Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal'

switch grass    Perennial of the Month-- January 2005 

(pan' eh-cum  vir-gA' tum) (pronunciation at link, turn up volume if too low)

Common name: Heavy Metal Switch Grass

Family: Poaceae, Grass

Height x width: 4' x 2'

Growth rate; habit: moderate, stiffly upright

Foliage: 2-3' long and ½" wide, flat, metallic lavender-blue, waxy whitish surface; turning yellowish in fall with reddish seedheads

Flowers: fine textured panicle to 2' long in mid to late summer, dark red to purple flowers fading beige

Hardiness: USDA zones 4-9

Soil: well-drained, moist prefered but tolerates dry, sandy loam is ideal, does poorly on heavy soils, will tolerate periodic wet

Light: sun, more open and falls over in part shade

Pests and problems: none serious

Landscape habit, uses: borders, low screen, tolerates wind and salt spray, wildlife cover grass, native areas, dried flowers; bestmassed  in groups of at least 3; combines well with Rudbeckia, Helianthus, bee balm, Shasta daisies, Little Bluestem, Fescues in mass around, or among Blue Oat Grass for contrasts of texture, height, and habit

Other interest: related to grain crop millet (miliaceum); native to North America; from Latin name for millet; one of the first of the several blue switch grasses, more upright and shorter than 'Prairie Sky'

Other culture: low maintenance, don't overfertilize, very adaptable

Propagation: spring division

Sources: many complete perennial nurseries

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