The Tree Center

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Shenandoah Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah'

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How are the heights measured?

All tree, and nothin' but the tree! We measure from the top of the soil to the top of the tree; the height of the container or the root system is never included in our measurements.

What is a gallon container?

Nursery containers come in a variety of different sizes, and old-school nursery slang has stuck. While the industry-standard terminology is to call the sizes "Gallon Containers", that doesn't exactly translate to the traditional liquid "gallon" size we think of. You'll find we carry young 1-gallons, up to more mature 7-gallons ranging anywhere from 6 inches to 6ft.

How does the delivery process work?

All of our orders ship via FedEx Ground! Once your order is placed online, our magic elves get right to work picking, staging, boxing and shipping your trees. Orders typically ship out within 2 business days. You will receive email notifications along the way on the progress of your order, as well as tracking information to track your plants all the way to their new home!

Why are some states excluded from shipping?

The short & sweet answer is: "United States Department of Agriculture Restrictions." Every state has their own unique USDA restrictions on which plants they allow to come into their state. While we wish we could serve everyone, it's for the safety of native species and helps prevent the spread of invasive disease & pests. We've gotta protect good ole' Mother Nature, after all.

About Me

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The Shenandoah Switch Grass is a compact perennial grass forming an upright mound of stems covered in slender leaves. These begin blue-green, but quickly take on reddish tones, deepening as the seasons progress, and turning bright red in fall. Open sprays of pinkish-red flowers and seeds rise above the foliage, to a total height of about 4 feet. The grass spreads slowly into a larger clump, but it isn’t invasive. Grow it in beds for summer and fall interest, on slopes and in natural gardens, as well as stylish modern town gardens.

  • Leaves turn red through the seasons, ending by fall in brilliant colors
  • Airy heads of pink-red flowers and seeds
  • Vertical growing without becoming invasive
  • At its best from mid-summer through fall, for late color
  • Easy to grow in ordinary garden conditions

Full sun is best for the Shenandoah Switch Grass, but it will tolerate a little shade too. Moderate moisture is ideal, in soils that can be sand, loam or clay. Too much water will make it floppy, and it is drought resistant once established. Free of pests, diseases and deer problems, this easy grass simply needs trimming down in fall or early spring – that’s it.

Plant Hardiness Zones 4-9
Mature Width 3-4
Mature Height 3-4
Soil Conditions Adaptable
Sunlight Full Sun to Partial Shade
Drought Tolerance Good Drought Tolerance
Zones 4-9

We usually picture ornamental grasses as mounding and fountain-like, but some are more upright, and these can be used for those all-important vertical accents that make your beds more lively and attractive. Add to that vertical note rich burgundy coloring and soft, waving, red flower heads, and you have the Shenandoah Switch Grass, a lovely ornamental grass that is non-invasive, forming tight clumps. Reliable, long-lived and adaptable to both moist and dry soils, this beautiful native grass comes in several varieties, but none that is as neat, compact and lovely as this one. You’ll be singing, “Oh, Shenandoah, I long to see you” whenever you aren’t out in your garden admiring this lovely grass. It is a versatile addition, mixing well with both shrubs and flowers, and fitting into every garden style, from the most formal or the ultra-modern, to casual gardens and wild gardens of native plants.

Growing the Shenandoah Switch Grass

Size and Appearance

The Shenandoah Switch Grass is an upright perennial grass that forms a dense clump with vertical stems rising 3 feet into the air. With its arching leaves a mature clump will be about 3 feet or more across, spreading slowly by short underground rhizomes, but not becoming invasive. This is a warm-season grass, so it doesn’t start into growth before late spring, when warmer temperatures begin. The stems grow vertically upright, and the slender, flat leaves are up to an inch wide and 2 or 3 feet long. The begin the season a bluish-green, but quickly begin to take on red tones, first at the ends of the leaves. Gradually, over summer, the red coloring spreads all over the plant, and in fall the whole plant turns a bright, clear red.

This plant grows vigorously all summer, and by late summer and into fall it will be in bloom. The flowering stems rise about 12 inches above the foliage, forming slender open sprays carrying tiny pink flowers that turn into red seeds. The overall effect is charming and attractive, combining the vertical stems with arching and curving leaves and flower sprays

Using the Shenandoah Switch Grass in Your Garden

This lovely grass is perfect for color in your summer and fall garden, taking over after spring and early-summer flowers are over. Plant it alone or in groups, spacing plants 2 feet apart, to add interest, variety and color to shrubs and flowers. Plant it alone in a narrow bed along a fence or beside a path for a powerful accent with a contemporary look. Grow it in a natural setting with other native plants, on slopes or in open areas. The seeds are valuable for wild birds as winter food.

Hardiness

This grass is hardy all the way from zone 4 to zone 9, growing well across most of the country.

Sun Exposure and Soil Conditions

Full sun is best for the Shenandoah Switch Grass. It will take a little partial shade, but too much shade will make it grow loosely and tend to flop, spoiling its vertical lines. It grows best in ordinary soils that are not too dry, but they should be well-drained. Wet areas, especially in winter, can cause problems. It has moderate to good drought resistance, and grows best in soils that are not too rich, from sand to clay, but are moderately moist.

Maintenance and Pruning

No staking or special care is needed to grow the Shenandoah Switch Grass. Cut it back close to the ground in late fall or early spring – some people enjoy the tan colors of the dead grass in winter, but it can be hard to clean up once it is crushed by snow, and clean plants often overwinter better. Pests or diseases are normally not a problem, and deer usually leave it alone. Too much watering and fertilizing can cause soft growth that will flop and need staking, so grow it on the dry side, with minimal feeding.

History and Origin of the Shenandoah Switch Grass

Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum, is a dominant grass in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, and it can be found growing from southern Canada into Mexico. Plants can reach 8 feet in height by the end of summer. Interest in it, and in grasses as garden plants, began in Europe last century, and it was there that selected forms of switch grass were first grown.’Rehbraun’ was an early German variety that was smaller, with red-brown leaves, and that variety was developed into a better red form called ‘Hänse Herms’. Dr. Hans Simon is a German plant expert who raised some seedlings from that variety, selecting one with outstanding color and a compact form. He gave the plant to the US Arboretum, who introduced it into America as ‘Shenandoah’, at a time when we were beginning to appreciate ornamental grasses more.

Buying the Shenandoah Switch Grass at the Tree Center

There is no doubt that ornamental grasses have become essential parts of the modern American garden, and why not grow native ones? The Shenandoah Switch Grass combines great color and form with easy growth, and it’s a good choice for your first grass, or to add to your growing collection. Order now – it’s always in high demand and our stock is limited.

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Shenandoah Switch Grass

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah'