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Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' Purple Fountain Grass

Edward F. Gilman


Red fountain grass is an ornamental grass that is used in the landscape for its reddish foliage and showy flowers (Figure 1). The leaves of this 3- to 4-foot-tall plant are narrow, curving, linear blades with a beautiful red cast. The purple-pink or copper colored inflorescence of red fountain grass sits atop a hollow, 3-foot-long, nodding flower stalk. The feathery inflorescence is 12 inches long and occurs from early summer to frost. The fruits of this grass are small seeds that volunteer to form small plantlets nearby; this plant is considered mildly invasive.

Figure 1. Red fountain grass
Figure 1.  Red fountain grass


General Information

Scientific name: Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'
Pronunciation: pen-niss-SEE-tum set-TAY-see-um variety ROO-brum
Common name(s): red fountain grass, purple fountain grass
Family: Gramineae
Plant type: ornamental grass; herbaceous
USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Figure 2)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: not native to North America
Uses: not recommended for planting
Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range
Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.



Height: 4 to 6 feet
Spread: 2 to 4 feet
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: fast
Texture: fine


Leaf arrangement: most emerge from the soil, usually without a stem
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: linear
Leaf venation: parallel
Leaf type and persistence: deciduous
Leaf blade length: 18 to 36 inches
Leaf color: purple or red
Fall color: red
Fall characteristic: showy


Flower color: purple-pink; copper
Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering


Fruit shape: unknown
Fruit length: unknown
Fruit cover: unknown
Fruit color: unknown
Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam; clay
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: not applicable
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: potentially invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Red fountain grass has been considered a valuable accent or specimen plant used around a fountain for the cooling silhouette it presents. This plant is also lovely when planted in mass, and it makes a nice accent in a border. Flowers can be cut for fresh arrangements but fall apart as they dry, making them unsuited for dry arrangements. However, the plant will re-seed itself into surrounding landscapes. This could present a problem under certain circumstances.

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' should be planted on a well-drained site that is exposed to full sun. Plants grow poorly in the partial shade unless the soil has been cleared of roots surrounding trees and shrubs. This grass is grown as a perennial in most of Florida (zones 9 through 10) but is an annual in cooler climates. It may grow back from the roots in the spring in north Florida. It is moderately drought tolerant.

'Rubrum Dwarf' grows 2 1/2 to 3 feet tall.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Publication #FPS464

Date: 8/27/2015

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About this Publication

This document is FPS464, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman