Seven (More) Switchgrasses

Today I potted up seven rooted sections of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). Four of them were ‘Shenandoah’ which gains a reddish coloring in the leaves in late summer and fall and three were ‘Northwind’ which has a taller and more upright shape. Switchgrasses are definitely “where it’s at” when it comes to ornamental grasses today. They are native plants and aren’t invasive. To make things even more perfect ethanol producers have been using switchgrass as a substitute for corn to produce biofuels. Not a bad plant by any means! Because it’s a native it is well adapted to our weather and should be able to survive random periods of drought like we’ve been having lately. (Only .3 of an inch in the last two weeks – not fun for the gardener or the garden!)

Since these are such great plants to have in the garden I decided to increase my stock of switchgrass by what else? Propagation!

‘Shenandoah’ Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

How to Propagate Switchgrass

Propagating Switchgrass is very easy through division. The exact method of division depends on the size plant I want. If I want smaller plants that don’t effect the size of the mother plant I take pieces from the outside of the clump, move the soil away, and remove a stem with roots with a sharp knife (or a good yank – but sometimes the roots don’t come and the stem separates at the nodes). This is very easy to do and you can make many (albeit small) divisions.  These switchgrass divisions are now potted up individually where I will grow them until they have grown a large enough root system to be planted in the yard. Hopefully I’ll have the time to make a few more divisions later in the week.

Now if I want larger clumps I would dig up the whole clump and use a shovel to slice through the entire root system. This method will produce about 4 (sometimes more) decent sized clumps from a large switchgrass. It’s more labor intensive than the first method but gives you a larger clump faster. The first method can be done nearly anytime since it isn’t very invasive but I wouldn’t even consider doing the second method (digging up the clump) unless it was early in the year when we were still receiving rain and the new growth was fairly short. Early spring is probably the best time to divide a large clump.

Have you added switchgrass to your garden?

11 thoughts on “Seven (More) Switchgrasses”

  1. Oh yes, I so love switchgrasses. Let's see, I have Rotstralhbusch, Cheyenne Sky, Heavy Metal, Dallas Blues, and Shenandoah. And possibly one other, but it was in a pot for a year and just got planted a while ago and hasn't made its identity known yet. They are fabulous. Starting to show their red hues now, some of them, while others are bluer. Grasses are just awesome.

  2. Every time I read your blog I find myself looking up a new plant. Any chance you could either share quick data about it ("full sun, 36-48") or a link to more data about it? I often use Dave's Garden plant database to read about the plant, then come back to you to see what you've done with it. Today, for example, I wondered how tall the grass would get. I might be able to put in a shorter grass now that we've cut a tree down. The database was inconsistent and some people have 6' versions, others 3-4'. Your plant looks smaller than either of those however. Can you tell me more about it?

  3. Great blog!!! I want to get more information in detail about this blog. Awesome and fascinating work, keep them coming. I will surely bookmark it for future use.

  4. Sadly I don't have any grasses this year. I've been wanting to add a few, but I am always a bit scared of them taking over. I've had some bad experiences with Miscanthus in the past. I love the annual Purple Fountain Grass though. I'll have to give some fo these a try. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Good tips on propagating this grass. I've never been much of an ornamental grass guy but I'm helping start a garden so I'm trying to read up on them and become familiar. This post will help me since we're going to be doing it on the cheap and I need to propagate a lot of the plants myself.

  6. Jodi,

    I only have the two so far but more are definitely on the want list. I like them as a replacement for miscanthus.


    From what I have observed their growth is greatly dependent on the soil and the amount of light. The two 'Shenendoah's near my shed are different sizes because one gets about 1.5-2 hours more light than the other one. Over the course of spring and summer the sun time has a major effect. The taller one is around 3 feet tall in it's second year (I planted last year). The 'Northwind' is also three feet tall buit has the potential to grow up to 5 feet. The soil where it is located is heavy clay that I'm gradually cultivating through compost and mulch but it takes time. It's a second year plant and will probably grow larger next year. Shenandoah is one of the shorter switchgrasses and has that nice red coloring on the leaves. It's max is said to be 4' but you never know for sure! It all depends on location, location, location.

  7. Racquel,

    I doubt switchgrass would be problematic like miscanthus. Miscanthus is invasive here in TN which is one reason I started to switch to switchgrass (no pun intended). Definitely give them a go if you have the space for a couple!

  8. Mr. Brownthumb,

    Switchgrass is a great choice. I definitely can identify with the cheap side. That's one reason I get so into the propagation aspects of gardening – I love free plants! There's a good variety of switchgrasses out now so there's probably one for almost every situation. I would recommend buying them locally if possible because anything mailorder comes small and you have to give them time to grow.

  9. Great post Dave. I have the Shenandoah & a couple others {names escape me just now}. I've found that I really like them & they need little care.

  10. I dont have much in the way of ornamental grasses in my garden but am interested in trying a few. I have an idea of a dry creek bed in the rain run-off area in the backyard. Am thinking that Grasses along the side would be nice and natural looking. Maybe next yearโ€™s project…

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