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Purdue Yard & Garden News by B. Rosie Lerner - Minor Bulbs

Switchgrass Northwind has swept its way to the top as the Perennial Plant Association's Perennial Plant of the Year for 2014. The Northwind cultivar of Panicum virgatum is distinguished by starkly upright habit compared to the original species.

Northwind provides landscape interest from late summer through winter. Blooms appear in late summer, followed by upright seed heads and golden fall foliage. In winter, enjoy the musical swishing sounds as the sturdy foliage sways in the breeze. Northwind is a fast grower, reaching about 5 feet tall by the time it blooms in late summer.

Switchgrass is a warm-season perennial grass native to most of the continental U.S. While it thrives best in full sun and moist, fertile soil, it adapts well to a wide range of growing conditions, except heavy clay. Once established, Switchgrass can be quite drought tolerant, as well as tolerant to periodic flooding. The foliage can be left standing during winter to reduce soil erosion and provide food and cover for wildlife, such as pheasant, quail, turkey and songbirds. Cut the foliage back to about 3-4 inches before the new growth begins in spring.

The Perennial Plant Association selects a different perennial plant each year to promote throughout the nursery and gardening industry. PPA members nominate plants based on several criteria, including low maintenance needs, adaptability to a wide range of climates, pest and disease resistance, wide availability, multiple seasons of interest and ease of propagation. A selection committee then narrows the field to three or four choices from which the members cast their votes.

Previous PPA Perennial Plant of the Year winners

2013 Polygonatum odoratum variegatum

2012 Brunnera macrophylla Jack Frost

2011 Amsonia hubrichtii

2010 Baptisia australis

2009 Hakonechloa macra Aureola

2008 Geranium Rozanne

2007 Nepeta Walker's Low

2006 Dianthus gratia-nopolitanus Feuerhexe

2005 Helleborus x hybridus

2004 Athyrium niponicum pictum

2003 Leucanthemum Becky

2002 Phlox David

2001 Calamagrostis x acutiflora Karl Foerster

2000 Scabiosa columbaria Butterfly Blue

1999 Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii Goldsturm

1998 Echinacea purpurea Magnus

1997 Salvia Mainacht (May Night)

1996 Penstemon digitalis Husker Red

1995 Perovskia atriplicifolia

1994 Astilbe Sprite

1993 Veronica Sunny Border Blue

1992 Coreopsis verticillata Moonbeam

1991 Heuchera micrantha Palace Purple

1990 Phlox stolonifera