Pennisetum Red – Brook Floras | Outdoor Plant | 80cm
Purple fountain grass is aptly named for the arcing spikes of gently nodding purplish flowers that gracefully spray out of its mass of long, slender, burgundy-colored leaves. It has a fast growth rate and is best planted in spring. The autumn seed heads of this plant are very attractive and preferred in fall flower gardens. This grass produces flowering stems, which are full of feathery seeds. The feathery seed heads (or “plumes”) can also later be cut for dried flower arrangements.
Purple fountain grass will tolerate some light shade, but it prefers to be planted in full sunlight. Look for an area in your garden where it will receive bright light at least six to eight hours a day.
Luckily, purple fountain grass isn’t too picky about its soil conditions. Loamy soil often provides the best results, but the plant can do well in many types of mixtures, so long as they’re well-draining.
While purple fountain grass is considered a drought-tolerant ornamental grass, it should still be watered consistently as it’s getting established in your landscape. Give new plants water once or twice a week, about an inch total, allowing time for the soil to dry to the touch between each watering. In areas that receive rain occasionally, you will not need to water the grass once it has become established—areas that are particularly dry or hot may need the occasional watering.
One of the perks of purple fountain grass is just how versatile it is when it comes to temperature conditions. It’s cold-weather hardy down to about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, so if your area remains about that temperature, then you can grow the grass as a perennial and cut it back in early spring each year. New growth will initiate as the temperatures begin to climb.
Meanwhile, those in colder zones will have to make do with enjoying purple fountain grass’s vivid color and striking, vase-shaped form throughout the late spring, summer, and fall—unless they don’t mind going through the trouble of overwintering it indoors. Additionally, the grass has no special humidity needs.
Fountain grass grows fairly well in poor soil, but fertilizer will boost its growth and provide the additional nutrients it needs when flowering. During that time (typically the summer), feed it monthly with a general-purpose, slow-release food according to the directions on the fertilizer’s label.
The standard way to prune ornamental grasses, like purple fountain grass, is to cut it back severely in late winter or early spring before it begins its new growth. This eliminates dead foliage and improves air circulation and sun exposure to stimulate the growth of new leaves. You can also selectively trim dead foliage and perform some light shaping on the plant any time of the year.
To cut back the grass in the spring, gather the leaves of each plant, and bind them with a rope, masking tape, or bungee cord. Use pruners or a scythe to cut the leaves straight across, 4 to 6 inches up from the base of the plant. Comb through the trimmed leaves by hand to remove any additional dead blades and debris.
Propagating Purple Fountain Grass
Purple fountain grass can be propagated through division or seeds. The plants may readily self-seed in the garden, but root division is a faster and more reliable form of propagation than waiting for seeds. Division should be done while the grass is in its growing season in the spring through the summer. Take these steps for propagating by division:
- Dig up the plant when it is going dormant.
- Use a clean, sharp cutting tool to cut it into two or more sections that contain healthy roots and leaves.
- Discard any rotten or dead plant matter and roots.
- Replant immediately and keep the soil moist as the division settles into its new home.
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