80725It was probably a good idea when it was introduced to California, but fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, became too much of a good thing for a few temperate regions in which it naturalizes and displaces native vegetation. Although it now works to inhibit erosion where it grows wild on the embankments of highway interchanges, it must sometime be mown because it is combustible.

In home gardens, fountain grass is more appealing if shorn back at the end of winter, and watered occasionally through the warmest part of summer. If feral seedlings need to be removed, a few may be left if they happen to grow where more plants are wanted, or to replace aging plants. Fountain grass should not be planted in regions where it is likely to naturalize but has not yet done so.

Fountain grass has narrow leaves that arch upward and outward so that the tips of outer leaves are just touching the ground. They might sag lower; or they might stand more upright. The fuzzy tan or pinkish tan flowers that bloom in summer may stand as tall as three feet. Individual plants live only a few years. The cultivar ‘Rubrum’ has striking purplish bronze foliage, and does not self sow.

10 thoughts on “Fountain Grass

    1. That is a very valid concern. If it is not available in your local nurseries, it is probably because it has the potential to naturalize, so should not be planted, even if you can get it online or by mail order. You could also research it locally, or ask at a nursery.

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      1. It is worth asking about locally. I would be hesitant to plant it here because it has not naturalized here yet, but could possibly do so. Local horticulturists would know more about the potential for it to naturalize there.

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  1. I never could see how those things could work in any landscape. There’s a giant clump of fountain grass growing in the yard next door to me. It’s spread out from the center and now encloses a circle with an empty space in the middle, big enough for someone to hide in. It’s the only thing growing in the yard besides grass. It sheds dead, sharp-edged leaves that blow into my yard. Instead of picking up each long leaf and cutting my fingers, I learned they can be chopped into oblivion with the lawn mower.

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    1. That sounds more like pampas grass than fountain grass. In California and Oregon, it is one of the most aggressively invasive exotic species in coastal regions. The weedy type is Cortaderia jubata. Cortaderia selloana is a bit more docile and prettier, but it has the same dangerously sharp leaves, and has some potential to self sow.


      1. Oh my! That is another one of the worst invasive exotics here! Although we know it as Scotch broom, it includes other relates specie of broom such as Spanish and French brooms. I encounter it almost daily at work.


      2. It’s unknown here. It’s wildly invasive in Washington state. I’d heard some prettier cultivars had been developed, but it was still Scotch broom.

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      3. You know, I have seen the prettier and supposedly sterile cultivars in the nurseries. They remind me of the ‘sterile’ pampas grass, which was only sterile because it was all female. It got pollinated by the naturalized species, and produces seed anyway. I could not help but wonder how sterile the broom was, and if it could be pollinated by other brooms. Really, there are far too many better choices available to deal with something so questionable.


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