Panicum virgatum 'Cloud Nine'

Cloud Nine switchgrass    Perennial of the Month-- December 2014 Perry caricature

 (pronunciation at link)  (pan-eh-come'  veer-gA' tum)

Common name:  Cloud Nine switchgrass

Family:  Poaceae, grass

Height x width: 5-7ft x 3-4ft

Growth rate, habit: moderate, narrow erect vase-shaped

Foliage:  metallic blue turning gold in fall, blades about 1/4-in. wide and 42 to 48in. or more long

Flowers:   reddish-brown then beige in winter, cloud-like plumes in late summer to early fall

Hardiness: USDA zones 4a-9b

Soil: average, tolerates many but prefers alkaline, once established tolerates wet to dry soils, drought tolerant so good for low-water gardens

Light: full sun best, tolerates part shade

Pests and problems:  none significant, can be weak and topple in too much shade

Landscape habit, uses:   borders, meadows, wild or naturalized gardens, rain gardens, along watersides, wildlife gardens (cover and food for birds), massed for formal effect,  screening or informal hedge, large containers, cut or dried; combines well with asters, yarrows, tall garden phlox, false indigo, Shasta daisy, rudbeckia, tall sedum, Joe-pye, Karl Foerster feather reed grass (blooms earlier)\; a good native grass substitute for Miscanthus

Other interest: perhaps tallest of this genus, originally introduced by the former Bluemount Nursery of Maryland, a selection of a North American species; tolerates air pollution, can grow near black walnuts ("allelopathy"), tolerates environmental salt; since a warm season grass may be slow to emerge in the spring in northern climates;

Other culture:  cut back clumps to 6-12in. from ground in late winter or early spring prior to growth resuming; can live up to 15 years under ideal conditions; fertilize sparingly if at all

Propagation:  division early in season as growth is beginning but before one foot tall

Sources:  many online and local specialty nurseries



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