Virtues: A good ornamental grass for a backdrop or a tight space, because it is tall and narrow. Adds great fall and winter interest with its bright off-season foliage and fluffy seed heads. Does not bend or collapse in rough winter weather. Very adaptable and tolerant of various growing conditions.
Common name: ‘Northwind’ switchgrass
Botanical name: Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’
Foliage: Each grassy blade can be five feet long and about two 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 five 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 six inches tall in early spring. Spreads by rhizomes (underground stems) but is not considered invasive or aggressive. USDA Zones 2–9.
Image courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.
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Design your own personal prairie with John Greenlee’s The American Meadow Garden.
Learn to use ornamental grasses in combination with perennials, bulbs and more in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s All-Region Guide to Designing Borders for Sun and Shade.