The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Caring for Purple Fountain Grass

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Growing and Caring for Purple Fountain Grass

Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) is a stunning ornamental grass known for its vibrant purple-red foliage and graceful, arching plumes. It’s a popular choice for gardens, landscaping, and container gardening. If you’re a beginner looking to grow and care for purple fountain grass, here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

1. Select the Right Location:

  • Purple fountain grass prefers full sun, so choose a location that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
  • Ensure the soil is well-draining to prevent waterlogged roots. Sandy or loamy soils work well.

2. Planting:

  • Purple fountain grass can be grown from seeds or purchased as established plants from nurseries. Plant it in the spring after the last frost date in your area.
  • Dig a hole that is twice the size of the root ball of the plant.
  • Place the plant in the hole and backfill with soil, patting it down gently to remove air pockets.
  • Water thoroughly after planting to help the roots establish.

3. Watering:

  • Initially, water regularly to keep the soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Once the plant is established (after a few weeks), it’s relatively drought-tolerant and can handle some periods of dryness.
  • Water the plant at the base to prevent wetting the foliage, as wet leaves can lead to fungal issues.

4. Fertilizing:

  • Fertilize with a balanced, slow-release granular fertilizer in the spring when new growth begins. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application rates.
  • You can also use a water-soluble fertilizer diluted to half-strength during the growing season (spring to early fall) every 4-6 weeks.

5. Pruning and Maintenance:

  • In late winter or early spring, cut back the purple fountain grass to a height of 4-6 inches above the ground to encourage new growth.
  • Remove dead or damaged leaves and spent flower heads throughout the growing season.
  • In colder climates, you can choose to leave the plant standing over the winter for additional interest, but be prepared to cut it back in the spring.

6. Overwintering:

  • Purple fountain grass is typically hardy in USDA zones 9-11, but it can be treated as an annual in cooler climates.
  • If you live in a colder region and want to overwinter the plant, dig it up before the first frost, place it in a container, and bring it indoors to a cool, bright location. Water sparingly during winter dormancy.

7. Pests and Diseases:

  • Purple fountain grass is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. However, occasional issues with aphids or mealybugs may occur. Treat them with insecticidal soap or neem oil as needed.

8. Container Gardening:

  • Purple fountain grass also thrives in containers. Choose a large pot with good drainage, and use a well-draining potting mix.
  • Container-grown plants may require more frequent watering, as pots tend to dry out faster than garden soil.

9. Landscaping Ideas:

  • Purple fountain grass adds a dramatic touch to landscapes, borders, or as a focal point in garden beds.
  • It also pairs well with other ornamental plants, such as lantana, salvia, and verbena, creating vibrant and colorful garden displays.

With proper care and attention, purple fountain grass can provide stunning color and texture to your garden, making it an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced gardeners.