What is Panicgrass

What is Panicgrass

Panicgrass is a broad term for oriental grasses native to the tropical regions of North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australasia. Most of the grasses in this category are large and perennial grasses that grow from about 3 feet to 10 feet tall. Some varieties have silky colorful tassels from shades of green to blue and orange-red. The types that are found in most gardens are called Switch Grass, Panic Grass, and Broom Corn Millet. Panicum is hardy, easy to grow, and best in USDA zones 5 to 9.

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Panic Grass for Gardens

Panic grasses of all types make a statement piece in a flower garden or may be used as specimen plants. Switch Grass is a bright green plant with reddish tips and plumage at the top. Some varieties have delicate hairs on the top of the long panicles or leaves that may be different colors. When the grass dries on the top in the fall, your tropical grasses will invite small birds to eat, giving you great interest even when the plants are dormant.

What Are Some Varieties of Panic Grass?

Panicum Heavy Metal has metallic-blue leaves that turn yellow in the fall and then fade to a tan color in winter. They produce flower heads in the winter as food for birds. In mid-summer, the branched flower panicles are pink-tinged, giving you a pretty showy color atop the metallic blue leaves.

Panicum Cloud Nine has upright bluish-green leaves with large rose-colored seed panicles on top. This type of panicum is called switchgrass because of the lovely swishing sound when a gentle breeze blows.

Panicum Cheyenne Sky is a magnificent example of switchgrass for gardens and lawns. This tropical grass emerges in the spring as a blue-green color and then turns dark wine-red in early summer. When it blooms, you have an excellent spot of bright color with wine-red panicles. The seed panicles open dark red, and in the fall, they turn to beige.

How to Grow Panicum

All varieties of Switch Grass are clumping in form; this means that they will only be half as wide as they are tall at the end of the growing season. Panicum is generally planted in a group with at least 12 inches between the groups to give the grass room to grow together and create a border.

Switch Grass has a very long taproot that is often 12 inches long, so you need to cultivate your soil to about a foot deep before planting the seeds. Young plants can grow in pots before multiplying by the rhizomes underground, although they multiply quickly and would need a huge pot to accommodate them.

Sunlight and Soil Requirements

These plants do well in full sun to partial shade. It is also tolerant of salt and tolerates short droughts. It can grow in almost any type of soil that is only moderately moist or even dry. Switch Grass does well in sand, clay, or loam as long as the soil drains well. It grows best if you mix some organic matter, such as compost, into the planting hole.

Caring for Panicum

The fun part of growing a native plant is that it doesn't need extra care except for some fertilizer in the spring and only in the poorest of soils.

Even though the plants die in the winter, the rhizome under the soil still lives, especially if you mulch in the flowerbed. You can propagate your plants by digging them up and dividing them about every three years or so. From late winter to early spring, the best appearance of this plant occurs when it is cut off a few inches above the soil line, giving it better air circulation and sunlight to start new growth in the spring.