Garden Landscapingplants

Red fountain grass to spruce up your garden design

Red fountain grass

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.


  • 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.


  • 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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