En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - July 22, 2009

From: Stafford, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Thicken clumps of Panicum virgatum in Stafford VA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am growing Panicum Virgatum varieties that will be transplanted in September to form a Native American maze project. I have given the quart size starts a root fertilizer when I planted them to try to help them along as I grow them out. They were extremely root bound. Now I am very curious if it is possible to help them girth up and become thicker clumps? The varieties I have chosen 'Cloud Nine' and North Wind' should grow to six feet or more which is great for height but is there something I can do to stimulate thicker clumps?

ANSWER:

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) - perennial, 3 to 6 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade, native to Virginia.

From Condition Comments on our webpage for this plant:

"Switchgrass is a clump-forming, warm-season grass. It has finely textured, reddish-purple seedheads. It tolerates seasonal poor drainage, making it a good choice for a dry creek bed or rain garden. Before new foliage emerges fresh from the base in spring, many gardeners prefer to cut back old vegetation to six inches above ground. Flower panicles are open, airy and delicate making it a very attractive accent plant in a garden or meadow."

'Cloud Nine' and 'North Wind' are likely trade names give to named selections of the plant, and should have the same characteristics as the original.  Patience is probably the way to stimulate thicker clumps. Since it is a clump-forming grass, you know it's going to do that sooner or later. You mentioned that the plants were very root bound, and we assume you are cultivating them in pots preparatory to replanting in the soil? If that is the case, we would suggest breaking up the clumps when you plant them in their permanent spot. These smaller clumps could then be planted fairly close together and would pretty quickly form a thicker body. If they are already in the ground, we would recommend leaving them alone, trimming them in late Winter, and let them do their thing. 

This website from Floridata, Panicum virgatum, gives considerably more information about this plant. Give attention particularly to the cautions about avoiding over-fertilizing, especially with high-nitrogen fertilizers.


Panicum virgatum

Panicum virgatum

Panicum virgatum

Panicum virgatum

 

 

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Most ecological grass to grow in Austin
May 29, 2008 - What kind of grass is most ecological to grow in a neighborhood community in Austin? Is Bermuda good? Is Buffalo good? I live in a rental house and there are some bare spots in the yard that I'd l...
view the full question and answer

Dividing Gulf muhly in Leander TX
October 16, 2010 - I purchased a 1-gallon pot of Gulf Muhly (muhlenbergia capillaris) and am wondering if I can divide the clump in order to make my purchase go further. And, regarding that method of propagation, could...
view the full question and answer

Source for information on Habiturf from Utopia, TX
February 25, 2014 - During a recent Central Texas Gardener TV show, someone from the Center mentioned that your Habiturf was going to be available as sod from someone in the San Antonio area this spring. Is that true an...
view the full question and answer

Native alternatives to St. Augustine for under an Arizona Ash
October 12, 2006 - I live in Mansfield, TX. We have a large Arizona Ash tree in our back yard. No grass will grow under it. We are thinking of laying sod (St. Augustine) there. Is this a good solution and if so, whe...
view the full question and answer

Need a pretty ground cover to control erosion in Rigdeway, SC.
June 09, 2012 - What is a fast, pretty ground cover blanket to control erosion on steep hill. gets full sun.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center