These bold ornamental grasses native to many parts of the U.S. can satisfy gardeners wishing to feature native plants, as well as those who simply want pretty plants. Their self-supporting, upright growth is best in full sun. Like other ornamental grasses, these stand through the winter months with dormant leaves and plumes and provide seeds for feeding birds. Cut back to the ground in late winter or early spring. Divide in spring before growth begins every three to four years or as needed. Deer resistant.
P. amarum. BITTER PANIC GRASS. Native to sand dunes in all coastal Southern states, where it can be used to stabilize dunes. Extremely drought tolerant. 'Dewey Blue' is a powder-blue selection that grows 34 ft. tall, spreading only 23 ft. It is clump forming, but may slowly enlarge over time.
P. bulbosum. BULBOUS PANIC GRASS. Native to the arid Southwest, including Texas, but adapted to gardens throughout the South. This grass forms a clump that produces upright plumes to 4 ft. However, it has a sparse, wispy appearance lacking in many ornamental grasses.
P. virgatum. SWITCH GRASS. Although a major component of the tall-grass prairies of the Great Plains, this grass is found throughout the Southern states. Upright, 2- to 4-ft.-wide clump of narrow, deep green or gray-green leaves grows 35 ft. tall; it is topped in summer by slender flower clusters that increase the plant's height to 47 ft. The loose, airy sprays of tiny pinkish blossoms gradually age to white; foliage turns yellow or red in fall, then slowly fades to beige. Flowers and leaves persist all winter, making for an attractive silhouette in the cold-season garden. Switch grass tolerates many soils, wet or dry. Use in masses, sweeps, or mixed borders, or as an accent. Selections include the following.
'Cheyenne Sky'. Typically blue-green foliage turns deep red in early summer. Late in the season purple plumes rise above the foliage. Compact plants grow 3 ft. tall.
'Cloud Nine'. Metallic blue foliage turns gold in autumn. Billowing clouds of reddish brown flowers. Reaches 6 ft. tall in bloom. Best selection for Florida.
'Dallas Blues'. Powder-blue foliage fades to attractive rust and tan tones. Large, layered clusters of reddish purple flowers. Plant reaches height of 5 ft. in bloom.
'Hnse Herms'. Delicate, light green leaves turn bright red by early fall, then deepen to burgundy. To 45 ft. tall in bloom.
'Heavy Metal'. Silvery blue, sturdy leaves turn bright yellow in fall. To 45 ft. in bloom.
'Northwind'. Strongly vertical, olive-green foliage turns yellow in autumn. Narrow, erect flower plumes increase plant height to 5 ft.
'Prairie Sky'. Strongly vertical, 4-6 ft. Foliage is powder-blue, turning yellow in fall. Flowers are dark red in midsummer and mature to beige.
'Ruby Ribbons'. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Upright to 4 ft. tall with blue-gray foliage that turns burgundy as summer progresses. Flowers appear in late summer and hold into winter.
'Shenandoah'. Foliage emerges blue-green, turns maroon-red by midsummer to early fall. Airy red flower clusters. To 34 ft. tall in bloom.
'Squaw'. Upright, green foliage to 3 ft. The tan flowers appear in late summer and hold remarkably well through winter. Sterile; no seedlings to weed.