Cloud Nine SwitchgrassPanicum virgatum 'Cloud Nine'
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Panicum virgatum 'Cloud Nine'
Outdoor Growing zone
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Cloud Nine Switchgrass is a wonderful larger ornamental grass, with bold blue leaves rising in a large clump to stand 5 feet tall. These are topped in summer and fall with a large cloud of thousands of flowers and seeds, like a golden mist. The whole plant turns beige and brown for winter, and stands well, unless you have a lot of heavy snow. It is perfect where you want impact, looking great behind perennials, among shrubs, on slopes and banks, beside water, or in natural settings and prairie-style gardens (it’s derived from a native species). It also grows well at the seaside and at beach cottages. A reliable bloomer, unlike maiden grass, in cooler zones, and a winter refuge and source of food for native birds.
Plant the Cloud Nine Switchgrass in an area of full sun, although it can handle a couple of hours of shade each day too. Plant it in just about any soil, from acid to alkaline, and from sand to clay. Once established it is very drought resistant, yet it will also grow in wet ground. Also resistant to salt-spray and brackish water, so it grows well in coastal areas. Generally completely free of pest or disease problems, and needs nothing more than an annual cutting down. Do this in early spring, or in late fall if you live in an area with heavy winter snowfall, which will collapse it.
If you admire big, bold grasses like Maiden Grass, but don’t live in areas where it flowers well, then you’ll be on cloud 9 when you grow the Cloud Nine Switchgrass. This selection of a native grass from the Prairies can top 8 feet when in bloom, and it is hardy and a reliable-bloomer right into zone 4 – talk about living a dream. Forming a bold column of blue leaves from spring to fall, in summer it is topped by a cloud of fluffy golden flowers that by fall have turned beige. The leaves follow by turning golden brown, and the whole stands through winter, unless you have heavy snow. Birds love the seeds and may even nest or shelter among the stems, so local wildlife will love you too. A striking ornamental grass, it spreads slowly into larger clumps, but never becomes invasive. Resistant to both drought and wet soil, you will love the striking look of this plant, in any season. Ornamental grasses are the backbone of every modern garden, and for a larger plant everywhere in cooler zones (or every zone, for that matter), including the seaside, this variety is a winner.
Cloud Nine Switchgrass is a hardy herbaceous ornamental grass, developed from a native plant, that grows each spring into a tall clump of blue leaves about 3 feet long and ½ inch wide. The leaves are glaucous, that is they have a dull coating of white on them, which gives the blue a richer, more silvery look. Soon stems rise up, carrying the leaves to a height of 5 to 7 feet. Then, by mid-summer, each stem sends up a flower spike, which can be 2 feet long, so the overall height of the plant is now up to 8 feet. The flower spikes have numerous small grass flowers on slender stems, forming a rounded, airy cluster that floats like a golden cloud over the blue foliage. The flowers persist into winter, slowly turning beige, and the leaves too turn beige to golden brown in late fall. Unlike some other grasses, the stems are strong and this plant stays upright through the winter, only collapsing under the weight of persistent heavy snow. Birds enjoy feeding in the seeds, and use the winter stems for nesting and shelter.
Wherever you need a larger ornamental grass, Cloud Nine Switchgrass is your friend. Grow it at the back of perennial borders, on slopes and banks, among shrubs, by water, or in semi-natural prairie gardens, which are very fashionable and desirable these days. Since it is a native plant it is valuable in wild gardens, as food and cover for many bird species. In recent years it has become a valuable forage crop and a source of biofuels too, with many farmers growing the natural forms of this grass as crops.
The Cloud Nine Switchgrass is incredibly tough, growing readily in zone 4 (but starting to flower a little later), and just as well in the heat, humidity and dryness of zone 9. Wherever you live, you can grow it. It’s especially valuable in colder zones as a replacement for maiden grasses, looking a little different but flowering reliably.
Grow the Cloud Nine Switchgrass in full sun. It will take a little shade each day, but only a little, otherwise it will become thinner, more open and tend to collapse more easily – and you don’t want the work of staking and tying, for sure. It grows in all kinds of soils from acidic to alkaline, and from clay to sand, including chalky soils too. It establishes quickly and becomes very drought tolerant, yet it also tolerates wet ground.
There really isn’t much to do with the Cloud Nine Switchgrass except admire it. It needs an annual cutting down to a few inches tall. In warmer areas this can be done in late winter – be sure to do it before the new growth emerges – or in late fall if you have a lot of winter snow, as it is hard to clean up in spring if it has seriously collapsed. This is a warm-season grass, so growth doesn’t begin in spring until the soil warms up – don’t worry, it isn’t dead.
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, is a grass native to North America, growing throughout the Prairies, all along the east coast, and from Florida west into Louisiana. Today it can also be found as a farm crop in many parts of the country. It was a major component of the prairie grasslands before the introduction of corn and wheat, and today is enjoying a revival as a biofuel and a forage crop for cattle. We haven’t been able to find the source of the variety called ‘Cloud Nine’, but its vigor, blue foliage and reliable blooming have made it a garden favorite.
In 2014 the Cloud Nine Switchgrass was granted the prestigious Award of Garden Merit by Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society – and they don’t even have the ideal climate for growing it! So you can see what a high-quality grass this is, and one that should be in every garden large enough to accommodate it. Ornamental grasses are always hot, and sell out fast – order now, while you still can, they won’t last long.