Virtues: We love ‘Northwind’ switchgrass SO much it has made our list for a second time. It has a great fall and winter interest thanks to its bright off-season foliage and fluffy seed heads. It is tall and narrow, perfect as a backdrop or for a tight location. It does not bend or collapse in rough winter weather, making it adaptable and tolerant of various growing conditions.
Common name: ‘Northwind’ switchgrass
Botanical name: Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’
Foliage: Each grassy blade can be 5 feet long and about 2 inches wide. Olive green to steel blue during the growing season. Turns yellow in fall. Very sturdy, staying upright through even severe rain, snow and wind.
Flowers: Tall pink flower plumes appear in late summer. Silvery seed heads add to winter interest.
Habit: Strongly upright warm-season ornamental grass, to 5 feet tall and half as wide.
Season: Summer for bluish foliage and architectural presence; fall and winter for yellow color and presence.
Origin: Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennial Farm (Burlington, Wisc.) selected this cultivar of switchgrass. The species is native to roughly the eastern two-thirds of North America.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun to part shade, in any soil. Prefers full sun and moist soils, but will also tolerate dry soils and drought, or wet soils. Do not fertilize. Cut back to about 6 inches tall in early spring. Spreads by rhizomes (underground stems) but is not considered invasive or aggressive. USDA Zones 2–9.
Image Credit: Public Domain
Add year-round visual interest to your garden with Smart Gardening Series: Foliage Plants PDF.
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