How to Grow Fountain Grass: A Guide for Gardening Lovers

Fountain Grass
Fountain Grass

Welcome to the enchanting world of fountain grass, where nature’s beauty dances to the rhythm of gentle breezes. Whether you’re a novice gardener, a landscape designer seeking inspiration, or a seasoned garden enthusiast, this article is your gateway to mastering the art of planting and nurturing fountain grass.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore every facet of fountain grass cultivation, from the basics of where and when to plant, to the secrets of propagation and identifying different types of fountain grass. By the end, you’ll not only have a lush, thriving garden but also a profound appreciation for this ornamental marvel.

Fountain Grass Overview

FactorFountain Grass
Family (Botanic)Poaceae
Other Common NamesChinese Fountain Grass, Swamp Foxtail
Scientific NamePennisetum alopecuroides
Height & Spread3-5 ft. Height, 2-4 ft. Spread
Sun ExposureFull sun
USDA Growing Zones5-9
Pests & DiseasesAphids, Rust
Soil TypeWell-drained
Soil pH6.0-7.0
Bloom TimeLate summer to fall
Flower ColorPink, white, or purple
Native AreaAsia

Where to Plant Fountain Grass

Fountain grass is a versatile and visually captivating addition to any garden, but selecting the right location is essential for its success. Let’s dive into the details:

Sunlight Requirements

Fountain grass thrives when basking in the sun’s warmth. To ensure a healthy and vibrant display, plant it in a location that receives a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. This is where the magic happens – the sunlight coaxes the graceful plumes to sway gently, adding a touch of elegance to your garden.

Framing and Contrast

Fountain grass isn’t just about beauty; it’s about enhancing the aesthetics of your garden. Consider these factors:


Think about the backdrop for your fountain grass. These ornamental plants create a stunning contrast against dark foliage or a backdrop of evergreen shrubs. They’re also perfect for framing walkways, entrances, or accentuating the corners of your garden.

Group Planting

Furthermore, consider planting fountain grass in clusters or drifts. This creates a visual impact, making your garden look cohesive and intentional. By grouping several plants together, you can accentuate their feathery plumes, making your outdoor space feel like a tranquil oasis.

Your Garden, Your Canvas

Whether you’re creating a formal garden, a wildflower meadow, or anything in between, fountain grass’s versatility allows it to fit seamlessly into a wide range of garden styles. Remember, your garden is your canvas, and fountain grass can be the brushstroke that adds drama and elegance to your outdoor masterpiece.

With these considerations in mind, you’re now equipped to choose the perfect spot for your fountain grass, setting the stage for a garden masterpiece that will captivate the senses and bring joy for seasons to come.

How and When to Plant Fountain Grass

Planting fountain grass is an exciting step towards creating a vibrant and captivating garden. This section will guide you through the essential steps of how and when to plant your fountain grass to ensure a thriving and picturesque landscape.

Planting Methods

Before we dig into the details of planting, you have a choice to make: seeds or young plants from a nursery?

Planting from Seeds

If you choose seeds, spring is your ally. As temperatures begin to rise and the soil warms, it’s the perfect time to sow your fountain grass seeds. Select a sunny spot and prepare the soil by loosening it gently. Scatter the seeds evenly across the area, ensuring a light covering of soil. Water them gently, and in a few weeks, you’ll witness the first signs of life as tender shoots emerge from the earth.

Transplanting Nursery-Bought Plants

For those who prefer a head start, nursery-bought plants are a fantastic option. You can transplant them in either early spring or early autumn. Here’s how:

  1. Prepare the Soil: Dig a hole that’s about twice the width of the root ball of your nursery plant. The depth should be just enough to accommodate the root ball.
  2. Planting: Gently remove the plant from its container, being careful not to disturb the roots. Place it in the prepared hole and fill the space around it with soil.
  3. Watering: After planting, water your fountain grass thoroughly. This helps settle the soil and ensures good root-to-soil contact.
  4. Pat Down: Lightly pat down the soil around the plant to remove any air pockets that may have formed during planting.

Tending to Young Plants

Regardless of whether you’ve planted from seeds or young nursery-bought plants, early care is crucial. Keep the soil consistently moist until your fountain grass establishes itself. Once established, it will require less frequent watering.


In the spring, give your young plants a boost with a balanced fertilizer. This promotes healthy growth and lush plumes, setting the stage for a beautiful display in the coming seasons.

By following these planting guidelines, you’ll provide your fountain grass with the best possible start in life. As your grass grows and matures, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning garden feature that will bring joy and beauty to your outdoor space.

Fountain Grass

How to Grow Fountain Grass

With your fountain grass planted and the initial stages of growth underway, it’s time to delve into the art of nurturing it into a flourishing, picturesque spectacle. This section will guide you through the essential steps to ensure your fountain grass not only survives but thrives.

Watering Wisdom

Watering is a crucial element in the growth of fountain grass. To encourage robust root development, aim for deep, infrequent watering. This means allowing the soil to dry out slightly between watering sessions.

Mulching Magic

Mulching around the base of your fountain grass serves multiple purposes. It helps retain soil moisture, reducing the need for frequent watering. Additionally, it acts as a natural weed barrier, keeping pesky intruders at bay. When mulching, maintain a layer about 2 to 3 inches thick but ensure it doesn’t touch the base of the plant to prevent rot.

Pruning Practices

Fountain grass benefits from an annual haircut. In late winter or early spring, trim back the dead foliage and plumes to make way for new growth. Pruning about a third of the grass’s height will maintain a tidy appearance while allowing new, lush foliage to emerge.

Winter Preparation

As winter approaches, consider adding a layer of mulch or straw around the base of your fountain grass to insulate the roots. This will help protect them from freezing temperatures and ensure a healthy return in the spring.

By mastering these growth techniques, you’ll be well on your way to nurturing a fountain grass that not only survives but thrives, gracing your garden with its elegance and beauty. Your efforts will be rewarded with a mesmerizing display that dances in the breeze, creating a tranquil and inviting outdoor oasis for all to enjoy.

How to Care for Fountain Grass

Caring for your fountain grass is akin to tending to a prized masterpiece – it requires attention, but the rewards are absolutely worth it. In this section, we’ll delve into the finer details of caring for your fountain grass, ensuring it remains the star of your garden.

Spring Cleaning

As winter’s grip loosens, your fountain grass will emerge from its slumber. This is the perfect time for a little spring cleaning in the garden. Trim back the dead foliage to make way for new growth. Pruning about a third of the grass’s height is typically sufficient. Not only does this promote healthy growth, but it also keeps your fountain grass looking neat and well-maintained.

Watering Wisdom

While fountain grass is hardy, it’s essential to strike the right balance when it comes to watering. During its active growth phase in spring and summer, keep the soil consistently moist. However, once established, it becomes more drought-tolerant, requiring less frequent watering. Ensure the soil dries out slightly between waterings to encourage robust root growth.

Seasonal Feeding

To maintain the vibrancy of your fountain grass, consider applying a balanced fertilizer in the spring. This is when the grass is gearing up for a season of growth. Follow the product instructions carefully to avoid over-fertilizing, which can lead to excessive foliage at the expense of those enchanting plumes.

Pruning Throughout the Season

While a thorough pruning in spring sets the stage, don’t be afraid to trim your fountain grass throughout the growing season if it starts to look untidy. Removing spent plumes or any damaged foliage can keep it looking its best and prevent self-seeding if you prefer a more controlled garden.

Preparing for Winter

Before winter arrives, take precautions to protect your fountain grass. Applying a layer of mulch or straw around the base of the plant can insulate the roots and prevent winter damage. This extra care ensures that your fountain grass returns vigorously in the spring.

By following these care guidelines, you’ll be nurturing a fountain grass that not only thrives but becomes the centerpiece of your garden. Its graceful presence, coupled with your attentive care, will turn your outdoor space into a sanctuary of beauty and tranquility, captivating all who visit.

Pests and Problems Fountain Grass

While fountain grass is generally resilient, it’s not immune to pests like aphids or diseases like rust. Keep an eye out for any unusual changes in your grass’s appearance and address them promptly. A simple solution is to use insecticidal soap for pests and a fungicide for diseases, but always follow the product instructions.

How to Propagate Fountain Grass

If you’ve fallen in love with the elegance of fountain grass and wish to expand your green haven, propagation is the way to go. In this section, we’ll explore the art of multiplying your fountain grass through division and seed collection.

Division Delight

One of the most common methods for propagating fountain grass is through division. Spring is the ideal time for this, when the grass is actively growing and ready to put down new roots.

  1. Digging Up the Plant: Carefully dig up the mature fountain grass clump, ensuring you preserve as much of the root system as possible. Use a sharp spade or garden fork for this task.
  2. Separating Clumps: Once you’ve extracted the plant, gently divide it into smaller clumps. Each clump should have a good portion of roots and some healthy foliage.
  3. Replanting: Choose the locations where you want to transplant these new clumps. Dig holes that are appropriately sized to accommodate each division. Place the clumps in the holes, backfill with soil, and water thoroughly.
  4. Post-Planting Care: Keep the newly divided plants well-watered until they establish themselves. After that, maintain your regular watering and care routine.

MORE: How to Divide Ornamental Grasses

Seed Collection

Collecting seeds is another way to propagate fountain grass and introduce new plants to your garden. Follow these steps to harness nature’s bounty:

  1. Wait for Ripening: Allow your mature fountain grass to bloom and produce seeds. You’ll notice the plumes turning brown and the seeds ripening within.
  2. Harvesting Seeds: Carefully shake or lightly brush the mature plumes to release the seeds. Collect them in a paper bag.
  3. Storage: Store the collected seeds in a cool, dry place until you’re ready to sow them.
  4. Sowing: When the time is right (usually in the spring), sow the collected seeds in the desired locations, following the same steps you would for planting fountain grass from commercial seeds.

By mastering these propagation techniques, you can multiply the beauty of fountain grass in your garden, creating a harmonious and visually captivating landscape that continues to enchant year after year. Experiment with both methods to find the one that works best for you and watch as your garden flourishes with these graceful and resilient ornamental grasses.

Fountain Grass

Types of Fountain Grass

Fountain grass is not a monolithic entity; it’s a diverse family of ornamental grasses, each with its unique charm and personality. Let’s explore the delightful variety within the fountain grass family, offering you a palette of options to elevate your garden’s aesthetics.

Pennisetum alopecuroides – The Classic Fountain Grass

Pennisetum alopecuroides, often referred to as the classic fountain grass, is a timeless favorite. With its fine-textured, arching leaves and bottlebrush-like plumes that sway gracefully in the breeze, it’s a garden staple. This variety offers a wide range of cultivars, from the compact ‘Hameln’ to the tall and showy ‘Red Head,’ allowing you to choose the perfect fit for your garden’s size and style.

Pennisetum setaceum – The Showstopper

Pennisetum setaceum, also known as crimson fountain grass, is a showstopper in the fountain grass world. Its striking, burgundy-red foliage and feathery plumes create an eye-catching contrast in any garden. Varieties like ‘Rubrum’ are particularly famous for their vivid coloration. Keep in mind that some regions classify crimson fountain grass as invasive, so check with your local authorities before planting.

Pennisetum orientale – The Oriental Fountain Grass

Pennisetum orientale, or oriental fountain grass, brings an air of grace and subtlety to your garden. Its narrow, green leaves and delicate flower spikes create a soft, fine-textured display. This variety is well-suited to more restrained garden designs and pairs beautifully with other tall ornamental grasses and perennials.

Pennisetum purpureum – The Giant Fountain Grass

For those who appreciate grandeur in their garden, Pennisetum purpureum, or giant fountain grass, is an excellent choice. This species boasts substantial size, with arching leaves that can reach heights of up to 12 feet. Its feathery plumes can tower above other plants, creating a dramatic focal point. Just ensure you have ample space in your garden to accommodate this magnificent variety.

Pennisetum glaucum – The Ornamental Millet

Pennisetum glaucum, also known as pearl millet or ornamental millet, is a unique fountain grass variety. It’s valued not only for its ornamental appeal, with attractive seed heads that resemble pearls, but also for its utility. In some regions, it’s grown for its edible seeds, offering a delightful fusion of beauty and practicality.

Pennisetum villosum – The Fluffy Fountain Grass

Pennisetum villosum, or feathertop fountain grass, introduces a touch of softness to your garden with its fluffy, cream-colored plumes that resemble a kitten’s tail. It’s a charming and delicate variety that adds a whimsical element to your outdoor space.

Exploring these diverse varieties of fountain grass allows you to curate a garden that reflects your unique style and preferences. Whether you’re drawn to the classic elegance of Pennisetum alopecuroides or the dramatic hues of Pennisetum setaceum, fountain grass offers a wide array of options to elevate your garden’s aesthetic and create a landscape that’s truly your own.

How to Grow Fountain Grass in Containers

Growing ornamental grass in containers can add texture, movement, and beauty to your outdoor space. Here are some valuable tips to ensure your potted ornamental grass thrives:

  1. Choose the Right Container: Select a large container with good drainage. The size of the container depends on the specific grass variety; larger grasses require larger pots. Ensure it has drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil.
  2. Use High-Quality Potting Mix: Fill the container with a well-draining potting mix. You can enhance it with perlite or coarse sand to improve drainage.
  3. Select the Right Grass Variety: Pick an ornamental grass variety suitable for container gardening. Compact or dwarf varieties like Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ and Festuca glauca (blue fescue) work well in pots.
  4. Sunlight Requirements: Place your container in a location that receives the appropriate amount of sunlight according to the grass’s requirements—full sun, partial sun, or shade, depending on the variety.
  5. Pruning and Maintenance: Prune the grass in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Trim back dead or damaged foliage to encourage fresh growth. Remove spent flower heads to maintain appearance.
  6. Protect from Harsh Winters: In regions with severe winters, consider overwintering your potted grass indoors or in a sheltered area to protect it from freezing temperatures. Reduce watering during dormancy.
  7. Consider Companion Plants: Plant complementary annuals or perennials in the same container to add color and interest. Ensure they have similar light and water requirements.

Growing ornamental grass in containers can be a rewarding and visually striking addition to your garden or outdoor space. With proper care tailored to the specific needs of your chosen grass variety, you can enjoy the graceful beauty of ornamental grasses in pots for seasons to come.

What Size Pot/Container Do You Need For Fountain Grass?

The size of the pot or container you need for growing fountain grass depends on the specific variety you’re cultivating and your aesthetic preferences. However, a general guideline is to choose a container with a diameter of at least 18 inches (45 cm) for most fountain grass varieties. This size allows enough space for the grass’s root system to develop and provides stability for the plant.

Larger varieties of fountain grass may require even larger containers, while dwarf or compact varieties can thrive in slightly smaller pots. Remember that a larger container can hold more soil, which can help the grass better withstand fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels.

Ultimately, the pot size should accommodate the growth habits of your chosen fountain grass variety while fitting your available space and design preferences. Always ensure the container has good drainage to prevent waterlogging, which can be detrimental to the grass’s health.

Where does fountain grass grow best?

Fountain grass, scientifically known as Pennisetum alopecuroides, thrives best in locations with full sun exposure, well-drained soil, and USDA growing zones ranging from 5 to 9. It is well-suited for gardens in regions with moderate water availability. This ornamental grass is native to Asia and can add beauty and elegance to gardens, particularly when planted in areas that receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily. Optimal soil pH for its growth falls within the range of 6.0 to 7.0. Fountain grass blooms late in the summer and offers a variety of flower colors, including pink, white, or purple, making it a versatile and attractive addition to landscapes.

What is the most popular fountain grass?

One of the most popular fountain grass varieties is Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln,’ often referred to as Dwarf Fountain Grass. ‘Hameln’ is cherished for its compact size, making it suitable for smaller gardens and landscapes. It typically reaches a height of 2-3 feet and offers beautiful feathery plumes that change from white to a soft tan color as they mature. This variety’s adaptability to various soil types, full sun exposure, and its low maintenance requirements have made it a favorite among gardeners, earning it a reputation as a versatile and visually appealing choice for landscaping projects.


Is fountain grass annual or perennial?

Fountain grass (Pennisetum) is typically a perennial grass. Perennial means that it comes back year after year, provided it’s grown in a suitable climate and given proper care. Fountain grasses can live for several years and continue to grow and produce their characteristic plumes season after season.

However, it’s essential to note that there are some ornamental grasses, like Pennisetum setaceum (Crimson Fountain Grass), that are grown as perennials in warmer climates but may act as annuals in colder regions where they cannot survive harsh winters. In colder areas, they may not overwinter and need to be replanted in the spring.

MORE: Is Purple Fountain Grass a Perennial or Annual

Is fountain grass invasive to california?

Yes, some varieties of fountain grass, particularly Pennisetum setaceum (Crimson Fountain Grass), have become invasive in parts of California. This invasive nature has led to concerns in natural ecosystems and wildland areas, particularly in arid and semi-arid regions of the state. The invasive characteristics of crimson fountain grass include its ability to self-seed prolifically, establish in disturbed areas, and outcompete native vegetation.

Because of these concerns, some areas in California have taken measures to control or restrict the planting of certain fountain grass varieties, particularly in regions where they pose a threat to native ecosystems and wildfire risk. It’s important to check with local authorities and follow any regulations or guidelines regarding the cultivation of fountain grass in your specific area to help prevent its spread and protect native habitats. Additionally, consider choosing non-invasive ornamental grass alternatives for landscaping in regions prone to fountain grass invasiveness.

READ: Is Purple Fountain Grass Invasive


In the world of gardening, fountain grass stands as a symbol of elegance and simplicity. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll not only grow your garden but also your appreciation for nature’s exquisite creations. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned enthusiast, cultivating fountain grass is a journey filled with joy and beauty.

So, embark on this horticultural adventure and watch as your garden transforms into a mesmerizing haven, where the graceful plumes of fountain grass sway in harmony with the breeze, captivating all who behold them. The secret to success is now in your hands, so let your garden flourish and thrive like never before. Happy gardening!

Rachel Lean
Rachel Lean

Adventurer, loving nature and plants, particularly Pampas Grass. Happy to share with other people the knowledge that I accumulated on the journey of my life.