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Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)
Species Distribution Map: Click to enlarge
Map Color Key © 2013 BONAP

Panicum virgatum


An upright landscape grass with lovely blue green foliage that turns yellow in fall. In late summer airy wheat-colored flowers appear and remain attractive well into fall. It is an undemanding native grass suitable to any soil type. Tough and easy to grow!

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3-5 Feet


2-3 Feet


24 Inches

Bloom Color


USDA Hardiness Zone 2-9

switchgrass Interesting Notes

Switchgrass grows on a wide variety of soils, but likes deep sandy loams best. It does poorly on heavy soils, although it tolerates moderate soil salinity and pH levels ranging from about 4.5 to 7.6. Once a stand has been established, it will benefit from fertilization, but nitrogen should be applied only sparingly early in the growing season and never on very young plantings, lest it encourage competition from cool-season grasses. Switchgrass grows best in association with site-adapted mycorrhizal fungi. It may take many years for mycorrhizae and associated beneficial soil microbes to become well established on a newly planted site and this process may be inhibited by application of nitrogen rich fertilizers. Switchgrass can be mowed or grazed down to about 8" in the winter, but the stubble is important for winter insulation and should not be cut shorter than that in cold climates. This species evolved with fire and does best when burned occasionally. Switchgrass typically survives fire by regrowing from protected underground rhizomes, but the vigor of the new growth depends upon the season and intensity of the fire, and whether it is of the more fire resistant sod-forming type with rhizomes several inches below the soil surface, or the more sensitive bunchgrass type with rhizomes growing up into elevated tussocks. Switchgrass should be burned just before it begins growing in the spring. A fire every 3-5 years is recommended.


Switchgrass is essential for wildflower meadows intended to mimic North American prairies. It can be used to add fall color to naturalistic borders and woodland-edge gardens. It is also a great wildlife plant. Switchgrass holds up well under heavy snow and provides good fall-winter cover for rabbits and other small mammals, ducks, pheasants, and quail. The seeds are eaten by turkeys, pheasants, quail, doves, and songbirds. Switchgrass prairies are favored nesting sites for pheasants, quail, greater prairie chickens, and sharp tailed grouse. White tailed deer and other native ungulates paw up the rhizomes for winter survival food. Floridata

Perennial, warm, native, fair grazing for wildlife, good grazing for livestock. 3-6' tall, hollow stem growing in small to large clumps from many scaly creeping rhizomes. Large robust plants with bluish blades up to 2' long. The ligule is a dense ring or cup of hairs on upper leaf surface at collar. The panicles are pyramid shaped with many purplish spikelets. In winter the seed head resembles branches of a seeding willow tree. Found mostly along creeks, streams and protected areas. Decreases with heavy use but can be used and managed similar to pasture grasses. Texas A&M

Panicum virgatum Growing and Maintenance Tips

Tolerates drought or standing water.Grow in full sun average to moist soil with good drainage. Water well on planting and regularly until established. Drought tolerant.

Good Substitutions

switchgrass Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
switchgrass Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah'
switchgrass Panicum 'Cape Breeze'

Key Characteristics & Attributes

Full Sun
Full Sun
Part Sun
Part Sun
Deer Resistant
Deer Resistant
Drought Tolerant
Drought Tolerant
Cut Flower
Cut Flower
Salt Tolerance
Salt Tolerance

Additional Information

Soil Moisture Needs
Plug Type
Landscape Plug™
Season of Interest (Flowering)
Late Summer
Green Infrastructure
Erosion Control
Native to North America
Propagation Type
Open pollinated
Grass Type
Warm Season