Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky' - Switch Grass

This can easily become a favourite Panicum, but it requires a second season for its true form to show. A plug will grow in a splayed manner at first, but but grow upright towards the end of the season. By the second year it is much more erect. Grow in full sun and lean soil for maximum longevity.

Description: warm season*; sod forming (slow spreader)
Foliage is blue; of wide blade width; 100-150 cm (40-70") tall
Flowers bloom Aug through Sept; 125-175 cm (50-70") in height

Ideal conditions: full sun; moist to dry soil but can be floppy when grown too wet

Coldest zone: 3 (find your zone; further info on plant hardiness)

Partner with: Sporobolus airoides, Patrinia scabiosifolia, Inula racemosa 'Sonnenspeer', Valeriana officinalis, Echinacea, any red shrub rose, Cotinus (smoke bush), Liatris

Suggested uses: specimen, drifts, naturalizing, wildlife, strong blue accent

Season of interest: August to winter

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

Recommended spacing between plants: 50-100 cm (20-40") 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 'Prairie Sky' to our other grasses in this handy chart.

Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky'
 Panicum virgatum 'Prairie Sky'

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