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Pennisetum (pen-nis-seet-um), fountain grass; Poaceae Family. Tall annual or perennial grasses, though some are grown for forage, pennisetum are generally used as ornamental plants for the border or flower garden. The grass-like, long leaves are often colored in cultivated plants. Flower spikes have conspicuous bristles.

Pennisetum alopecuroides (al-oh-pek-yew-roy-deez), are perennials from China, growing up to 4 feet tall, with narrow leaves to 2 feet long. Silvery flower spikes on slender stems.

Pennisetum prefers full sun, but tolerates light shade. Most Pennisetum varieties are cold hardy perennials to zone 5. However, some varieties are not winter hardy in zones colder than 9.

Fountain Grass is an attractive foliage plant, with many varieties providing a spectacular fall display. The deeply colored foliage paired with the bottlebrush plumes looks spectacular in the fall landscape. Pennisetums are hardy growers, requiring little and giving much. They rarely show disease or pest problems, and grow well with lower levels of moisture.

Pennisetum prefers to be grown in rich loamy soil with good drainage and full sun or light shade. However, it will grow in rocky or sandy soil as long as it remains fairly moist. This resents having wet feet. This clumping works most effectively in mass plantings, but also can be used as an accent plant in gardens and in containers. Pennisetums should not require excessive fertilization and are generally pest-free plants.

Attributes: Border plants, Container, Cut flower or foliage, Mass planting, Deer resistant.