This grass can be quite successful when it is grown in a well drained fertile soil and it receives full sun. Purple fountain grass grows so vigorously and can fill a garden bed or a container quickly. Its fox-tail type flowers will usually appear during the middle of summer and can last until the first frost arrives. This ornamental grass grows into a curving clump with leaves that are about 12 inches long in a burgundy-bronze green shade. After the first hard freeze its color will bleach out slowly to a straw color but still looks attractive all during the winter.
Sometimes this decorative grass is planted as a specimen but can also be found in road medians, public gardens, and foundations because it only needs a little care. This plant can tolerate high temperatures, high humidity, drought, wind, and soils high in alkaline or acid. Many southern landscapes will contain this ornamental grass because it is so durable, beautiful and is generally pest free.
Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' or purple fountain grass can reach a height between 3 and 5 feet with a 2 to 4 foot spread. This plant generally blooms in July. The reddish or purplish flower spikes are replaced by burgundy or purplish-tinged seed heads, which are soft to the touch and gently move with a fall breeze. This plant species has been considered to be invasive in some areas of the United States but the cultivar is not. If you are worried about an invasive plant there are varieties that are labeled as sterile, but will on occasion produce seed.
Some gardeners plant this grass as a grouping for border planting and others plant them as a stand alone specimen. If they are grouped together with plants having a coarse texture they will create a beautiful contrast. You can use the feathery seed heads or fox-tail plumes in dried flower arrangements. It can be used with other perennials and it will blend in with desert or tropical themes. If you plant them in a group they will present a colorful display when in full bloom. The flowering of this plant generally begins in July and will continue through the fall season. The color of the flower will progress from whitish purple to coppery purple and the color will not change again until the first hard frost of winter.
Some of the varieties of this plant are foliage plants only and are grown for the colorful leaves. Some varieties are for the colorful plumes and there are even others with attractive seeds or berries; sometimes you can find species that will give you the entire package. This happens with purple fountain grass, with its arcing spikes of flowers showing from the mass of long, slender leaves of burgundy. This decorative ornamental grass is well worth the effort even if only enjoyed for 2 seasons of the year.
Red fountain grass or purple fountain grass wants to have full sun all day or part of the day. They will also grow much better with an amended well-drained soil. You can use organic mulch mixed with native materials when planting. A deep watering is needed at first but once the plant is established just water infrequently and not every day. The first winter after planting you do not want to prune; pruning can be done after the first year and prune to a four inch height. If you prune in early fall you can increase a late season beauty.