Panicum miliaceum Violaceum
The Panicum grasses lend themselves to some bold plantings - and contrast well in shape and colour with many garden plants. They have long periods of flowering, and the seedheads are attractive in Autumn.
Panicum are normally perennial, but some such as Panicum miliaceum are annual. All prefer to be planted in sunny positions - Herbaceous border and shrub bed are two areas of possibility, but so too is planting in Patio Pots!
Panicum miliaceum Violaceum is somewhat erect in habit of growth, but the flower arch over - nodding in the breeze. The purple flowered form P. m Violaceum is pictured and featured here.
The Violaceum form of Panicum miliaceum, has light purple - mauve spikelets of flowers being 10-12in long and held above foliage on long slender stems.
The height and spread of this grass is around 36in - 90cm. It forms a dense clump of light green narrow leaved foliage - good for ground cover.
It prefers to grow in full sun in a dry to moist soil that is relatively fertile, though will also grow in thin sandy soils.
As a stand alone plant it is good for colour for a long period of time - early summer through to mid winter. It is also suitable for the herbaceous or shrub border and can also be grown quite successfully in a large container on the patio. Pot planted, it will need a soil based compost with a mix of 50/50 peat based compost.
The seedheads can be saved for use as Millet for cage birds. Millet - so beloved by budgerigars - is found on the Panicum miliaceum.
Panicum virgatum Hans Herms.
Commonly known as Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum Hans Herms is a perennial grass - deciduous - that has a loosely upright habit of growth - almost fountain-like in habit.
The foliage in the autumn is second to none of the taller grasses for its red colouring - as can be seen in the image.
The flowers are dainty - reddish purple - and hang loosely above the foliage in slender racemes. It is a late flowering grass - sometimes Autumn before flowering.
Panicum virgatum Hans Herms spreads a little by underground rhizomes, with a normal height and spread of around 3 feet - 90cms. It is good if planted in association with perennials in the border - giving a warm contrasting glow to the otherwise yellow and blue flowers that are typical of late colour in herbaceous border. P. v. Hans Herms can also be planted in a shrub border, or in groups within its own bed, or with other grasses. It is also suitable for planting in a container, and will do much to brighten up the patio with its superb autumn foliage colour.
If the foliage is left on either of the Panicum virgatum cultivars, then it will need to be tidied up in the spring. A light pull-though with a rake will do the job.
Panicum virgatum Heavy Metal
This grass differs to the Hans herms, in that it is much more erect in growth and has blue grey leaves on the erect stems. The autumn colour differs also. It is a rich golden yellow - contrasting very well with either of the other two grasses mentioned on this page.
The flowers are dainty bobbing panicles of mauve, opening to white. The autumn seed colour is not its best asset - though this is more than compensated by the foliage colour - holding well into the winter.
Panicum virgatum Heavy Metal, grows to around 3 feet in height, accentuated by the fact that it is upright growing - unlike the other two Panicum grasses.
This grass is a deciduous perennial; sprouting forth in the spring from ground level. Whilst rhizomatous, it is not invasive.
There are no known problems with this grass - other than the fact that it is annual, and will have to be grown from seed each year.
Panicum miliaceum Violaceum is an annual and has to be grown from seed each year. It is best to sow the seed in a heated propagator turned to its lowest power. The seedlings can then be grown for a month in a small pot before planting out after frosts. It is not as frost hardy as the other perennial Panicums linked from this page.
The Panicum virgatum types are perennial, and can be grown by division in early spring, as well as seed sowing as above.