Panicum

Panicum

Switch Grass

The Panicums we’ve chosen are warm season prairie grasses native to North America. Resistant to heat, drought, and even extreme cold, Switch Grass boasts a cloud of inflorescences—a mystifying hologram of tiny red seeds that mature to black in late summer.

If grown en masse and not cut back until early spring, Panicums promise a lively winter show. After a frost, they stiffen and adopt the warm glowing color and soft rustling sound of wheat.

Populating Delaware’s coastal sand dunes near the town of Dewey, noted grass expert, Rick Darke selected this kingly Panicum for its blue, oh-so-blue smooth glaucous blades and elegant fountainlike stance. Distinctive straight-up stems bolster light airy plumes, followed by caramel-colored seed heads persisting well into winter. ‘Dewey Blue’ is not only a stunning showman but an enduring workhorse whose slowly spreading rhizomes form clumps that are vital in stabilizing seashore ecosystems, as well as withstanding hot dry summers and varied garden soils.

Blooms August – October.

Size: 4' 0" – 5' 0" high x 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 3.

<i>Panicum virgatum</i> ‘Cape Breeze’

Hats off to North Creek Nursery for this exceptional new Panicum that combines sensational good features with a brawny tough-as-nails temperament. Beneath copious gauzy looking amber-hued seed heads, trim ribbons of upright greenery retain their color ’til November, then transmute buttery yellow shades. Beloved by birds, butterflies, florists and horticulturalists, ‘Cape Breeze’ lauds early blooms plus a no-coddle compact habit, forbearing deer, disease, dry conditions and salt spray. (PP#24,895)

Blooms July–October

Size: 2' 0" – 2-1/2' high x 20" – 2' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

It’s not sky high, but ‘Cloud Nine’ does impart visions of grandeur as it rises into a massive, somewhat vase-shaped, blue-green form crowned by a mist of small inflorescences. Autumn brings golden tones to the foliage. This Panicum usually maintains its elegant shape through tough winter months, and is a dynamic partner with Salvia confertiflora for the rest of the season.

Blooms August–October.

Size: 6' 0" – 8' 0" high x 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

<i>Panicum virgatum</i> ‘Heavy Metal’

Stiff, upright blades of green turn metallic blue and then warm pecan brown in the fall. We are fond of this dynamic, vertical accenting grass in drifts with Teucrium fruticans ‘Azureum’.

Blooms September–October.

Size: 4' 0" – 5' 0" high x 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

This colorful, smaller statured Panicum makes its way into plenty of European gardens, but is sadly hard to find here in the states. Airy clusters of pinkish oat-colored inflorescences traipse upon firm upright stalks cloaked with dapper, glaucous bluish green blades that manifest rousing deep burgundy tones once the nights turn cool. A staunch versatile grass, ‘Heiliger Hain’s manageable size makes it well-suited for midborder positions, decorative containers or swathes in larger spaces.

Blooms July–October

Size: 4' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Claiming the coveted 2014 Plant of the Year award, ‘Northwind’s roots can be traced back to the railroad tracks near South Elgin, Illinois, where Roy Diblik collected some native Panicum seeds. Selected from those initial seedlings for its unique unwavering stature, this dashing straight-backed cultivar unleashes a narrow sky-bound clump of broad olive-colored blades with bluish green undersides. Gossamer-textured inflorescences hover just above the leaves, characterized by tiny yellow flowers and purple seed heads. Unsung among ornamental grasses and the most markedly vertical of the Switch grasses, it lends intriguing winter architecture and possesses a dogged determination that triumphs over drought, heavy downpours, varied soil conditions, pesky deer and foliar rust.

Blooms August–October.

Size: 4' 0" – 6' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

The bluest of the Panicums and hardiest of the virgatums, this superb selection was discovered growing wild in a Wisconsin meadow by Roger Gettig. Its silvery inflorescences have tiny rust-colored accents, and 'Prairie Sky's fast growing foliage spawns a cool blue fusion when associated with Yucca 'Sapphire Skies' and Eryngium 'Big Blue'.

Blooms July – October.

Size: 3' 0" – 5' 0" high x 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

Prized for fantastic autumn color and impressive vertical accents, a narrow upstanding clump produces slender grayish green leaves that flaunt dark maroon and violet shades in late summer. The dreamy cloud of finely cut haze-like purple-green spikelets bleaches to beige and persists into winter, while the compact long-lived foliar column wears a buff-tinged cold-weather coat. Abiding drought, wet conditions, clay and erosion, this popular all-purpose native can enhance a stylized meadow or mixed planting, either massed or as a specimen, and hobnob with fellow natives like Eupatoriums and Helianthus 'Gold Lace'.

Blooms July–October

Size: 3' 0" – 4' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

This exceptional vintage cultivar has withstood the test of time, touting the smallest, most upright foliar foundation with the brightest most enduring red blades of all our Panicum. Suave, fine textured silver-green blades, subtly blushed in late spring, ascend vertically and cushion a lovely diaphanous mass of branched pink-tinged flower panicles. “Red Ray Bush”, as it translates from German, begins broadcasting passionate fiery red foliage in August that ignites the late season border, while companions such as Aster ‘Raydon’s Favorite’, Sedum ‘Mr. Goodbud’ and Kniphofia ‘Yellow Cheer’ inject complementary color.

Blooms July–October.

Size: 4' 0" – 5' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

Celebrating long lasting appeal and color galore, this exceptional Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ and Panicum ‘Hänse Herms’ cross was selected by Dr. Mark Brand from the University of Connecticut. Fantastic arching ribbons of foliage initially emerge in soft gray-greens, then in early summer, transmute a vibrant wine-red, which heightens as the season progresses. Loosely arranged, broad tapered blades forge an upright textural clump renown for its unparalleled, richly hued fall finale, while hazy sand-colored inflorescences create winter interest, especially when overlaid with frost or snow (pp#17,944)

Blooms August–November.

Size: 3' 0" – 4' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

One of the best of the red Panicums, ‘Shenan­doah’ was selected from ‘Hänse Herms’ seedlings by Germany’s Hans Simon. The slender green leaves exhibit maroon hues in midsummer and, come September, are thoroughly transformed. Paired with Echinops ‘Arctic Glow’, the wine-infused theme is echoed, and backlit by the long light of late afternoon, the glow is ethereal.

Blooms August–October.

Size: 4' 0" high x 2' 0" – 2-1/2' wide.

Hardy to zone 4.

Selected from the native prairie grasses of the Midwest for its larger, showier seed heads, this graceful new cultivar has a long list of admirers, including several butterfly species. Sheer red-tinted flower clusters wave good-bye to summer as blue-green blades flaunt a blaze of old golds and maroons that promise to brighten your autumn and maintain a winter presence.

Blooms September – October.

Size: 4' 0" – 5' 0" high x 2' 0" – 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

<i>Panicum virgatum</i> ‘Warrior’

The cultivar name of this grass alludes to the blood red hues of the blades and to its strong growing power. Upright and arching, ‘Warrior’s inflorescences rise to 5 or 6 ft., as its red foliar hints intensify through the early season, turning deep reddish brown in late fall and eventually fading to the color of creamed honey. For an army of rosy color, plant with other grasses like Pennisetum orientale.

Blooms August–October.

Size: 5' 0" – 6' 0" high x 2' 0" – 3' 0" wide.

Hardy to zone 5.

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Current Staff's Favorite Plant

Current Staff's Favorite Plant

Helianthus 'Sheila's Sunshine', Persicaria 'Summer Dance', and Selinum wallichianum

Helianthus ‘Sheila’s Sunshine - P-0461

The sunflower was once an emblem of the Sun God of the Incas. Our sunflowers tolerate a wide range of garden soils, attract bees, and make great cut flowers. Blooms early August – October.

Persicaria ‘Summer Dance’ - P-1312

With foliage that’s close to lime-green, and spiky floral tails that approach the scarlet spectrum of rosy pink, this slow spreading perennial is sure to please. Happiest in semishade with ample moisture. Blooms August–November.

Selinum wallichianum - P-1406

This refined Himalayan beauty happens to be one of our favorite perennial umbellifers. With untold elegance, infinitely divided leaves craft a delicate, lacelike transparency. The compact yet airy green canopy is framed by distinctive, purple-infused branching stems that elevate a charming, late season display of white flattened umbels.

Subduing the riotous array of summertime blooms, it seldom needs staking, and appreciates a well draining moist niche. Blooms June–August.

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