowers stand atop delicate green foliage. At maturity it can reach 3-4′ and spread about the same width. Karley Rose prefers full sun and is gorgeous planted in masses. Perfect planting companions are rudbeckia, shasta daisy and coreopsis as they like the same conditions and bloom at the same time.

Dixieland Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Dixieland’

Another great accent in a garden, Dixieland provides a bright pop of colour to any gloomy space. It can grow in full sun to partial sun, reaching 5′ high and 4′ wide. It’s variegated foliage looks gorgeous all year and turns a yellow in the fall. Pairs excellent with agastache, phlox, nepeta and crocosmia.

Hakonechloa Aureola – Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

This grass prefers partial sun to FULL SHADE! A striking golden foliage can brighten any dark spaces in your shade garden. Growing 2′ tall and wide, this grass makes an excellent shade border. Although it says zone 6, it has survived winter over winter in our climate (zone 4). Mixing it with hostas, brunnera, astilbe and cimicifuga, you can play with a great colour scheme even in a shaded garden.

Morning Light Maiden Grass – Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’

Morning light is as the name suggests, light and airy. With variegated foliage and narrow leaves, it’s edgy appearance compliments those large leaves of coral bells, astible, ‘Azure Rush’ geraniums and more. Tolerant of full sun to partial sun the opportunities are endless. Growing 5′ tall and 3′ wide, it can be used as an accent in the garden or mass planting for privacy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *