Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' - Northwind Switch Grass

The main feature of Panicum 'Northwind' is its narrowly upright form, more upright than other Panicums. Added to that is the slender flowers creating a more formal look in the landscape. For a longer season of interest, plant Northwind with the earlier blooming Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'. By autumn the golden flowers of C. Karl Foerster will echo the bright yellow foliage of P. Northwind.

The Perennial Plant Association’s 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year™.

Description: warm season*; sod forming (slow spreader)
Foliage is upright and green; blade is 10 mm (3/8") wide; 100-125 cm (40-50") in height
Flowers from early Aug-Sept; 125-150 cm (50-60") tall

Ideal conditions: full sun; prefers moist fertile soil, but adapts to a wide range of soil conditions

Coldest zone: 4-10 (find your zone; further info on plant hardiness)

Partner with: Salix purpurea 'Pendula', Sporobolus heterolepis, Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer', Achillea 'Walter Funcke'

Season of interest: August to winter

Drought tolerance rating: 2 (water to root depth once every 2 weeks); further info

The species is native to: prairies and open ground, open woods, brackish marshes from eastern Canada to central and eastern US and south to Central America.

Recommended spacing between plants: 70-100 cm (28-40") why such a difference?

When to divide: when it shows signs of life in the spring, continuing until the new growth is about 12" tall; only in the spring (further info on dividing grasses)

When to plant or transplant: plant bare root plants only in late spring to early summer, when the soil is warm, about the same time you plant your bean or corn seeds. The roots will grow only in warm soil. Planting too early in the spring may cause the roots to rot. Similar story in the fall when the roots may not grow enough to establish before the cold and wet of winter, resulting in the demise of the plant.

When to cut back: before the new growth starts to appear, but after the cold weather is over. Cut back to about 3-4" from the crown of the plant.

Pronunciation: Panicum (PAN-ih-kum) virgatum (veer-GAH-tum)


*a warm season grass likes to grow in warm weather. Before it will show signs of life in the spring, the soil must warm up, and be warm for possibly as long as two weeks.

More ornamental grasses

Compare Panicum virgatum 'Northwind' to our other grasses in this handy chart.


Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Panicum virgatum 'Northwind'
Northwind Switch Grass

from the USDA website: states and provinces where
Panicum virgatum is native