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Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’

One of my favorite things to do is purchase small plugs of plants online late in the season, stick them in the ground and forget about them. By the time spring rolls around, I pay little attention to them or don’t remember that they are even there.

If they don’t survive, I figure it was worth the risk for such a small financial investment.

But most of the time, in the spring, I’ll notice something, that isn’t a weed, is growing and I’ll have to jog my memory to remember what it actually is. Once I am able to recall said plant, I get all excited and consider the purchase a “win”.

In the Fall of 2010, I bought three tiny Panicum ‘Northwind’ ornamental grasses from Santa Rosa Gardens at a deep discount. I planted them and put them through their “test”. In year one, they didn’t do much but they looked healthy enough for me to know that they were going to be a keeper.

Fast forward to Spring of 2012 and these puppies kicked some major tail. They emerged in mid spring once the temps warmed up (hence they are “warm season” grasses) and I immediately fell in love.

As promised, they are extremely upright and I love the blue/green color of the leaves:              

This US and Canadian native grass absolutely thrived in a full sun bed that is riddled with clay soil and drains poorly. These “switch grasses” worked well with other native perennials and grasses with their upright stature taking center stage:    

By mid July, they began to show signs of blooming:

Within days, the blooms turned a pinkish shade and absolutely covered the grasses:

When in full bloom, they lent an awesome “airiness” to the their surroundings:

By mid Fall, the leaves began to turn yellow but the gentle blooms still persisted:

Good times, eh?
This grass typically reaches a height of about 5′ (6′ in bloom) with a spread of about 2′. From what I’ve read, it survives as cold as zone 4 and as warm as zone 9. 
They held up OK after our recent storms and will hopefully do the same as we move into Winter. 
Why not give ‘em a try? And let me know about your successes and failures.
John   

9 thoughts on “Panicum virgatum (Switch Grass) ‘Northwind’”

  1. Love ‘Northwind’, one of the best grass introductions in recent memory. I just planted mine last fall, but they are WAY more vigorous than any other Panicum I’ve grown…already looking pretty respectable this year. Their upright habit is such an interesting contrast to most of my Panicums, which tend to be a bit more open and full…the fall color, as you mentioned, is great.

  2. I have many Northwind and this year has been a bit of a struggle with them. Because of the intense heat and lack of water most of them began to lean forward even though they were supported. I love their change of color and do not want to get rid of them, so next year I may cut them back more than once and give them some extra water.

    Eileen

  3. John,
    It’s funny you mentioned that you buy cheap, put it out, and forget. That’s what I did this fall. We lost 5 pines on the east side of our house, and although the area looked denuded, we haven’t gotten around to replanting seriously. So when we saw Santa Rosa’s fall sale, we bought about 6 different grasses and put them in this blank area, with the same thoughts, if they don’t survive, it was a small investment. Hope we are as successful as you with Northwind. No, that was not one of the grasses we purchased. Thanks for the great photos, as always!

  4. I love this panicum too, I need to divide and move it next spring as I’ve planted it in a rather difficult place of the garden (and still it performed!) I want it closer to home so I can enjoy it more. Nice pics!

  5. That really is a pretty grass – I especially like how it’s flowers turn pink. I’ll have to search for it in my area (not now as everything is gone from the shops in terms of plant material – even sorry looking plant material

    Hope you – and everyone else has a great Thanksgiving!

  6. I planted Northwind Switchgrass in SE Michigan in late April. Spring was wet and cold, and summer has been wet and hot, and this grass is doing VERY well, and is now about 6′ tall (Mid-July). The clump that does not receive full sun is noticeably smaller than the clumps that are in full sun all day.

    Thank you for the photos showing the progression of the plant thru the seasons!

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