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How To Grow and Care for Purple Fountain Grass?

Purple fountain grass

If you’re looking for a way to spice up your landscape with ornamental grass that stands out, you might want to consider Purple Fountain Grass.

This eye-catching grass has a striking appearance and a low-maintenance nature, making it ideal for any garden.

This guide teaches how to grow Purple Fountain Grass and advanced cultivation tips. Whether you want to add some color, texture, or movement to your outdoor space, Purple Fountain Grass can help you achieve your goals.

What Is Purple Fountain Grass?

Purple Fountain Grass, also known as Pennisetum setaceum, hails from Africa but has gained popularity worldwide for its stunning purple foliage and cascading plumes.

Here’s what you need to know about this unique grass.


Purple Fountain Grass is a warm-season grass that forms dense clumps of long, slender leaves that are vividly purple or burgundy.

Its weeping habit gives it a graceful, fountain-like appearance, making it stand out in any landscape.

Ornamental Value

Purple Fountain Grass is highly sought after for its ornamental value.

It adds texture, color, and movement to gardens, borders, and containers, making it a versatile choice for landscape design.

Its striking purple foliage and fluffy plumes create a dramatic visual impact, adding a touch of elegance to any garden.


Purple Fountain Grass has several popular cultivars, such as ‘Rubrum’ and ‘Cupreum,’ which offer slight variations in color and size.

‘Rubrum’ has darker foliage and pinkish plumes, while ‘Cupreum’ has copper-colored foliage.

These cultivars provide additional options for creating unique and captivating landscapes.

How Tall Does Purple Fountain Grass Get?

Purple Fountain Grass is known for its impressive size and impact in the garden. It typically grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet (0.6-1.2 m), making it medium-sized grass that can add vertical interest to your landscape. The spreading nature of this ornamental grass allows it to create a lush and full display, with a spread of 3 to 5 feet (0.9-1.5 m).

How To Grow Purple Fountain Grass?

Purple fountain grass
Source: Wikimedia

Ready to get your Purple Fountain Grass growing and thriving in your garden?

Follow these simple steps to ensure success.

Suitable Growing Conditions

Purple Fountain Grass thrives in specific growing conditions to ensure optimal growth and health.

Here are some tips for creating the perfect environment for your Purple Fountain Grass.

Full Sun

Purple Fountain Grass prefers full sun to partial shade, so choose a spot in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily for best results.

Well-Drained Soil

Ensure that the soil is well-draining and not waterlogged to prevent root rot.

If you have heavy clay soil, consider amending it with organic matter or using raised beds to improve drainage.

Planting Methods

You can grow Purple Fountain Grass from seeds or nursery-grown plants.

Here’s how you can plant them.


If you’re starting from seeds, sow them directly in the ground after the last frost in spring.

Space the seeds about 18-24 inches (45-60 cm) apart and cover them lightly with soil.

Keep the soil consistently moist until the seeds germinate, which usually takes 2-3 weeks.

Nursery-Grown Plants

You can purchase Purple Fountain Grass from a nursery or garden center if you prefer to start with established plants.

Dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball of the grass, place it in the hole, and backfill it with soil.

Water thoroughly after planting to help the plant establish its roots.

Watering Requirements and Irrigation Tips

Proper watering is essential for the health of Purple Fountain Grass.

Follow these tips to ensure you’re watering it correctly.

Consistent Moisture

Purple Fountain Grass prefers consistently moist soil, so water it regularly.

Avoid letting the soil dry out completely between waterings, which can stress the plant and affect its growth and appearance.

Avoid Overwatering

While Purple Fountain Grass likes moist soil, it’s important not to overwater, as it can lead to root rot.

Ensure the soil is well-draining and not waterlogged, and avoid watering the foliage, as it can promote diseases.

Use Soaker Hose or Drip Irrigation

Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation system to water Purple Fountain Grass deeply and evenly.

This helps prevent wasteful evaporation and ensures that the water reaches the root zone where it’s most needed.

Fertilization Recommendations

Proper fertilization can help promote healthy growth and vibrant foliage in Purple Fountain Grass.

Here are some recommendations.

Balanced, All-Purpose Fertilizer

Use a balanced, all-purpose fertilizer with equal amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium during the growing season.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates and frequency, typically every 4-6 weeks.

Avoid High-Nitrogen Fertilizers

Purple Fountain Grass doesn’t require high nitrogen levels, as it can promote excessive foliage growth at the expense of flower production.

Use a balanced fertilizer to provide the essential nutrients without overstimulating growth.

Propagation Techniques

If you want to propagate Purple Fountain Grass, you can do so through clump division or taking cuttings.

Clump Division

In early spring, when new growth emerges, you can dig up the mature clumps of Purple Fountain Grass and divide them into smaller sections using a sharp spade or shovel.

Replant the divisions in suitable locations and water them thoroughly.

Taking Cuttings

Purple Fountain Grass can also be propagated from stem cuttings.

Take 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) cuttings from healthy, established plants in spring or early summer.

Remove the lower leaves, dip the cut end in the rooting hormone, and plant it in well-draining soil.

Keep the soil consistently moist until the cutting establishes roots.

How To Care for Purple Fountain Grass?

Purple fountain grass
Source: Wikimedia

Purple Fountain Grass requires regular care to keep it looking its best and maintain its ornamental features.

Here are some tips to help you care for your Purple Fountain Grass.

Pruning and Trimming Techniques

Regular pruning and trimming are necessary to maintain the shape and size of Purple Fountain Grass.

Here’s what you can do.

Spring Pruning

Remove any dead or damaged foliage from the previous year in early spring.

Use clean, sharp pruning shears to cut the foliage to about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) above the ground.

This promotes new growth and helps the plant maintain its desired shape.

Throughout the Growing Season

As the plant grows during summer, you can trim any overly long or straggly stems to maintain a tidy appearance.

Avoid cutting into the woody base of the plant, as this can damage the crown and affect its overall health.

Winter Care and Protection in Colder Climates

Protecting your Purple Fountain Grass from freezing temperatures is important if you live in an area with cold winters.

Here’s what you can do.


Before the first frost, apply a thick layer of mulch, such as straw or leaves, around the base of the plant.

This helps insulate the roots and protects them from freezing temperatures.

Cutting Back

In late winter or early spring, after the last frost, you can cut back the foliage of Purple Fountain Grass to about 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) above the ground.

This helps remove any dead foliage and promotes new growth in the spring.

Mulching and Weed Control Strategies

Mulching and weed control are essential for maintaining a healthy and weed-free Purple Fountain Grass.

Here are some tips.


Apply a 2-3 inch (5-7.5 cm) layer of organic mulch, such as wood chips or bark, around the base of the plant.

Mulch helps retain moisture, suppresses weed growth, and adds nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

Weed Control

Regularly inspect the area around your Purple Fountain Grass and remove any weeds that may compete for nutrients and water.

Hand pulling or using a hoe to remove weeds when they are small is a recommended method.

Avoid using herbicides near the grass, as they can damage the foliage and roots. 

Tips for Enhancing Ornamental Features

Here are some tips for enhancing its ornamental features to make your Purple Fountain Grass stand out in your garden.

Plant in Groups

Plant Purple Fountain Grass in groups or clusters to create a dramatic impact.

The feathery plumes and burgundy foliage look stunning when planted together in a mass.

Companion Planting

Pair Purple Fountain Grass with other ornamental grasses, perennials, or annuals to create contrasting textures and colors in your garden.

Consider plants with purple, pink, or yellow flowers to complement the burgundy foliage of the grass.

Seasonal Displays

Take advantage of the changing seasons to showcase the unique beauty of Purple Fountain Grass.

Here are some ideas.

Fall Display

In the fall, the foliage of Purple Fountain Grass turns into a rich burgundy color, which adds a stunning display of fall hues to your garden.

Pair it with other fall-blooming perennials, such as asters or sedums, for a beautiful autumnal display.

Winter Interest

Even in winter, Purple Fountain Grass can add interest to your garden.

Leave the foliage standing during winter, and the dried plumes will create a delicate and graceful texture against a snowy backdrop.

It adds a touch of elegance to your winter landscape.

Spring Renewal

In the spring, as new growth emerges, Purple Fountain Grass rejuvenates with fresh, vibrant foliage.

This is the perfect time to trim any dead or damaged foliage from the previous year and allow the new growth to take center stage.

Possible Problems with Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass is generally a low-maintenance plant, but it may face some common issues and challenges like any other plant.

Here are some troubleshooting tips for solving potential problems.

Browning or Wilting Leaves

If your Purple Fountain Grass leaves turn brown or wilting, it may be due to underwatering or poor soil drainage.

Make sure to water your grass regularly, especially during hot and dry periods, and ensure the soil is well-drained.

Consider adjusting your watering schedule or improving the drainage in the planting area.

Pests and Diseases

While Purple Fountain Grass is relatively resistant to pests and diseases, it may still face occasional issues.

Look for common pests such as aphids, spider mites, or grasshoppers, and promptly treat them with appropriate insecticides or insecticidal soaps.

In case of diseases like fungal infections, ensure good air circulation around the grass, avoid overhead watering, and remove affected foliage to prevent the spread of the disease.

Flopping or Lodging

Purple Fountain Grass can sometimes flop or lodge, especially during heavy rainfall or strong winds.

This can lead to a messy appearance and potentially damage the plant.

To prevent this, you can try staking or tying the grass with twine or plant stakes to support and maintain its upright growth habit.

Overgrowth or Invasiveness

Purple Fountain Grass has a vigorous growth habit and can spread easily if not properly contained.

It may become invasive in some regions where it is not native, displacing native plants.

To prevent overgrowth, regularly divide clumps of grass to maintain their size and prevent overcrowding.

Consider planting it in a contained area or using a barrier to limit its spread in your garden. 


Growing and caring for Purple Fountain Grass can add color and texture to your landscape.

You can enjoy the beauty of this ornamental grass in your garden with suitable conditions, proper care, and troubleshooting tips.

Happy gardening!

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