red switchgrass

Panicum virgatumShenandoah‘ or red switchgrass ‘Shenandoah’. This member of the Poaceae is native to North America from Canada to Mexico, and has been heavily used as a forage crop, biofuel plant, and extensively selected as ornamental garden plants. ‘Shenandoah‘ is a cultivar selected for its stable and reliable burgundy-red leaves from spring to fall, as well as its strong upright growth habit.

In general, switchgrasses are low maintenance ornamental grasses requiring medium water and full-sun. When grown in partial shade, P. virgatumShenandoah‘ will loose its upright growth character. Plants will tolerate dry soils and drought conditions, as well as poor soils once they are well-established in the garden. Like other ornamental grasses, the tan and beige winter remnants of P. virgatumShenandoah‘ should be cut back in the early spring before new leaf growth initiates.

Flowers of ‘Shenandoah‘ are tiny and finely-textured borne on tall inflorescences above the foliage. While individually the flowers appear inconsequential, when plants are massed and in-bloom the grouping of inflorescences appear as an airy red-tinted cloud floating above the plants.’Shenandoah‘ makes a terrific companion plant for other Midwestern prairie-like garden plants. It is an introduction from German breeder Dr. Hans Simon.

Botanical Name
Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’
Common Name
red switch grass ‘Shenandoah’
Family Poaceae
USDA Zone 5 thru 9
Light Requirement Full Sun
Season(s) of interest Summer, Fall, Winter
Height and Spread
3-4ft x 3-4ft (90-120cm x 90-120cm)
Flower Color Pink
Attracts Wildlife
Food for Birds, Hosts
Additional Information
Cultivated Form of a Plant Native to the Chicago Region. Native range: Nova Scotia and Quebec to Manitoba and Montana south to Arizona, Mexico, and into the West Indies
Location in Lurie Garden
Southwest Light Plate, Northwest Light Plate, Northeast Light Plate, West Meadow