Ornamental grasses cover a large part of the earth. Everywhere we go, we see them swaying in the wind. They are in fields, on roadside edges, and in our gardens. Hardy to zone 4, Panicum virgatum is a native prairie grass that is particularly useful in our landscapes.

Switch Grass takes it name from the swishing sound it makes when the wind blows. This is a sturdy grass that will remain standing throughout the winter unless buffeted by heavy snows, providing cover and food for birds during the winter. It will grow in full sun or light shade. Although most catalogs say that it will tolerate partial shade, it tends to become floppy in partial shade. While it does best with adequate moisture, as a prairie denizen, it can tolerate periods of drought or flooding.

One of the greatest assets of Panicum is its beautiful, relatively upright foliage that curves outward at the tips, giving it a vase-shaped appearance. Typically, the diameter is half of the height. Until bloom, the plant will be approximately one to two feet shorter than when in bloom.