Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ is the Perennial Plant Association’s 2014 Perennial Plant of the Year. Panicum virgatum carries the common name of switchgrass.
Switchgrass is adaptable to almost any soil, and performs best in full sun to light shade. It is best used in full sun, especially in native, meadow or prairie gardens. Flower arrangers find the foliage and plumes useful for arrangements. In addition, the warm-season perennial grass offers golden fall color.
‘Northwind’ is easy to grow and will enhance any sunny border, not just a native, meadow- or prairie-style garden. It has a refined appearance and habit, and is hardy to USDA Zones 4 to 10
There are no serious insect or disease problems with switchgrass. The plants are best divided in the spring. ‘Northwind’ is not patented, and can be reproduced from divisions. Liners are available from numerous propagators, including members of the Perennial Plant Association.
‘Northwind’ spreads slowly to form erect clumps of slender, steel-blue leaves about five feet tall. In late summer, foliage is topped by a haze of showy, finely textured flower panicles that rise to six or even seven feet, and open golden yellow and mature to beige.
Deep roots make ‘Northwind’ remarkably drought-tolerant once established. Like most ornamental grasses, ‘Northwind’ is seldom eaten by deer.
‘Northwind’ is only the third ornamental grass to be named Plant of the Year, following Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ in 2001, and Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ in 2009.