Nicole Stoner, Nebraska Extension Educator, provides a monthly feature on plants to consider for your acreage. This month Nicole will feature a grass selection for fall interest, Dallas Blues Switchgrass.
In September, the fall begins. With fall comes the color changing of leaves and unique fall beauty throughout the landscape. A very interesting plant for fall interest would be ornamental grasses. A great choice for an ornamental grass would be the 2016 Great Plants of the Great Plains Grass of the Year selection, Dallas Blues Switchgrass. The photo of the Dallas Blues Switchgrass above is from Kansas State University.
Dallas Blues Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’, is a wonderful, steel blue variety of the straight switchgrass species. Overall, Dallas Blues is larger than the straight species of switchgrass. Switchgrass grows up to 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide, while ‘Dallas Blues’ grows up to 7 feet tall when in bloom. The grass blades of this variety grow up to 1 inch across whereas the straight species blades are only ¾ inches across. ‘Dallas blues’ has large inflorescence in comparison to the straight species flowers. The flowers on this variety are large and pink-tinged to add more ornamental value than the species, according to Kansas State University. The flowers are wispy, branched panicles that are held at the top of the grass blades. The inflorescence occurs from July to August and lasts through fall and winter. All ornamental grasses are best left alone during the late fall and winter months because their dried grass blades stand through the winter for wildlife habitat and for an interesting characteristic throughout the winter.The photo of the Dallas Blues Switchgrass inflorescence above to the left is from Kansas State University.
There are a lot of great varieties of switchgrass besides ‘Dallas Blues’. ‘Cloud Nine’ is a great choice that has a bright gold fall color and the flowers are very dense above blue foliage. ‘Rehbraun’, ‘Haense Herms’, and ‘Shenandoah’ are good choices for burgundy colors in the fall and even some red coloration to the grass blades during the summer months. ‘Heavy Metal’ is a good choice due to the fact that is a very upright variety that never flops and has a pink color in the flowers. There are others, but these few are great selections. Choose which colors and sizes you like best to find the switchgrass for your landscape.
Switchgrass should be planted in full sun but will survive in part shade. In higher levels of shade the plant may not flower as well. This plant prefers average soil moisture but will tolerate both wet and dry locations as well, once it is established. Switchgrass is a clump forming grass, but it will self-seed to make a large planting.
Switchgrass is a great choice for acreages because wildlife such as pheasants, quail, and rabbits use it as a nesting site. The seed is also used as food for many birds. Switchgrass is also a great choice for erosion control to stabilize soil. It has also been used to produce ethanol as an alternative fuel source. These uses are in accordance with the United States Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Conservation Service Plant Fact Sheet. The photo of the Dallas Blues Switchgrass in the winter above is from Kansas State University.
‘Dallas Blues’ Switchgrass is a very unique and intriguing variety of switchgrass. Because it was the 2016 Great Plants of the Great Plains selection for Grass of the Year means that it will grow very well in the environmental conditions of the Great Plains, making it a good choice for Nebraska. Make sure you have plenty of room for this plant to grow as it is a large variety of switchgrass. Once you plant it, you will be able to enjoy the beauty of the plant and the interest of wildlife for years to come. So the next time you look to plant an ornamental grass for fall and winter interest, choose ‘Dallas Blues’ Switchgrass.