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All about Purple fountain grass

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Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a tender perennial (in few zones) fountain grass that is native to Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. This grass earns its name from the dark, purple-red color of its arching leaves.

Though there are many types of ornamental grasses, purple fountain grass is adored and preferred by gardeners because of its attractive and beautiful purple foliage.

Care of purple fountain grass is easy and requires little maintenance. Attractive foliage and fuzzy-looking purple flower heads of this ornamental grass provide excellent texture, color, and contrast to borders, foundations, and open areas.

Purple fountain grass

Does purple fountain grass come back every year?

Purple fountain grass can survive winter if the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the zones 1 through 8, purple fountain grass will grow as an annual. It can be grown as a perennial in zones 9 and 10 because winter temperatures in these zones do not reach lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

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How much water does Purple fountain grass need?

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Though Purple fountain grass is drought tolerant, it prefers regular watering. Provide consistent water throughout the growing season. 

During extended dry periods, water them regularly to keep the soil moist. If placed in containers, especially small pots, it may need watering every day. 

Does purple fountain grass need sun or shade?

Purple fountain grass prefers full sun. In full sunlight, their foliage will be brighter and real purple. Though it can tolerate some light shade, it tends to be green than purple.

In the spring, it starts up with a sort of bright green foliage with little purple pinch to it. When days get hotter, the foliage will slowly get burgundy foliage. In mid-summer, it will have vibrant burgundy foliage and plumes.

Does the pest attack the Purple fountain grass?

Purple fountain grass is rarely bothered by pests or disease. 

What soil is suitable for Purple fountain grass?

Purple fountain grass can grow in all types of soil. It prefers well-drained soil.

It can tolerate acidic, slightly alkaline, sand, loam, or clay soils. Loamy soil is an ideal choice. 

How do you fertilize Purple fountain grass?

Purple fountain grass usually does not need fertilizer. When it is grown as perennial, any general-purpose fertilizer can be applied. Fertilize in the spring when the new growth appears.

Is Purple fountain grass invasive?

Purple fountain grass rarely sets seed, so this is not invasive, unlike other species. Also, these grasses grow as clumps and stay within the confines of their growing areas radius.

How do you propagate Purple fountain grass?

Purple fountain grass can be propagated only by division. Purple fountain grass seeds won’t germinate as this is a hybrid.

To propagate by division, cut the plant about 3-4 inches from the soil line in early spring when they are actively growing but not while they are flowering. 

Dig up the plant base with a root ball, cut the plant into vertical sections. These sections can be potted in a pot individually or directly plant them the soil keeping about 3 feet apart.

How to protect purple fountain grass in winter?

It depends on the Hardiness zones. 

For zones 1 througch 8, where the temperature can be below 20 degrees Fahrenheit in winter, Purple fountain grass cannot survive outdoors. So, growing them in containers indoor for during the winter is a good option. 

In the spring, when the temperatures start rising, they can be brought back to the outdoors. 

For zones 9 and 10, where the winter temperatures do not reach lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit, cut the Purple fountain grass back to the ground in early spring. The new growth will initiate as the temperatures start rising.

Plumes make a great dried flower arrangement in the house. So, at the end of the season, cut them off and make them into a bunch and use them as a nice decoration in the Vase.

Here are some tips on how to protect purple fountain grass in winter:


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  • Cut back the plant: Before the first frost, cut back the plant to about 6 inches above the ground. This will help the plant focus its energy on developing a healthy root system during the winter.

  • Mulch: After cutting back the plant, cover the soil around it with a layer of mulch. This will help insulate the roots and protect them from freezing temperatures.

  • Cover the plant: If you live in an area with very cold winters, you may want to cover the plant with a frost cloth or other protective covering. Be sure to remove the cover during the day to allow the plant to get sunlight and air circulation.

  • Bring it indoors: If you’re growing purple fountain grass in a container, you can bring it indoors for the winter. Place the container in a bright, sunny spot and water it sparingly during the dormant period.

  • Be patient: In the spring, remove the mulch and any protective coverings and wait for the plant to start growing again. Don’t be tempted to remove any dead foliage until you see new growth, as it can help protect the plant from further damage.

Purple fountain grass in containers

Purple fountain grass can be grown in containers. Since the mature size of grass can reach 3 feet, it is better to plant in a bigger pot with around 2 feet wide at the top.

Although it looks good by itself, it can also be planted with other plant combinations like Petunias, Calibrachoa, or any other plants (creativity is the limit). It can also be placed behind other plant containers to add height.

What are the different species of fountain grasses?

Some of the Species and Cultivars of fountain grasses:

  • Pennisetum Orientale Karley Rose
  • Pennisetum Alopecuroides Hameln /Dwarf
  • PennisetumAlopecuroides Little Bunny
  • Pennisetum Setaceum Rubrum (Purple fountain grass)
  • Pennisetum Setaceum Fireworks
  • Pennisetum Setaceum Prince
  • Pennisetum Setaceum Princess
  • Pennisetum Setaceum Little Red Riding   
Pennisetum Setaceum Fireworks
Pennisetum Setaceum Fireworks