Pennisetum a. ‘Little Bunny’
Position: full sun or partial shade
Soil: well-drained soil
Flowering period: July to October
Hardiness: needs protection in cold areas
Pennisetum. This ornamental grass is well-loved for its lovely, soft bottle-brush flowers which appear in late summer. The flowers often remain attractive well into the winter. Pennisetum is a grass from warm climates and loves hot summers. So it will do best in a sunny spot.
Pennisetum alopecuriodes is one of the best known of all pennisetum varieties and for good reason. It’s an undemanding and easy to grow fountain grass. In July the green flowers emerge, maturing into purple. The leaves are narrow to 60cm long, starting to turn yellow in late autumn, then brown in winter. It grows about to 1.20m tall. Pennisetum a. ‘Hameln’ has the same pretty flowers but with a height of 90cm and a spread of 1m. Smaller at 60 cm Pennisetum orientale bears fluffy grey-mauve flower plumes with bright green linear leaves. It’s ideal for the front of the border.
Pennisetum a. ‘Hameln’ Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ Pennisetum orientale
Also popular is Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ (syn setaceum ‘Rubrum’). This variety has striking rich purple foliage and gorgeous, long crimson flower spikes in late summer.
Pruning Pennisetum (fountain grass) Cut back the previous year’s growth to 15-20cm above the ground in spring.
All Pennisetums don’t like wet feet in the winter months. They need well-drained soil in winter. Pennisetum alopecuriodes is reasonably hardy. In very cold areas cover the base of the plant with a thick layer of deep dry mulch. The tender types such as Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ needs to be dug up before the first frosts. Pot the plant up. Store it in a frost-free place.
When and how to divide Pennisetum. Divide in spring when the soil is starting to warm up. Lift the clump and cut it into smaller pieces with a sturdy knife. If the clump is too big, split the grass in half with a spade while in the ground and then lift the two parts. Replant the divided parts and water thoroughly.
Pennisetum looks good planted with late-summer perennials such as Agastache, Aster, Echinacea and Verbena bonariensis.