Panicum Grass: A Comprehensive Guide to Selection and Care

Panicum, commonly known as switchgrass, is a diverse and versatile group of ornamental grasses that can add texture, movement, and elegance to your garden. With a wide range of species and cultivars available, Panicum grasses are highly adaptable, making them an excellent choice for various landscape settings. In this guide, we'll delve into the world of Panicum grass, exploring different species, highlighting popular cultivars available on ServeScape, and providing essential care tips to help you make the most of these stunning grasses in your garden.

Why Choose Panicum Grass:

  • Ornamental Appeal: Panicum grasses are known for their graceful, arching stems and airy seed heads, adding a delicate yet striking look to your garden.
  • Low Maintenance: Once established, Panicum is relatively low maintenance and can thrive in various soil types and conditions.
  • Wildlife Attraction: Many Panicum species serve as habitat and food sources for birds, making them an ecologically friendly choice.
  • Drought Tolerance: Panicum grasses are known for their ability to withstand drought conditions once established, making them suitable for xeriscaping.
  • Seasonal Interest: These grasses offer year-round interest, from green summer foliage to golden fall hues and beautiful seed heads in winter.

Common Panicum Species and Groups:

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass):

  • Size: Switchgrass can vary in height from 2 to 6 feet, depending on the variety.
  • Characteristics: Switchgrass is known for its upright growth habit and feathery, airy seed heads. It's a native grass in many regions and offers a wide range of colors, from blue-green to red-tinted foliage.

Panicum amarum (Coastal Panicgrass):

  • Size: Coastal panicgrass typically ranges from 2 to 4 feet in height.
  • Characteristics: This species is well-suited for coastal gardens and is salt-tolerant. It features narrow, blue-green foliage and an overall upright growth habit.

Panicum coloratum (Cape Panicgrass):

  • Size: Cape panicgrass can grow to be 3 to 4 feet tall.
  • Characteristics: Cape panicgrass offers an elegant cascading form and fine-textured, emerald-green foliage. It's excellent for erosion control.

Popular Panicum Cultivars on ServeScape:

  1. Panicum virgatum 'Northwind': Known for its upright, sturdy stems and blue-green foliage, 'Northwind' stands tall in the garden.
  2. Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal': This cultivar boasts metallic-blue foliage and a compact, upright habit.
  3. Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah': 'Shenandoah' starts with green leaves and transitions to striking burgundy-red in late summer.
  4. Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Dog': Prairie Dog’ is upright,with fine-textured blue-green leaves that turn golden yellow in fall. 
  5. Panicum virgatum 'Dallas Blues': This variety offers steely-blue foliage and large, airy seed heads.
  6. Panicum virgatum 'Cape Breeze': This coastal favorite features blue-green leaves and a graceful, arching form.
  7. Panicum virgatum 'Cheyenne Sky': 'Cheyenne Sky' starts with green foliage and transforms into shades of red, burgundy, and purple in late summer.

General Care Tips for Panicum Grass:

  • Sunlight: Panicum thrives in full sun but can tolerate light shade.
  • Soil: Well-draining soil is essential. Panicum is adaptable to various soil types.
  • Water: Established Panicum grasses are drought-tolerant, requiring minimal irrigation.
  • Pruning: Cut back dead growth in late winter or early spring before new growth emerges.
  • Fertilization: Minimal fertilization is required, as these grasses thrive in lean soils.

Panicum grasses are versatile, attractive, and easy to maintain, making them a fantastic addition to any garden.