The Q&A Archives: Purple Fountain Grass

Question: Our HOA says purple fountain grass is invasive and must be removed. Horticulturists we've talked to disagree. What is your opinion?

Answer: Perhaps the most popular of the ornamental grasses is one known as Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'). It is most noted for its rich, red burgundy colored foliage and the long, slender flower racemes that give the appearance of a flowing fountain. The flowers' plumes are typically 12 to 15 inches long and held above the foliage. The entire plant may reach five feet tall and two to four feet wide.

The opportunities to use Purple Fountain Grass in the landscape are numerous. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil but will tolerate a little shade. It is frequently used in groups or as a specimen in foundations, public gardens, roadway medians, etc., where it is quite stunning and requires little care. It's ability to withstand high temperatures, high humidity, drought, wind, acidic or alkaline soils only make it more desirable and easily the dominant ornamental grass in southern landscapes. In addition to its beauty and durability it is virtually pest free!

Purple Fountain Grass is non-invasive and should not be confused with a grass known as 'Red Baron' (Imperata cylindrica). Although 'Red Baron' has burgundy foliage it is a cousin of the invasive Cogon Grass and is under close scrutiny by Agriculture Departments in southern states.

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