Red fountain grass to spruce up your garden design

Red fountain grass to spruce up your garden design

Red fountain grass

Prized for its rich burgundy foliage and foxtail-like spikes, purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) is an outstanding ornamental grass for flower beds or containers.

It adds intense colour and lofty height to the back of a border or the centre of a large container planting. The foliage is / to ½ inches wide and about 10 inches long. Its 12-inch plumes, arching above the foliage, appear purple-red in summer and turn brown in autumn. Pennesetum setaceum is native to tropical Africa and Southwest Asia. The cultivar ‘Rubrum’ is a perennial in the Uk and will spruce up your garden design.

Plant Facts

  • Common name: Red fountain grass; purple fountain grass
  • Botanical name: Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
  • Plant type: Clump-forming perennial grass
  • Zones: 9 to 10
  • Height: 3 to 4 feet tall, except in the South, where it can reach 6 feet
  • Spread: 2 to 4 feet
  • Family: Poaceae
Pennisetum setaceum
Pennisetum setaceum

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun.
  • Soil: A moist, well-drained site is ideal, but it will survive in clay or sandy soils if it has enough moisture.
  • Moisture: Average moisture; will not do well in wet sites.

Care

  • Mulch: Where hardy, none needed. Where not hardy, treat as an annual.
  • Pruning: Cut dead top growth in late fall or early spring in areas where the grass is a perennial.
  • Fertiliser: None needed.

Propagation:

  • Divide in late spring or early summer.

Pests and diseases

  • None significant
Pennisetum setaceum
Pennisetum setaceum

Garden notes

  • ‘Rubrum’ may reseed in perennial beds-watch for young seedlings and remove them so the grass won’t become invasive.
  • Flowers look great in arrangements.
  • Ideal to spruce up your garden design
  • ‘Rubrum’ tolerates windy sites.
  • Another cultivar, ‘Rubrum Dwarf’, grows only 2 ½ to 3 feet tall with a more compact form but the same outstanding colour.
  • Plant next to Gloriosa Daisy Mixed (Rudbeckia hirta). With golden rays and burgundy-brown centres, the flowers bloom most of the summer, reach 36 inches tall, and provide a sunny contrast to the dark grass.
  • Related species
  • Pennisetum glaucum is millet, a significant food source in some parts of the world. A new ornamental millet, Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Majesty’, was recently awarded a Gold Medal by All-American Selections. Described as “tall, dark, and handsome,” it has a rich burgundy colour, grows 5 feet tall, and sports seed spikes that attract birds.

All in the family

  • Poaceae is a huge family of grasses, including St. Augustine grass, Bermuda grass, Kentucky bluegrass, corn, rice, and bamboo.
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Parry’s agave can work wonders in a garden landscape revamp

Parry’s agave can work wonders in a garden landscape revamp

Parry’s agave

The drought-tolerant Parry’s agave (Agave parryi) is a striking accent plant for the xeriscape garden.

It forms heavily toothed, compact rosettes of grey-blue, sword-like leaves with a dark spine at the tip of each leaf. Typical of agaves, the plant sends up a flowering spike only after several years of growth. The towering 12- to 18-foot flower stalk produces pink to red buds that open to yellow flowers. The common name century plant comes from the incorrect belief that agaves grow 100 years before blooming. Parry’s agave is found in the UK and can work wonders in a garden landscape revamp. Given it’s sized its ideal for a garden landscape revamp project.

Plant Facts

  • Common name: Parry’s agave, hardy century plant, mescal
  • Botanical name: Agave parryi
  • Plant type: Perennial succulent
  • Height: Leaves 12 inches long; flower panicle on stalk 12 to 18 feet tall
  • Zones: 8 to 10, though hardiness varies depending on plant habitat. Check for cold tolerance at the nursery where you buy it.
  • Family: Agavaceae
Agave parryi
Agave parryi

Growing conditions

  • Sun: Full sun
  • Soil: Cactus potting mix indoors; well-drained, dry, sandy soil outdoors.
  • Moisture: For outdoor plants, supplemental water will encourage more growth, but roots will rot if kept wet. For container-grown Agave, water frequently in summer, reduce water in the fall, and water once a month in winter.

Care

  • Pruning: None required.
  • Mulch: In areas with wet winters, mulch may encourage root rot. In dry climates, mulch young plants during winter to protect newly established roots.
  • Fertiliser: Apply only in summer so plants harden off before cooler weather.

Cultivars

  • The Flagstaff form of Agave parryi (pictured), introduced in 2005 by High Country Gardens, has 18-inch-long leaves and a 12-foot-tall flower. While it likes sun and heat, it’s one of the most cold-hardy forms of Agave parryi. Zones 4 to 10.

Garden Notes

  • Avoid overwatering, especially in fall and winter.
  • In areas colder than Zone 7, plant Agave parryi in containers and place around the garden in summer and bring indoors during winter.
Agave parryi
Agave parryi

Pests and diseases

  • Root rot occurs in poorly drained soils.
  • Mealybugs and scale attack the plant.

Propagation

  • Sow seeds in early spring in a warm spot (about 70ºF).
  • As the plant matures, it forms offsets (smaller plants). Separate offsets from the main plant in spring or fall. If rooted, plant in soil (where climate permits), or plant in a container; if unrooted, plant in a combination of peat and sand until roots form.

All in the family

  • Other members of the Agavaceae family include Yucca spp., Phormium spp., Sansevieria trifasciata (mother-in-law’s tongue), and Hesperaloe parviflora.
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