(pen-ni-see' tum)

Common name: Fountain Grass

Family: Poaceae, Grass

Height x width: 3-4' x 2-3'

Growth rate: moderate

Foliage: 2-3' long and ¼" wide, culms (flower stalks) to 4' long, bright green in summer turning golden brown in fall

Flowers: 5-7" flower spikes resembling soft bottle brushes, reddish brown

Hardiness: zones 5-9

Soil: well-drained, moist

Light: sun, tolerates light shade, doesn't flower in dense shade

Pests and Problems: none

Landscape habit, uses: masses, groups or specimen; borders, containers; tolerates wind and salt spray; cut in summer

Other interest: flowers shatter in fall so no winter effect as with many other grasses; native to China; name is from the Latin penna meaning feather and seta meaning bristle, refering to the feathery bristles or awns

Other culture: low maintenance

Propagation: spring division, seed for species only


Those marked * in tables below are most seen in U.S. commerce.
Species height zones flowers other
*alopecuroides 3-4' 5-9 golden  
caudatum 3-4' 6-9 white vigorous
incomptum 3-4' 5-9 white early, vigorous groundcover
orientale 1-2' 6-9 pink early through summer blooms, tolerates dry
*setaceum 2-3' 9-10 pink/red arching foliage
villosum 2-3' 8-10 purplish Feathertop, feathery plumes


Cultivar species height flowers other
'Burgundy Giant' hybrid  5-6' purple-red wide lvs, Longwood G. intro.
'Cassian's Choice' alopecuroides 2-3' dark tan amber tinted leaves, compact
'Compressum' alopecuroides 2-3' white tips arching habit, zones 6-9
*'Hameln' alopecuroides 1-2' dark tan a smaller 'Cassian', popular
'Hertstzauber' ('Autumn Magic') alopecuroides 2-3' greenish zones 6-9
'Japonicum' alopecuroides 4-5' brown large flowers
'Karley Rose' orientale 2-3' pinkish arching flowers above leaves
*'Little Bunny' alopecuroides 1' tan zones 6-9
'Little Honey' alopecuroides 1' tan variegated foliage
*'Moudry' alopecuroides 2-3' blackish very late bloom, good cut
'National Arboretum' alopecuroides 2-3' brown dark green foliage, very late
'Piglet' alopecuroides 1-2' tan arching flowers
*'Rubrum setaceum  2-3' burgundy foliage maroon
'Rubrum Compactum' setaceum 1-2' burgundy 1-2' version of 'Rubrum'
'Tall Tails' orientale 4-5' pinkish larger than species
'Weserbergland' alopecuroides 1-2' tan wider than tall, zones 6-9

(Cassians, Tall Tails  photos courtesy Missouri botanical gardens plantfinder)

©Authored by Dr. Leonard Perry, Professor, University of Vermont as part of PSS123 course.

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