The many faces of Pennisetum alopecuroides. Pictures and descriptions of the different varieties of perennial fountain grass. How to use these ornamental grasses to their best advantage in the landscape.
The fat, fluffy flower plumes of Pennisetum alopecuroides add a touch of movement to the garden during the lazy days of summer. The pinkish plumes sway gracefully atop a 3-4 foot high mound of bright green foliage.
The leaves turn a golden-tan in the fall and can be left in place until spring to add interest to the barren winter landscape.
You can remove the flower heads if you want to keep the plants from self seeding which they are strongly inclined to do.
When planted in the ground, fountain grass forms clumps which will grow larger each season. Eventually, the center will die out. When this happens, it's time to dig the clump up and divide it, discarding the center. This can be done in the spring or early fall.
Plants can be used singly, but they give the best show when planted in groups of three--either spaced apart in a row or in a tight triangle to look like one fat, sassy plant.
A large drift backing shorter summer annuals is especially appealing.
P. alopecuroides will tolerate dry, sandy soil but will give a better performance in rich, moist soil. A full sun exposure will give the biggest flower show.
The dwarf fountain grass called Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' which grows to half the size of P. alopecuroides is perfect for enhancing smaller garden spaces.
'Little Bunny' dwarf fountain grass tops out at 1 foot tall making it the perfect addition to small container gardens. The blooms of this cultivar are white.
Rose fountain grass features showier blooms than most of the other selections on this page. This plant also exhibits a less upright growth habit. Its arching foliage forms mounds 2 feet tall.
The tender perennial Red fountain grass is a different species than the others offered here. Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' will return reliably in zones 8-10. In colder areas, this quick growing grass may be planted as an annual or in containers which can be protected during the winter.
Of all the various fountain grasses, this is my absolute favorite. Its dark red leaves are so beautiful when sited next to bright reds and golds. Another advantage of growing this plant is that you don't need to deadhead it. The seeds are sterile.
'Karly Rose' is more drought tolerant than the red fountain grass. Its purple-pink blooms are ever present during warm weather. Plants mature to 4' in zones 5-9.
'Red Bunny Tails' is named for its pretty red cat tails which form atop 3' stems and turn off-white as they age. The green leaves of Pennisetum messiacum also have red highlights. Give it plenty of moisture in zones 7-11.
The dusky purple, elongated flower plumes of 'Redhead' wave on every late summer breeze, but fall is when this late season show stopper really shines. Its leaves turn gold each autumn in zones 6-9.
At 2' tall, Dwarf fountain grass is a more compact version of P. alopecuroides. Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' is more upright in growth than the species. Its medium green foliage forms neat clumps along the edges of beds and walkways, and this diminutive beauty is an absolute stunner in pots.