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Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum

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Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass

Discover More Information On Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass

The Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass, scientifically known as Panicum virgatum, is a captivating perennial that brings a wave of color and texture to any landscape. This ornamental grass forms a dense, upright clump of blue-green foliage that transitions to a striking wine red early in the summer, offering a dynamic display throughout the growing season. Standing at a mature height of 3 feet and spreading to about 18 inches, it makes an impressive statement without overwhelming space.

Thriving in full sun, the 'Cheyenne Sky' is not only a visual delight but also a low-maintenance plant that adapts well to a range of soil types, from sand to clay. Its resilience is further highlighted by its drought and salt tolerance, making it a robust choice for various garden settings. Late in the summer, it graces the garden with purple flower panicles that hover just above its foliage, adding an additional layer of interest.

This variety shines across a wide range of hardiness zones (4-9), ensuring that it can be a perennial staple in gardens across many parts of North America. Its foliage maintains interest into the fall and even in winter, providing year-round appeal. The 'Cheyenne Sky' is not only functional for erosion control and salt tolerance but also resists deer, making it an excellent choice for gardeners looking for beauty without the hassle of frequent wildlife damage.

Plant Attributes

The Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass, or Panicum virgatum, stands out with its unique blend of attributes that cater to a wide range of gardening needs and aesthetics. This perennial grass boasts an upright growth habit, reaching a garden height of approximately 36 inches (91 cm) and spreading to about 18 inches (46 cm), creating a balanced and striking silhouette in the landscape. Its foliage presents a vibrant show, starting as blue-green in spring and transforming to a rich wine red as the early summer unfolds, providing a dynamic visual interest that extends through the fall and into the winter months.

Flowering in late summer, 'Cheyenne Sky' produces tan flower panicles that subtly complement its fiery foliage. The plant thrives under full sun exposure, requiring at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to achieve its best form and coloration. It is categorized as easy to maintain, making it an appealing choice for both seasoned gardeners and beginners. Adaptability is another key feature, as it performs well across a broad spectrum of hardiness zones—from 4a to 9b—demonstrating exceptional cold and heat tolerance.

Landscape Use

The Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass, with its stunning transformation from blue-green to wine-red foliage and its late-summer tan flowers, offers a plethora of landscaping uses that make it a versatile addition to a variety of garden designs. Here are some of its primary landscaping applications:

  • Border Plantings: Its upright and compact growth habit makes it an excellent choice for adding structure and height to flower borders. The vivid color transformation of its foliage from spring through fall provides a dynamic visual interest that enhances the garden's aesthetic appeal.
  • Container Gardens: This grass's manageable size and striking coloration make it a perfect focal or thriller plant in container arrangements. It pairs well with annuals and perennials that complement its height and color, offering a captivating display on patios, balconies, or entryways.
  • Cut Flower Gardens: While it is primarily grown for its foliage, the tan flower panicles of 'Cheyenne Sky' can add texture and interest to cut flower arrangements, offering a natural and rustic touch to bouquets.
  • Mass Plantings: When planted in mass, 'Cheyenne Sky' creates a breathtaking sea of red that can serve as a dramatic ground cover or a lively backdrop for other garden plants. This approach is particularly effective in large landscape areas, parks, or public gardens.
  • Specimen or Focal Points: Due to its distinctive coloration and form, it can serve as an eye-catching specimen plant in garden beds or landscapes, drawing attention and serving as a conversation piece.
  • Erosion Control: Its dense and fibrous root system makes it an effective plant for stabilizing soil and controlling erosion on slopes or in areas prone to soil degradation.
  • Drought-Tolerant Landscapes: As a plant that requires minimal watering once established, 'Cheyenne Sky' is ideal for xeriscaping and drought-tolerant gardens, where water conservation is a priority.
  • Wildlife Gardens: While it offers erosion control and is salt-tolerant, making it suitable for coastal landscapes, its resistance to deer makes it a practical choice in areas where wildlife browsing can be a problem.
  • Naturalistic and Rustic Garden Styles: Its native North American heritage and the effortless grace it brings to landscapes make it a natural fit for naturalistic, rustic, and prairie-style gardens, where it can thrive among other native plants and grasses.

By incorporating 'Cheyenne Sky' into these various garden designs and functions, gardeners can enjoy its myriad of benefits—ranging from its aesthetic appeal to its practical uses in the landscape.

Planting & Care

Planting and caring for the Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is straightforward, making it an excellent choice for gardeners of all levels. Here’s a guide to ensure your 'Cheyenne Sky' thrives in your garden:

Planting Instructions:

  • Timing: Plant in spring or early fall to allow time for establishment before the extremes of winter or summer.
  • Location: Choose a location with full sun exposure, as 'Cheyenne Sky' needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight to thrive and develop its full color potential.
  • Soil: This grass is adaptable to a wide range of soil types, from sand to clay, but it prefers well-draining soil. If your soil is heavy clay, amend it with compost or other organic matter to improve drainage.
  • Planting: Dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the root ball. Remove the plant from its container, gently loosen the roots, and place it in the hole. Backfill with soil, and water thoroughly to settle the roots.

Care Instructions:

  • Watering: Water regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Once established, 'Cheyenne Sky' is drought-tolerant and will require less frequent watering, except in extreme heat or if planted in containers.
  • Fertilizing: Apply a general-purpose fertilizer lightly in the spring to encourage growth. Over-fertilization can lead to floppy growth, so it's best to err on the side of caution.
  • Pruning: Cut back the foliage to a few inches above the ground in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This helps keep the plant looking tidy and encourages healthy, vigorous growth.
  • Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and protect the root system in colder climates.
  • Pest and Disease Management: 'Cheyenne Sky' is generally resistant to pests and diseases. However, keep an eye out for common garden pests and fungal diseases, especially in humid conditions. Good air circulation around the plant helps prevent most issues.

Additional Tips:

  • Spacing: When planting multiple specimens for mass plantings or borders, space them approximately 18 inches apart to allow for their mature spread.
  • Companion Planting: Consider pairing 'Cheyenne Sky' with other drought-tolerant perennials and grasses that enjoy similar growing conditions, such as sedum, echinacea, and lavender, to create a cohesive and low-maintenance garden design.
  • Winter Interest: The foliage and seed heads of 'Cheyenne Sky' provide winter interest and habitat for wildlife. Consider leaving the plants standing through the winter and only cut them back in early spring.

By following these planting and care tips, your Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass should grow to be a healthy and vibrant addition to your garden, offering stunning visual interest from summer through winter.

Additional Information

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Prairie Winds® 'Cheyenne Sky' Red Switch Grass


Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Perennial
  • Watering Needs: Average water required; adaptable to occasional watering once established, with increased needs during extreme heat or when planted in containers.
  • Botanical Pronunciation: PAN-ih-kum vir-GA-tum
  • Deciduous/evergreen: Herbaceous
  • Growth rate: Medium
  • Average landscape size: Mature height of 36 inches (91 cm) with a spread of 18 inches (46 cm).
  • Special features: Border Plant, Container, Cut Flower, Landscape, Mass Planting, Specimen or Focal Point, Drought Tolerant, Salt Tolerant, Erosion Control, Deer Resistant, Native to North America
  • Dramatic Foliage: Seasonal color change from blue-green to wine red
  • Foliage color: Starts blue-green, turns to red in early summer
  • Blooms: Late Summer
  • Flower color: Tan
  • Flower attributes: Adds texture and contrast to the garden
  • Garden style: Naturalistic, Modern, Rustic, Formal
  • Design Ideas: Ideal for creating visual interest in borders and beds, as a striking container specimen, or massed in landscapes for a dramatic effect. It can be used to enhance modern garden designs, mixed perennial borders, or as a focal point in drought-tolerant and native plant gardens. Its upright form and color transition make it a perfect partner for grasses and perennials that highlight its features, such as sedums, coneflowers, and lavender.
  • Companion Plants: Complements a variety of garden plants including sedums, echinacea (cone flowers), lavender, and other ornamental grasses that share similar sun and soil preferences.

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