Virtues: ‘Cheyenne Sky’ switchgrass is an excellent ornamental grass for small gardens and tight spaces. It provides beautiful foliage color on a compact frame that tops out at 3 feet wide by just 18 inches wide. This perennial is ideal for gardeners who love the form, color and movement of Panicum virgatum and other grasses but can’t accommodate their larger sizes. It is also suitable for a container garden.
Common name: ‘Cheyenne Sky’ switchgrass
Botanical name:Panicum virgatum ‘Cheyenne Sky’
Exposure: Full sun
Season: Midsummer through fall, for foliage
Flowers: Airy, rosy-red panicles appear amid and above the foliage in late summer.
Foliage: This warm-season grass begins growth in late spring, sending up bluish-green blades that begin to take on shades of purple and red by midsummer. From late summer into fall this foliage provides a dynamic mix of deep wine-red and burgundy color.
Habit: This compact ornamental grass grows to about 3 feet tall and 18 inches wide, with a strongly upright vase shape that flares out just slightly at the top.
Origins: The species Panicum virgatum is native to prairies, stream banks and open woods of North America, save for the West Coast. The cultivar ‘Cheyenne Sky’ was introduced by Walters Gardens and Proven Winners as part of the Prairie Winds series.
How to grow ‘Cheyenne Sky’ switchgrass: Site in full sun and average soil with good drainage. Its size and rugged nature also make it ideal for container culture. After its first season, this grass is very tolerant of drought, but provide water during dry spells while it is getting established. It will also tolerate short stints of flooding. Leave the foliage standing through winter; trim it down to stubs in early spring. Panicum virgatum is a warm-season grass, so it will begin regrowth in later spring, once the soil warms. Divide once growth resumes in spring, if desired. USDA Zones 4–9.
Image courtesy of Proven Winners.