Fountain Grasses- Which Fountain Grass is Best?

Fountain grass, Oriental fountain grass, and Purple fountain grass belong to the Pennisetum genus of grasses. You will find facts and information on growing each of three types of fountain grass. These beautiful ornamental grasses will enhance any outdoor design. One of them should work well in your landscape.

"Fountain Grass"

Fountain Grass

1. Fountain Grass

Fountain Grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides, is the workhorse among grasses, forming an elegant clump in war-season perennial gardens. It grows well in zones 5-9 and will reach 2-3’ high, and 2-3’ wide. It will form a clump with fast growth appearing. It is used for ground covers, accent plant, as a border, or as a container plant.

Fountain grass is a grass for all situations. It can be planted in masses in a meadow interplanted with spring bulbs. In the summer it has graceful foliage an white flowers. After frost, this one will remain attractive throughout the winter. It is great addition to a flower border, where it can soften any angular type of companion plants.

Care of Fountain Grass

Fountain grass should be grown in the sun to light shade in moist, fertile soil. It can be mulched so that moisture will be preserved. It can be cut back in late winter before new growth emerges. It will not grow well in dry soil or in full shade.

Propagation of Fountain Grass is by divisions in spring. Seed propagated plants may become invasive and is not highly recommended.

Species related would be the Black fountain grass (P.a.’Moudry’) which boasts sensational, large, purple-black flowers.

"Oriental Fountain Grass"

Oriental Fountain Grass

2. Oriental Fountain Grass

Oriental Fountain Grass, Pennisetum orientele, has early-blooming fuzzy flowers. It grows in zones 6-9 and reaches a height and width of 12-18”. It is a warm-season clumping perennial grass. That has a cascading clump form.

Oriental fountain grass differs from fountain grass in its size and flowers. The plant is smaller and the flowers are earlier and different from those of fountain grass. The flowers emerge pink and then become pearly white, with a soft, cottony texture. Oriental fountain grass stays attractive from spring throughout the winter.

Uses of Oriental Fountain Grass

This grass does well in a border, in a container, or massed as a ground cover. Mix it in with pink-flowered verbenas or threadleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata).

Care of Oriental Fountain Grass

This grass thrives in warm, moist soil in full sun to light shade. It requires good drainage and will not like shade. It is started from see in spring and has no known pests.

Running fountain grass (P. Incomptum) is a related species that grows 2-4 ‘ tall and spreads by runners and rhizomes. It is hardy to zone 4.

"Purple Fountain Grass"

Purple Fountain Grass

3. Purple Fountain Grass

Purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ is one that will shine in borders and containers. It grows in zones 9-10 and reaches a height and width of 3-4’. It is a warm-season clumping, tender perennial grass. It grows in an upright, arching clump.

Uses of Purple Fountain Grass

Treat this grass as an annual in zone 8 and below. Like hardy fountain grass, it is also a workhorse. It is especially useful adjacent to paving or pool decking where it has a softening effect. It ia a great container plant also.

Growing Purple Fountain Grass

Purple fountain grass prefers moist, well-drained, fertile soil, and loves heat and warm weather. It becomes limp if it gets too much shade. It can also be mulched to conserve moisture. You can allow the foliage to stay through the winter to enjoy the foliage. Even in climates where it is an evergreen, you should cut it back in late winter to enhance its looks.

It is propagated in late spring by division and has no known pests. It has a couuple of related species: P. Setaceum, which is hardy in zones 9-10 and grows 3’ tall with green foliage and pink flowers. The other is feathertop, P. Villosum, which also grows in zones 9-10, and will grow quickly from seed to 2’ tall with fat, fluffy white flowers.

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