Fountain grass is a tender perennial, with beautiful, rosy flower spikes, comes in purple-leaved forms that are gaining popularity for use amid annuals, perennials, even in clumps around shrubs and trees.
Description of fountain grass: Slender, grasslike leaves, both ordinary green and purple, grow in a tufted mound. In late summer or early fall, graceful, bristling, pinkish flower spikes emerge over the leaves and rise from 3 to 5 feet high.
How to grow fountain grass: Provide well-drained and fertile soil in full sun or a peat-based growing mix in a large pot. Fountain grass, which is native to tropical Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and other warm places in southwestern Asia, is only perennial in zones 9 and 10. Space young plants 18 to 24 inches apart.
Propagating fountain grass: Fountain grass seeds, which must be started in late winter to be sizeable for spring planting, take 21 days to germinate when kept at 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. It is likely to be cost effective to purchase strapping seedlings from a reliable nursery.
Uses for fountain grass: Interplant fountain grass among sun-loving and prairie perennials like coneflowers and coreopsis. Mingle it with tall and medium annuals in naturalistic gardens. Or blend it into large container plantings, using the tall plumes as a high point in the rear of the pot. Purple-leaved types make wonderful color combinations with pink, blue, or yellow flowers.
Fountain grass related species: P. alopecuroides is a hardier perennial.
Fountain grass related varieties: 'Purpureum' has purple leaves and red flowers.
Scientific name for fountain grass: Pennisetum setaceum