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Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum

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Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass

Discover More Information On Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass

The Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass, or Panicum virgatum, is a striking addition to any garden that seeks to blend the rugged beauty of native North American grasses with the structured elegance of ornamental landscaping. Standing tall at an impressive height of 6 feet and spreading to a width of approximately 2.5 feet, this perennial grass makes a bold statement with its strictly upright column of steel blue foliage. As the seasons change, the 'Totem Pole' switch grass transitions gracefully, showcasing golden seed heads in the fall that add a spectacular display of color and texture to the landscape.

Adapted to thrive under a wide range of conditions, the Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' is remarkably hardy across USDA zones 4 through 9, making it a versatile choice for gardeners in various climates. Its foliage interest extends beyond the growing season into fall and winter, providing year-round visual appeal. This grass is not only a feast for the eyes but also a model of resilience, exhibiting drought and salt tolerance, and offering erosion control benefits. Additionally, it is resistant to deer, making it an excellent choice for areas where wildlife browsing can be a problem.

Cultivated for both its aesthetic and functional attributes, the 'Totem Pole' switch grass requires minimal maintenance and is easy to care for, thriving in full sun and adapting well to any soil type, from sand to clay. Its steel blue leaves and golden blooms are not only stunning in the landscape but also serve as an attractive choice for dried flower arrangements, adding a natural and rustic touch to indoor spaces.

Plant Attributes

The Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass is celebrated for its robust and eye-catching attributes, making it a standout in any garden or landscape. This tall perennial grass, reaching heights of up to 72 inches (approximately 6 feet) and spreading to about 30 inches (2.5 feet), is characterized by its vibrant steel blue foliage that forms a strictly upright column. This unique structural quality lends itself well to various landscape designs, providing height and visual interest. The foliage's steel blue shade transitions into golden seed heads come fall, offering a dynamic display of colors through the seasons.

Notably drought and salt-tolerant, 'Totem Pole' is equipped to handle adverse weather conditions and is an excellent choice for erosion control. Its resistance to deer makes it an ideal plant for gardens in areas prone to wildlife. Native to North America, it reflects the rugged beauty of the continent's natural landscapes while fitting seamlessly into ornamental gardens.

The 'Totem Pole' switch grass thrives in full sun, requiring at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, and is adaptable to a wide range of soil types, from sand to clay. It is undemanding regarding soil fertility, flourishing in average, fertile, or even poor soil conditions. The plant's water needs are average, making it relatively low maintenance and easy to care for. Its versatility extends to its uses; it can serve as a border plant, be placed in containers, used as cut or dried flowers, and play a role in mass plantings or as a specimen or focal point in the landscape.

Landscape Use

The Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass offers a versatile range of landscaping uses, making it a valuable addition to various garden styles and designs. Its unique characteristics and adaptability allow it to serve multiple roles within the landscape:

  • Vertical Accent: With its tall, upright habit, it serves as an excellent vertical accent in the garden, drawing the eye upward and adding height to plant compositions.
  • Mass Plantings: Ideal for mass plantings, creating a sea of steel blue foliage that transitions to golden hues in the fall, providing a striking visual impact and a sense of unity in larger landscapes.
  • Borders: Perfect for use in borders, where its height can create a natural barrier or backdrop for shorter plants, adding depth and structure to garden beds.
  • Containers: Suitable for container gardening, where it can act as a "thriller" component, providing height and drama to mixed plantings.
  • Erosion Control: Its robust root system makes it an excellent choice for erosion control on slopes or areas prone to soil erosion, helping to stabilize the ground.
  • Wildlife Gardens: Its seed heads in fall attract birds, making it a beneficial addition to wildlife or naturalistic gardens.
  • Coastal Exposure: Tolerant of salt spray, it's a good option for coastal gardens where other plants might struggle.
  • Drought-Tolerant Landscapes: Once established, its drought tolerance makes it a key player in xeriscaping or drought-resistant gardens, requiring minimal supplemental watering.
  • Specimen or Focal Point: Can be planted as a solitary specimen or focal point in the garden, where its striking foliage and seasonal interest can be appreciated up close.
  • Mixed Beds: Integrates well into mixed beds with perennials and shrubs, offering contrast in texture and color, especially effective in naturalistic or prairie-style gardens.

The Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass's adaptability, ease of care, and striking appearance make it a valuable and attractive choice for a wide range of landscaping projects, enhancing the garden's aesthetic and ecological value.

Planting & Care

Planting and caring for the Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum) is straightforward, making it an appealing choice for gardeners of all levels. Here's a guide to ensure your switch grass thrives:

Planting Instructions:

  1. Timing: Plant in early spring or fall. These seasons provide milder weather that helps the plant establish without the stress of extreme heat.
  2. Location: Choose a location that receives full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily). Although it's adaptable to partial sun, full sun encourages optimal growth and blooming.
  3. Soil: This grass is not fussy about soil type and can thrive in anything from sand to clay. However, well-draining soil is ideal to prevent waterlogging.
  4. Spacing: Space plants approximately 30 inches apart to allow for mature spread and ensure proper air circulation.
  5. Planting: Dig a hole as deep as the root ball and twice as wide. Place the plant in the hole, ensuring it's at the same depth as it was in the pot. Backfill the hole, gently tamping down the soil to remove air pockets, and water thoroughly.

Care Instructions:

  1. Watering: Water regularly to keep the soil moist until the plant is established. Once established, 'Totem Pole' is drought-tolerant and will require watering only during prolonged dry spells or extreme heat, especially in container plantings.
  2. Fertilizing: Apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in early spring to support growth. This grass typically does not require frequent fertilization, especially if grown in fertile soil.
  3. Pruning: Cut back the foliage to about 4 inches above the ground in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. This helps to maintain a tidy appearance and encourages healthy, vigorous growth.
  4. Mulching: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the plant to retain soil moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds.
  5. Pest and Disease Management: Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass 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 can help prevent these issues.

Additional Tips:

  • Adaptability: This grass is tolerant of poor soils and can thrive with minimal care once established, making it suitable for low-maintenance landscapes.
  • Erosion Control: Its robust root system makes it an excellent choice for stabilizing slopes and areas prone to erosion.
  • Wildlife Attraction: The seed heads provide food for birds in the fall and winter, adding an ecological benefit to its ornamental value.

By following these planting and care tips, your Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass will become a resilient and striking feature in your garden, providing year-round interest and beauty.

Additional Information

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Prairie Winds® 'Totem Pole' Switch Grass


Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Perennial Grass
  • Watering Needs: Average; well-adapted to average soil moisture but can tolerate drought conditions once established.
  • Botanical Pronunciation: PAN-ih-kum vir-GA-tum
  • Deciduous/evergreen: Herbaceous
  • Growth rate: Moderate to Fast
  • Average landscape size: Tall stature; reaches 6’ in height and spreads up to 2.5’ wide.
  • Special features: Drought Tolerant, Salt Tolerant, Erosion Control, Deer Resistant, Fall Interest, Winter Interest, Native to North America
  • Dramatic Foliage: Steel Blue foliage with Golden seed heads in fall
  • Foliage color: Blue-Green, transitioning to golden in fall
  • Blooms: Late Summer
  • Flower color: Yellow
  • Flower attributes: Golden seed heads adding to fall interest
  • Garden style: Naturalistic, Modern, Rustic
  • Design Ideas: Ideal for creating vertical interest in the garden. Use as a focal point, in mass plantings for a dramatic effect, or as an elegant addition to contemporary or rustic garden designs. Perfect for borders, containers, and as an architectural element in garden beds. Its upright habit and color transition lend well to gardens with a focus on seasonality and texture.
  • Companion Plants: Complements a wide range of perennials and grasses, especially those with contrasting foliage or flower colors for a dynamic landscape composition.

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