Content Detail

Fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) is a non-native grass used for its mounded habit and brush-like flower spikes.  There are different species of fountain grass.  Some are hardy in the Chicago region and some are not.  P. alopecuroides is hardy in the Chicago region and is sometimes referred to as hardy fountain grass.

  • Family (English) Grass
  • Family (botanic) Poaceae
  • Tree or plant type Grass, Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily), Partial sun / shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 5 (Chicago), Zone 6, Zone 7, Zone 8, Zone 9
  • Soil preference Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Dry sites
  • Season of interest early fall, early summer, early winter, late fall, late spring, late summer, mid fall, midsummer, midwinter
  • Flower color and fragrance Pink, White
  • Shape or form Arching, Mounded

Size and Form:

Fountain grass has a mounded, arching habit and grows 2 to 3 feet tall.

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Asia.

Leaf description:

Green leaves are 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide and 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 feet long.  Foliage will turn yellow in fall and fade to a tan color for winter.

Flower description:

Flowering occurs in mid-summer (usually July into August).  The tiny flowers occur in brush-like spikes and the flowers are wind pollinated.

Fruit description:

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the spikes that held the flowers.

Plant care:

It grows well in full sun and moist, well-drained soils, but tolerates some drought. This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer.  It will remain standing in winter and can act as winter interest, although the seed heads will begin to shatter in autumn. Since this grass remains attractive through winter, it should not be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins.  At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

List of pests, diseases, and tolerances:

It is not affected by any serious problems but winter hardiness can be a problem in severe winters.

Black Flowering Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Moudry’): 

This grass has dark purple flowers that are almost black and contrast well with the green foliage.  Foliage turns yellow to orange in the  fall.

Foxtrot (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Foxtrot’):  

This cultivar grows 4 feet tall and has purplish flowers in spikes.

Hameln (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’):  

This dwarf cultivar  grows only 2 feet tall and has fine texture.

Little Bunny (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’):  

This dwarf cultivar grows 1 foot all and has fine texture.

Prairie Winds™ ‘Desert Plains’ (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Desert Plains’)

This cultivar has an improved habit, better flowering, and good fall color of red, orange and yellow.

Red Head (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Red Head’):

  This cultivar grows 3 to 4 feet tall and has pinkish-red flowers.

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