warm season grass seed
Native Wild Flower Seeds and Potted Plants
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|Habitat||Bloom Period||Flower Color||Height Inches||Moisture||Plant Spacing||Lifespan|
|Sun to Light Shade||July and August||Reddish-
|30 to 42||Dry to Average||18 to 24 inches||Perennial
Panicum virgatum Switch Grass photo by cj
Panicum virgatum Switch Grass potted plants are available, $5.00 each plus Boxing/Shipping.
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Panicum virgatum Switch Grass potted plants - email with your zip code and number of plants
for shipping charges and availability on our native wildflowers and grasses
packet - $2.50
1 ounce - $3.50
1 pound - $15.00
grass seeds are bulky
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Panicum = Of or from Spain, Latin name for wild millet
virgatum = referring to a twig
Panicum virgatum Switch Grass warm season grass is perfect for both a formal flower garden or prairie meadow and is a host plant to Skipper butterflies. This is one of the best known prairie grasses growing throughout the tall grass prairie region.
Panicum virgatum Switch Grass is a very attractive clump forming native grass useful for landscaping, wildlife habitat and erosion control. Panicum virgatum Switch Grass seed is eaten by songbirds and upland gamebirds and the plant provides cover for ground birds and small mammals. Panicum virgatum Switch Grass is useful in ornamental plantings with its blue-green leaves during the growing season and attractive rusty color with white fluffy seedheads in the fall. Because of its growth habit and adaptability to a wide range of soil conditions is useful for erosion control.
Native Panicum virgatum Switch Grass grass occurs naturally in upland prairies, limestone glades, and open woods, and is Widespread in the United States and adjacent parts of eastern Canada. Gramineae (Grass Family)
The map below shows areas where Panicum virgatum Switch Grass warm season grass grows wild. More switch grass information from www.plants.usda.gov is at bottom of this page.
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Plant distribution map
complements of USDA, NRCS. 2001. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.1
(http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.
Livestock: Switchgrass produces heavy growth during late spring and early summer. It provides good warm-season pasture and high quality hay for livestock.
Erosion Control: Switchgrass is perhaps our most valuable native grass, adapted to a wide range of sites. It stabilizes soil on strip-mine spoils, sand dunes, dikes, gullies and other critical areas. It is also suitable for low windbreak plantings in crop fields.
Wildlife: Switchgrass provides excellent nesting and cover for pheasants, quail, and rabbits. It holds up in heavy snow (particularly ‘Shelter’ and ‘Kanlow’) and is useful on shooting preserves. The seed provide food for pheasants, quail, turkeys, doves, and songbirds. Due to its potential to spread some wildlife biologists have reduced or eliminated the use of switchgrass in some plantings.
Biofuel Source: Switchgrass is a native perennial warm season grass with the ability to produce moderate to high biomass yields on marginal lands. These characters have resulted in the use of switchgrass in several bioenergy conversion processes, including cellulosic ethanol production, biogas, and direct combustion for thermal energy applications.
Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g., threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).
This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace other vegetation if not properly managed. Please consult with your local NRCS Field Office, Cooperative Extension Service office, state natural resource, or state agriculture department regarding its status and use. Weed information is also available from the PLANTS Web site at http://plants.usda.gov. Please consult the Related Web Sites on the Plant Profile for this species for further information.
Description and Adaptation
Switchgrass is native in the continental United States except California and the Pacific Northwest. It is a perennial bunch grass averaging 3 to 5 feet tall and may spread from short, stout rhizomes. The stem (culm) is round and can have a red to straw colored tint. The seed head is an open, spreading panicle.
Switchgrass is climatically adapted throughout most of the United States when planted on suitable soils. Moderately deep to deep, somewhat dry to poorly drained, sandy to clay loam soils are best. It does poorly on some heavy soils. In the East, it performs well on shallow and droughty soils. Switchgrass occurs naturally on prairies, open oak and pine woodlands, shores, riverbanks, and high brackish marshes along maritime forest ecotones.
For updated distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Switchgrass distribution from USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.
Switchgrass is planted using the pure live seed (PLS), typically at a seeding rate of 6-12 lbs. PLS/acre. Seeding rates and dates vary according to cultivar, region of adaptation, and purpose. Consult with your local NRCS office or extension office for the proper seeding rates and dates for switchgrass cultivars in your region. Mixed plantings may be seeded at a lower rate. The seed can be planted using seed drills or broadcast spreaders. Seedbeds should be firmed prior to seeding. When using the broadcast method, the area should be rolled after seeding to increase the seed to soil contact. No till seedings in closely grazed or burned sod also have been successful.
For further information on establishing switchgrass, see NRCS Technical Note No. 3, Planting and Managing Switchgrass as a Biomass Energy Crop
Control weeds during establishment by mowing to a height of 4 inches in May or 6 inches in June or July. Grazing is generally not recommended the first year.
Established stands of switchgrass may be fertilized in accordance with soil tests. Switchgrass benefits from burning prior to initiation of spring growth. Burning every 3 to 5 years decreases weed competition, eliminates excessive residue and stimulates growth. Switchgrass for wildlife food and cover should be burned once every 2 years to reduce mulch accumulations that inhibits movement of hatchlings and attracts nest predators.
Switchgrass can provide quality forage for livestock when properly managed for grazing or cut for hay . Consult with your local NRCS office or extension service in developing a grazing and hay management plan for your region.
Pests and Potential Problems
Grasshoppers, leafhoppers and armyworms can be major pests in new seedings and established stands. Some stands are impacted by damping off and seedling blight. Leaf rust may affect forage quality. Smut can cause significant seed loss. Smut has been found on the cultivars ‘Cave-in-Rock’, ‘Blackwell’, ‘Pathfinder’, ‘Shelter’, and ‘Summer’. A switchgrass moth has been reported on young switchgrass tillers that could affect stand and productivity in the northern Great Plains.
Switchgrass can spread, especially in a wildlife planting, and reduce growth of other native warm season grasses such as big bluestem, Indiangrass and little bluestem. Cultivars have been reported to dominate and reduce native switchgrasses stands in natural plant communities and restoration sites.
Please contact your local agricultural extension specialist or county weed specialist to learn what works best in your area and how to use it safely. Always read label and safety instructions for each control method. Trade names and control measures appear in this document only to provide specific information. USDA NRCS does not guarantee or warranty the products and control methods named, and other products may be equally effective.
Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin)
‘Alamo’ (TX), ‘Blackwell’ (OK), Bomaster (NC) ‘Carthage’ (NC), ‘Cave-In-Rock’ (IL), Central Iowa Germplasm, ‘Dacotah’ (ND), Durham Germplasm (NC),‘Forestburg’ (SD), HighTide Germplasm (MD), ‘Kanlow’ (OK), ‘Nebraska 28’ (NE), ‘Pathfinder’, ‘Shawnee’, ‘Shelter’ (WV), ‘Sunburst’ (SD), ‘Summer’, Southlow Michigan Germplasm, Timber Germplasm (NC), Grenville (NM), Miami (Dade Co, FL), Stuart (Stuart, FL), Wabasso (Wabasso, FL), Penn Center (Beaufort Co.SC.; source identified vegetative)
Prepared By: Jimmy Carter Plant Materials Center
Jimmy Carter Plant Materials Center. 2011. Plant fact sheet for switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.). USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service,
Edited: [e.g., 08Sep2009 rg, 08Sep2009 jfh; 17Sep2009 jfe 21Jan 2011 mo]Erosion Control: Switchgrass is perhaps our most valuable native grass on a wide range of sites. It is a valuable soil stabilization plant on strip-mine spoils, sand dunes, dikes, and other critical areas. It is also suitable for low windbreak plantings in truck crop fields.
Switchgrass provides excellent nesting and fall and winter cover for pheasants,
quail, and rabbits. It holds up
well in heavy snow (particularly ‘Shelter’ and ‘Kanlow’ cultivars) and
is useful on shooting preserves. The
seeds provide food for pheasants, quail, turkeys, doves, and songbirds.
This plant may become weedy or invasive in some regions or habitats and may displace desirable vegetation if not properly managed. Please consult with your local NRCS Field Office, Cooperative Extension Service office, or state natural resource or agriculture department regarding its status and use. Weed information is also available from the PLANTS Web site at plants.usda.gov.
Panicum virgatum L., switchgrass, is native to all of the United States except California and the Pacific Northwest. It is a perennial sod-forming grass that grows 3 to 5 feet tall and can be distinguished from other warm-season grasses, even when plants are young, by the white patch of hair at the point where the leaf attaches to the stem. The stem is round and usually has a reddish tint. The seed head is an open, spreading panicle.
On suitable soils, switchgrass is climatically adapted throughout the most of the United States. Moderately deep to deep, somewhat dry to poorly drained, sandy to clay loam soils are best. It does poorly on heavy soils. In the East, it performs well on shallow and droughty soil.
Switchgrass should be
seeded in a pure stand when used for pasture or hay because it can be managed
better alone than in a mixture. Its
slick, free-flowing seed can be planted with most seed drills or with a
broadcast spreader. In the Southeast, a planting rate of approximately 10 pounds
PLS per acre is recommended. Seedbeds
should be firmed with a roller prior to the drilling or broadcasting of seed.
If seeds are planted using the broadcast method, the area should be
rolled afterward to help cover the seed. When
drilled, seeds should be planted 1/4 inch deep.
No-tillage seedings in closely
grazed or burned sod also have been successful, where control of sod is
accomplished with clipping, grazing, or proper herbicides.
potassium should be applied according to soil tests before or at seeding.
Nitrogen, however, should not be used at seeding time because it will
stimulate weed growth.
To control weeds during establishment, mow switchgrass to a height of 4 inches in May or 6 inches in June or July. Grazing is generally not recommended the first year, but a vigorous stand can be grazed late in the year if grazing periods are short with at least 30 days of rest provided between grazings. Switchgrass is the earliest maturing of the common native warm-season grasses and it is ready to graze in early summer.
Established stands of
switchgrass may be fertilized in accordance with soil tests.
Phosphorus and potassium may not be needed if the field is grazed since
these elements will be recycled back to the soil by the grazing animal.
Apply nitrogen after switchgrass has begun to produce using a single
application in mid-to-late May or a split application in both May and early
July. Avoid high rates of nitrogen
because carry-over could spur cool-season grass growth and harm young plants the
benefit from burning of plant residues just prior to initiation of spring
growth. Burning fields once every 3
to 5 years decreases weed competition, eliminates excessive residue and
stimulates switch grass growth. Switchgrass
used for wildlife food and cover should be burned once every 3 to 4 years to
reduce mulch accumulations that inhibit movement of hatchlings and attract nest
grazing management, begin grazing switchgrass after it has
reached a height of 14 to 16 inches, and stop when plants are grazed to
within 4 inches of the ground during late spring, 8 inches in early summer, and
12 inches in late summer. A rest
before frost is needed to allow plants to store carbohydrates in the stem bases
and crown. Plants may be grazed to a height of 6 to 8 inches after
frost. The winter stubble is needed
to provide insulation.
intensive systems, grazing can begin in the first paddocks when plants reach a
height of 10 inches and should not be grazed below a stubble height of 6 to 8
inches. Grazed paddocks need to be
rested 30-60 days before being grazed again.
and Selected Materials (and area of origin)
‘Alamo’ (TX), ‘Blackwell’ (OK), ‘Cave-In-Rock’ (IL), ‘Dacotah’ (ND), ‘Forestburg’ (SD), ‘Kanlow’ (OK), ‘Nebraska 28’ (NE), ‘Shawnee,’ ‘Shelter’ (WV) (cultivars); Grenville (NM) (informal release); Miami (Dade Co, FL), Stuart (Stuart, FL), Wabasso (Wabasso, FL) (source identified releases). Seeds are available from most commercial sources and through large agricultural supply firms.
Interest in switchgrass as a renewable biofuel resource has been increasing in recent years, primarily in the Southern United States. The Booneville, Arkansas, Plant Materials Center (PMC) and the Plant and Soil Science Department of Oklahoma State University (OSU) are cooperating to evaluate several upland types of switchgrass for use as a biomass energy resource. Selections of upland types of switchgrass have been evaluated by OSU for several years. The development of hybrid progeny with substantial heterosis for increased biomass yield will ultimately result in improved hybrid cultivars for the Central and Southern United States. The PMC is in the process of assessing several improved lines along with commercially available cultivars for dry-matter potential and environmental adaptation. Results of this study may contribute to producers cashing in on a growing demand for renewable fuels and a decrease on our dependency on fossil fuels.