Common name: Switch Grass

Family: Poaceae, Grass

Height x width: 3-4' for cultivars, 5-8' for species, x 2'

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: 2-3' long and ½" wide, flat, glabrous; often more green in summer and more reddish in fall, turning tan in winter

Flowers: (Shenandoah panicles) fine textured panicle to 2' long in mid to late summer, dark red to purple flowers fading beige

Hardiness: zones 4-9

Soil: well-drained, moist prefered but tolerates dry

Light: sun, more open and falls over in part shade

Pests and Problems: none serious

Landscape habit, uses: borders, low screen, substitute in North for less hardy Imperata; tolerates wind and salt spray, wildlife cover grass, native areas, dried flowers; best in groups of at least 3

Other interest: related to grain crop millet (miliaceum); native to North America; from Latin name for millet

Other culture: low maintenance

Propagation: spring division, species by seed


clandestinum (clan-des-tii' num)--Deer Tongue Grass, prefers moist and part shade, zones 6-9

virgatum (vir-gaa' tum)--main species of commerce and cultivars
 Cultivars: (of virgatum) (height including panicles above leaves)

Those marked * are most seen in U.S. commerce.
Cultivar height foliage other
'Badlands' 3-5' blue-green purplish tips, doesn't flop
'Cheyenne Sky' 2-3' blue-green turns wine red, burgundy flowers
*'Cloud Nine' 7-8' light blue golden flowers
*'Dallas Blues' 5' greyish blue-green wider leaves, remains upright
*'Haense Herms' 3-4' reddish Red S.G., good red fall color
*'Heavy Metal' 4-5' metallic blue stiff leaves, upright
'Northwind' 5-6'' olive to bluish

compact, upright, narrow

*'Prairie Sky' 5-6' powder blue upright, dark red flowers
'Rehbraun' ('Red Bronze') 3-4' reddish not as red as 'Haense Herms'
*'Rotstrahlbusch' 3-4' reddish Red S.G., best red color
'Rubrum' 3-4' reddish red in fall, brown seedheads
'Ruby Ribbons' 3-4' blue-grey turns burgundy, from U.Conn.
*'Shenandoah' 3-4' blue-green turns burgundy, reddish panicles
'Squaw' 3-4' reddish pink flowers
'Strictum' 3-4' green narrowly upright
'Warrior' 4-5' reddish red in fall

(cultivar photos courtesy Missouri botanical gardens plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

Return to  Perry's Perennial Pages | HGPO course | PSS123 course