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Panicum virgatum

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Kemper Code:  L460

Common Name: switch grass
Zone: 5 to 9
Plant Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Missouri Native: Yes
Native Range: Central America to southern Canada
Height: 3 to 6 feet
Spread: 2 to 3 feet
Bloom Time: July - February   Bloom Data
Bloom Color: Pink-tinged
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low


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Plant Culture and Characteristics

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  Uses:       Wildlife:   Flowers:   Leaves:   Fruit:
Hedge Suitable as annual Attracts birds Has showy flowers Leaves colorful Has showy fruit
Shade tree Culinary herb Attracts Has fragrant flowers Leaves fragrant Fruit edible
Street tree Vegetable   hummingbirds Flowers not showy Good fall color   Other:
Flowering tree Water garden plant Attracts Good cut flower Evergreen Winter interest
Gr. cover (<1') Will naturalize   butterflies Good dried flower     Thorns or spines

General Culture:

Easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. Tolerates wide range of soils, including dry ones, but prefers moist, sandy or clay soils. Tends to flop in rich soils. Generally best in full sun. Will grow in part shade, but begins to lose its columnar form in too much shade, growing more openly and possibly falling over. Grows primarily in clumps, but may naturalize by rhizomes as well as self-seeding to form sizable colonies. Cut back clumps to the ground in late winter to early spring. May be grown from seed.

Noteworthy Characteristics:

Switch grass is a Missouri native ornamental grass which was an important component of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large areas of the State. It occurs in both wet and dry soils in prairies and open woods, gravel bars and stream banks and along railroad tracks throughout most of the State. Switch grass is generally noted for its stiff, columnar form, and typically retains its vertical shape throughout the growing season. It is a clump-forming, warm season grass which typically grows to 3' tall. When in flower, flower panicles may bring total plant height to 6'. Features medium green leaves which turn yellow (sometimes with orange tints) in autumn, fading to tan-beige in winter. Foliage clump is topped in mid-summer by finely-textured, pink-tinged, branched flower panicles which hover over the foliage like an airy cloud. Panicles turn beige as the seeds mature in fall with the seed plumes persisting well into winter. Seeds are a food source for birds in winter.

Problems:

No serious insect or disease problems. May naturalize.

Uses:

Accent, group or mass. Also effective as a screen. Perennial borders, wild gardens, native plant gardens, prairies, meadows or naturalized areas. Also appropriate for water gardens and bog gardens.

Missouri Botanical Garden, 2001-2011