Plant Encyclopedia

Shenandoah Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum

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Shenandoah Switch Grass, light green grass clusters

Discover More Information On Shenandoah Switch Grass

Spice up your landscape with the Shenandoah switch grass (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’). This switch grass is one of the most popular and brightest red panicums on the market. The airy plumes add some elegance to your space as the colors dazzle with rich summer tones. With its exceptional color and texture, you don’t want to miss out on adding the Shenandoah to your landscape.

Plant Attributes

The Shenandoah switch grass is native to North America. From the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains, this tall prairie grass flourishes throughout the country. The Shenandoah switch grass is prized for its small clump, showy flowers, and winter form.

This Shenandoah switch grass has airy plumes of reddish flowers that rise above the foliage during the summer. The grassy leaves are green with red on the tips. Some leaves can even have a touch of steely blue color. When the summer season changes to fall, the foliage transforms into a gorgeous burgundy color. The switch grass becomes a shade of yellow by the winter. Many of these grasses remain in an upright position throughout the harsh winter or until you cut back the plant.

This grass will develop at a medium rate. The Shenandoah switch grass grows up to 5 feet tall, and it will spread out to a width of 3 feet. Its feathery panicles rise about 1 to 2 inches above the foliage. Those flowers range in color from red to pink. The red seed heads continue to boost the color of your landscape into the mid-fall season. When the blooms have matured, they turn into a silver color.

Landscape Use

This switchgrass is a herbaceous perennial grass that features an upright spreading habit of growth. Many landscapers use this grass as a contrast against plants with less refined foliage. You can use this variety by itself or in a mass planting. The taller cultivars make an excellent choice as background plants for your perennial garden. Since it can tolerate moist soils, this switchgrass is a fine addition to an area with a water feature. It will shine near a riverbank, water garden, or pond.

The Shenandoah switch grass makes an exceptional choice for areas with erosion issues. With their deep roots, they can provide some stability to those problem areas. Since it has a fine texture and exceptional color, you could use the Shenandoah switchgrass to help transition the space between a natural wooded area and a manicured garden. The color adds a little pop to those drab and boring landscapes. For that reason, it is a stunning accent piece to bring life to those plain areas. Due to its rich color, you might even want to clip off a few flowers or leaves from the plant. These elements can provide some interest to your fresh or dried flower arrangements.

Planting & Care

This switch grass is a low-maintenance plant, and it works best in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. It does prefer to be planted in full sunshine with fertile and moist soil. However, the Shenandoah can handle locations with heavy clay, sand, or dry conditions. For the best result, you want to place the grass in alkaline soils. If you live near the ocean, this hardy grass can even adapt to the sea spray and harsh winds. This plant thrives in challenging urban environments, such as city landscapes. Once the grass has established, it can tolerate most drought conditions. For those shorter periods of heavy rain, this grass will handle wet and soggy spaces.

Under the best conditions, this grass lives up to 15 years. While this is a low-maintenance plant, you should think about trimming it in late winter. All pruning should be completed before the active growth season resumes in your area. With that pruning schedule, you can have a beautiful ornamental grass for the upcoming season.

Additional Information

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Shenandoah Switch Grass


Known for its striking color and compact habit, this Shenandoah is a popular variety of switchgrass. Throughout the growing season, you can enjoy the summer reddish-pink flower panicles that rise above its burgundy-tipped leaves. Even in the winter, this grass provides added interest to your space. At Arbor Valley Nursery, you can purchase this variety of switchgrass from us. Our team will be happy to help you find the best options for your landscape. If you want to learn more about the Shenandoah switchgrass, please fill out the contact form.

Plant Features

  • Plant Type: Grass
  • Watering Needs: Once established, water occasionally; more in extreme heat or containers.
  • Botanical Pronunciation: PAN-ih-kum vir-GA-tum
  • Deciduous/evergreen: Herbaceous
  • Growth rate: Fast
  • Average landscape size: Fast growing; reaches 3-4’ tall and 1.5-2’ wide, in bloom.
  • Special features: Border, Container, Erosion Control, Firescaping/Fire Wise, Mass Planting, Coastal Exposure, Wildlife Garden
  • Dramatic Foliage: Striking Fall Color
  • Foliage color: Green
  • Blooms: Summer
  • Flower color: Red
  • Flower attributes: Showy Flowers
  • Garden style: Contemporary, Rustic
  • Design Ideas: Great upright grass for prairie and meadow gardens or for small patches within thematic wild gardens. Add a modern architectural twist by planting in rows and grids. Insert into native plant landscapes as well as traditional xeriscape compositions or plant in mass for a drift of almost year-round color. Perfect near water gardens or terraced patios where the breeze causes the airy plumes to sway gracefully.
  • Companion Plants: Bluebird, Raydon’s Favorite, Firework, Standing Ovation

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