Pennisetum (Fountain Grass)

Lends an air of casual elegance to gardens

Pennisetum is a genus of about 80 species of annual and perennial ornamental grasses, known as fountain grass, grown for their exquisite forms and ease of care. Incredibly showy, these warm-season, clump-forming grasses can be tall or dwarf and can have an upright or arching habit. Their dramatic sprays of linear leaves, typically thin and willowy, create airy textures and delicate movements in the landscape. However, some varieties have wide, strap-like leaves that give the plants a more substantial, but still beautiful, appearance. Several varieties take on fall color. Fuzzy flower plumes arise in summer, usually in shades of white, pink, purplish, or red, and often last well into late fall. Plumes range from short, stiff, and spiky to elongated, soft, and pliable, and almost everything in between. They make lovely additions to fresh or dried floral arrangements.

Fountain grasses grow well in full sun and well-drained soil and have many landscape purposes. Hardy fountain grass (P. alopecuroides), Chinese fountain grass (P. orientale), and purple or red fountain grass (P. setaceum) are popular for home gardens. Dwarf perennial grasses make excellent specimens, container plants, or ground covers, especially effective for controlling erosion. Tall grasses are perfect back of the border or hedge plants. Placement should be carefully considered, though, since some grasses self-seed and others spread by rhizomes. Fountain grasses are, generally, less formal than shrubs and lend an air of casual elegance wherever they’re planted.