Crop Culture Report: Panicum virgatum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ By Josiah Raymer

Panicum virgatum 'Ruby Ribbons' stuns with soft blue-green foliage that emerges in the spring on upright arching, clumping plants. Bred by Dr. Mark Brand at the University of Connecticut, 'Ruby Ribbons' features foliage that takes on a wine-red color in early summer and intensifies as the season progresses. Soft, dusky purple flower heads appear in late summer, followed by ornamental seed heads which, if left uncut, provide long-lasting winter interest (often July through February). All are held well above foliage for an attractive cloud like effect.

Plants take on a lovely vase-like shape as they grow into upright arching clumps. They keep their upright habit even after maturity and right on through winter.

'Ruby Ribbons' works well in a variety of uses, from massing and grouping to planting as an accent or focal point. As an added bonus, it offers great tolerance to drought and deer. It can work as a screen and grow alongside ponds or water gardens, as it doesn't mind having its feet overly wet. And it makes a great cut flower, whether fresh or dried.

As another notable native, 'Ruby Ribbons' offers great potential for marketing to today's trend-seeking consumers. Shake things up by pairing 'Ruby Ribbons' with Hibiscus moscheutos 'Luna Pink Swirl' and Ajuga xtenorii 'Chocolate Chip'. Or mix it with Echinacea purpurea, Carex glauca 'Blue Zinger' and Gaura lindeheimeri 'Passionate Rainbow' for a purple monochrome look that's sure to sell. Or, find a unique, strikingly upright pot and put 'Ruby Ribbons' in it — it stuns as a stand-alone too.

Easy to grow and manage, 'Ruby Ribbons' has excellent tolerance for a range of soils from average to wet. This switch grass grows to approximately 4 feet tall and spreads 2 to 3 feet. 'Ruby Ribbons' prefers full sun to part shade. It is hardy in Zones 4 through 10.


Plant one liner per 1-gallon pot. From a 38-cell liner, 'Ruby Ribbons' finishes in an average of eight to 10 weeks for spring sales. At liner planting, drench with a broad spectrum fungicide as a preventive measure.


Provide a low level constant liquid feed of approximately 50- to 75-ppm nitrogen. Alternatively, a low to medium rate of slow release fertilizer may be used.


Water plants amply and allow to dry between waterings, being careful not to overwater.


Use a fertile, well-draining, disease-free commercial media.

pH & EC

Maintain pH at 5.8 to 6.2. Target electrical conductivity (EC) levels at 0.6 to 0.9, using the 2:1 extraction method.


Provide high light levels of at least 5,000 foot-candles. Supplemental lighting is not required.


Provide day temperatures of 65 to 75¡ F. Keep night temperatures at 55 to 65¡ F.

PGRs & Pinching

'Ruby Ribbons' typically does not require plant growth regulators and will not need pinching.

Pest Control

Take preventative measures including managing humidity levels and maintaining good air circulation. Apply a broad spectrum fungicide drench at liner planting. Consider a monthly preventative broad-spectrum fungicide rotation to help protect foliage.

Follow standard sanitation practices and monitor and scout carefully to prevent any insect and disease activity. In particular, watch for Panicum Rust and leaf spots, especially in very hot and humid climates. In most areas, though, they should not be a problem with the proper protocols in place.

Crop Culture Report: Panicum virgatum 'Ruby Ribbons'

Josiah Raymer

Josiah Raymer is head grower and general manager for Emerald Coast Growers, one of the country's largest ornamental grass producers. He can be reached at 877.804.7277 or