Switch Grass

 

   Switch grass is one of the most graceful native grasses. This traditional prairie plant sends up fragile stalks with delicate blossoming “switches.” The switches are the seed heads, which sway in the breeze so gracefully. Switch grass is native to all of the US except CA and the Pacific NW.

   Switch grass is also grown for its ornamental value. Switch grass is a warm season perennial that waits until summer to put on its top growth. The rhizomes are in active growth from late winter through mid-spring, but the top stays dormant until the soil warms up. Switch grass turns a nice pale yellow in the fall, but some cultivars have been selected for more striking colors that add to the garden landscape.

   Switch grass can be used to add fall color to naturalistic borders and woodland-edge gardens. It is also a great wildlife plant. Switch grass holds up well under heavy snow and provides good fall and winter cover for rabbits and other small mammals, ducks, pheasants, and quail.

   Ornamental switch grass is dense, with an upright growth habit. The plant will attain a height of 3-7' when in flower. The green to blue-green foliage takes on a beige color for winter. The light, airy flower panicles vary in color from green to pink. Switch grass will bloom in late July or early August. The foliage and flowers are effective in both fresh and dried arrangements. Switch grass is adaptable in wet or dry soils; the more moisture, the taller it will grow. Too much shade will reduce the intense fall color.

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