Cenchrus, Purple Fountain Grass, Rose Fountain Grass 'Rubrum'

Cenchrus setaceus

Family: Poaceae (poh-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Cenchrus (SENCH-rus) (Info)
Species: setaceus (se-TAY-see-us) (Info)
Cultivar: Rubrum
Additional cultivar information:(Graceful Grasses series)
Synonym:Pennisetum setaceum
View this plant in a garden


Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:



24-36 in. (60-90 cm)

36-48 in. (90-120 cm)


15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual



Bloom Color:


Medium Purple

Dark Purple/Black


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Mid Fall

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Gaylesville, Alabama

Holly Pond, Alabama

Orange Beach, Alabama

Glendale, Arizona

Maricopa, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

Queen Creek, Arizona

Tubac, Arizona

Amesti, California

Beaumont, California

Clayton, California

Corralitos, California

Elkhorn, California

Encinitas, California

Fallbrook, California(5 reports)

Fremont, California

Interlaken, California

Los Angeles, California(2 reports)

Menlo Park, California

Merced, California

Oakland, California

Oakley, California

Pajaro, California

Palm Springs, California

Riverside, California

San Anselmo, California

San Diego, California

San Francisco, California

Santa Barbara, California

Spring Valley, California

Watsonville, California

Centerbrook, Connecticut

Bartow, Florida

Deerfield Beach, Florida

Fort Myers, Florida

Islamorada, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

Oldsmar, Florida

Plant City, Florida

Spring Hill, Florida

Tampa, Florida

Trenton, Florida

Athens, Georgia

Atlanta, Georgia

Hinsdale, Illinois

Bloomington, Indiana

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Ewing, Kentucky

Lafayette, Louisiana

New Iberia, Louisiana

Scott, Louisiana

Oakland, Maryland

Morris, Minnesota

Las Vegas, Nevada(2 reports)

Allentown, New Jersey

Pennsauken, New Jersey

Elephant Butte, New Mexico

Rio Rancho, New Mexico

Roswell, New Mexico

Ossining, New York

Southold, New York

Waxhaw, North Carolina

Cincinnati, Ohio

Portland, Oregon

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Mercer, Pennsylvania

Anderson, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina

Bath, South Dakota

Mount Juliet, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Bulverde, Texas

Cibolo, Texas

El Paso, Texas(2 reports)

Haltom City, Texas

Houston, Texas

La Vernia, Texas

Lake Jackson, Texas

League City, Texas

Missouri City, Texas

New Caney, Texas

Orange, Texas

Port Arthur, Texas

Richmond, Texas

Rockport, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Spicewood, Texas

Spring, Texas(2 reports)

Spring Branch, Texas

Stockdale, Texas

Victoria, Texas

Clarksville, Virginia

Kalama, Washington

Lake Stevens, Washington

Vancouver, Washington

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Oct 29, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

Wonderful as a bedding or container plant here in Z6a Boston. The burgundy color is superb.

Very fast growing, tends to outcompete other plants in a big container garden. In the spring, I wait till daytime temps are generally in the 70's F before setting it outdoors.


On Sep 14, 2014, vossner from East Texas,
United States (Zone 8a) wrote:

I grow this grass in full sun with access to a sprinkler system. When newly planted, it was spectacular, and I guess many people in my area thought so, because it is definitely overplanted. Which brings me to why I'm rating it neutral (at best). It has a tendency to revert to green and it is declining each year. Don't know if it's correct or not, but it has become common practice around here to cut off all the dead foliage at the beginning of spring. This grass doesn't seem to recover , in fact it seems to get thinner. When I can no longer stand it, I fully intend to replace with some other stronger sculptural grass. Too bad, the purple foliage and the wheat like panicles are lovely in a newly planted grass. It may mean that it needs to be grown and treated as an annual.


On Apr 14, 2010, roijo from Lawrenceville, GA wrote:

In Zone 7B this wonderful plant must be treated as an annual. Sure wish I could winter over but have never been able to do so. I just keep buying each spring.


On Nov 2, 2009, bjoates from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

I purchased these gorgeous plants in little 5" or 6" pots. That was last November. No extra work, just watered by my sprinkler about 5min every other day. They are absolutely beautiful and now stand 5' to 6' high and about 4' wide. I have them close to my wall because they are on the narrow side of the driveway, but they are the best. Recently I decided to add rocks to the ground around them. I know I will enjoy these plants for years to come.

One thing, I am thinking I should trim them at some point. I have seen them trimmed flat, but I have also seen them trimmed like a cone keeping about 3' of the height. Which way is best?


On Sep 4, 2009, jerry31557 from Patterson, GA wrote:

I am in zone 8b and have been blessed by a wonderful person that has sent me some of the Purple Fountain Grass and I am debating whether or not to plant in a 12x12x12 containers with Miracle Grow, "moisture control" to be exact. Also to put them in full sun. Here it is September 3 and just getting them started. Can someone help me to know what to do. We did have a cold winter this past but usually it is somewhat mild. Should I just pot them up and hold over winter or go ahead and put in containers. Advice would be great. If you would please email me at [email protected] and put in subject line "Purple Fountain Grass" Thanks in advance.


On Apr 9, 2007, bambooster from Anderson, SC (Zone 7b) wrote:

I planted 2 of these in my front yard. We used a drip-irrigation system and had ammended the clay soil. By the end of summer, they had grown 4'x4' and they were absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately the landscaper and the nurseryman said that they are not perennial in Zone 7. They make a nice winter interest plant though. I finally dug them up in March and will replace them with new ones. They love full sun and the long, foxtail plumes look great dancing in the breeze. The burgundy foilage can't be beat and goes well with all kinds of plants. Heavy rains can make the plant wilt, but they bounce right back in a few days.


On Oct 29, 2006, Joy from Kalama, WA (Zone 8b) wrote:

This beautiful ornamental grass can be grown outside of it's hardiness range if you can provide it with some shelter during the winter.
I've had this plant for 5 years or better. I'm in zone 8b so I have to grow it in a container and winter it over in my unheated garden shed. It goes dormant during the winter but comes back in the early spring and grows bigger and more beautiful each year. I've had to pot it on to larger containers a few times. Now I just give it a bit of a root pruning and freshen it up with some new soil every spring. This way I can keep it in a manageable sized container and still keep it happy.


On Oct 25, 2006, stephanotis from Queen Creek, AZ (Zone 8b) wrote:

I'm in zone 8 and have never had or heard of a problem with overwintering this grass. I started with 2 plants, 1 gallon size, and now have more huge mounds than I know what to do with. Each year I chop it to the ground in the late fall, dig it up, and using an electric knife chop the rootball into 4ths or 8ths, depending on how large it is. Then I either give them away, plant some in new places around the yard, or throw some away. All Winter I'm sure it's dead and not coming back, then each spring they start by sprouting a few blades of grass, and then by the end of the Summer I'm back to where I started with huge stands of grass overtaking everything in it's path. I love this stuff though. It doesn't reseed, and it's very pretty nodding in the breeze. I plan to put a few bunches of it in ... read more


On Sep 17, 2006, yodapug from loganville, GA (Zone 7b) wrote:

I live in zone 7b and bought about 10 1 gallon pots of this lovely plant and the tag from the Home Depot said that they were perrienals in our area. Needless to say I lost everone of them, but because I did not keep the receipt I could not take them back. I do love them so I bought eight this year and would like to overwinter them and need to know how. I have a very dark garage and that is about it. If anyone has done this I would love to know how. Thanks


On Jul 29, 2006, karenkat05 from Menlo Park, CA wrote:

I'm an inexperienced gardener in Menlo Park CA (zone 9), and bought 2 pennisetum setaceums in June when they were about 6" tall at a fine local nursery because i just fell in love with their look and color. i had been clearing out an old neglected garden bed off the kitchen patio - it was heavy in clay, so i had forked in gardener's choice as instructed on the big bag and made a whole new 15' x 4' bed that gets midday sun from noon to about 3 but is otherwise in shade. the rubrums are now 34" tall x 16" wide including what I call their "plumes" and are simply beautiful, the stars of the bed along with sword and pony tail ferns and some salvia, etc.. talk about dumb luck !! a highly recommended grass for those who like grasses and are in the right climate. thanks for all the tips on ... read more


On Aug 9, 2005, darylmitchell from Saskatoon, SK (Zone 3a) wrote:

I've grown this two years in a row and it's a very lovely accent plant. It's grown as an annual in this zone, as the winter is too severe for it to survive. The dark purple, almost black colour of the leaves and stalks provides great contrast with other garden plants. The showy seed heads look wonderful swaying in the breeze. It grows well both in containers and in the ground. I don't think it's drought-tolerant, but can take a windy site since its narrow leaves minimize moisture loss.

It needs some hot, sunny weather to get growing, and it can take a while for the seed heads to show. In a cool year they didn't pop out until mid-July, but were already visible by mid-June in a hot year. Also, it will only reach a height of about 2 feet in this northern climate. It can be gro... read more


On Mar 14, 2005, amahlman from Lake Stevens, WA wrote:

I am curious how do you know if it is coming back it is March around 61f and all my plants are showing signs of life except this one. Should I rip it out now or wait. Not sure what zone I am in. I live in Seattle WA.


On Jul 29, 2004, daryl from vernon, BC (Zone 6a) wrote:

I live in a zone 6 in the interior of British Columbia.I have been planting these beauties for approx 4 years now ,they are outstanding in the garden or in pots,they do not however survive our winters (yet),going to try to bring them in to a more sheltered area of the house in the fall,let you know next year if it worked.


On Jun 15, 2004, Wingnut from Spicewood, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

I bought two one-gallon plants and repotted into two gallon pots since I wasn't going to put them in the ground just yet. It's been no more than two months and they've filled the two gallon pots and are blooming to beat the band! I can't wait to get them in the ground.


On May 17, 2004, terriblethumbs from Chanute, KS wrote:

I planted several Pennisetum Rubrum last summer and they were absolutely beautiful. This spring I trimmed back the old dead stalks. It is now the middle of May and I do not see any signs of life. The other grasses I have are growing. I really like this purple grass and certainly don't want to dig it up. I need to know if I should be seeing signs of growth or if I lost the grass over the winter.


On Apr 13, 2004, hudsonrivermike from Ossining, NY (Zone 6b) wrote:

I live in zone six, and this plant is amazing in part sun, in big pots! The show really starts in late July, and carries on through late October. They grow to about 6' high and 2-3' wide! I find that LOTS of water is key!


On Oct 7, 2003, wondering wrote:

Does anyone have any experience in Zone 6 of overwintering this plant?


On Sep 17, 2003, nic5 wrote:

Great xeric plant. In zone 8 with intensely hot summers, I watered by hand about once a week for 2 minutes (but heavily mulched) and this plant has thrived---5 feet tall and gorgeous. Another in a different location has endured but not thrived with much less water.


On Sep 11, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

This will grow to a huge size if in a normal garden setting, with normal water and fertilizer routine in 9b.

Better suited for a wild lands or open space setting. Will reseed readily, needs to be sheared to the ground each Spring to maintain shape and clear out dried fronds.


On Jun 10, 2003, kld wrote:

I planted this last year with some shorter ruby grass in front of it and they were beautiful together. It is well worth re-planting each year, and I pretty much plan my whole garden around it now.

These plants started slowly for me in the spring, then really took off in mid- to late- June. When I planted them, they were scrawny little stands about 9" tall, but by August, they were 4' high and had filled out a lot! Be patient... :)

I'd like to try to propagate them; the ones I had last year were too big to dig up and bring inside, and growing from seeds is not recommended.


On May 29, 2003, SunshineSue from Mississauga, ON (Zone 6a) wrote:

Neutral because I planted one just 3 or 4 weeks ago, and there has been absolutely no change in its size at all. Having said that, we haven't had the best weather during that time. We've had lots of rainy, overcast weather & today is the warmest it has been at 22c or about 72f.

I know that some grasses are very slow growing, but since this is an annual in these parts & does get very large I'm a bit concerned because I placed it in the centre, a very prominant spot of my front garden. It's supposed to end up being the focal point and the tallest plant.


On Oct 20, 2002, dovey from Columbus, OH (Zone 5b) wrote:

Purple Fountain Grass a favorite for color, grace and ease of control.


On Sep 30, 2002, jkom51 from Oakland, CA (Zone 9b) wrote:

In coastal northern California (U.S.), this reaches amazing height and width. A 1-gallon plant planted in April became 6' tall and 4' wide by the first of August. Restricting water (once every 7-10 days) slows the growth down to a more manageable size of 4' high x 2' wide.

Pennisetum setaceum has become increasingly available at nurseries, and one of its best features is that - unlike many grasses - it does NOT reseed itself. Cutting it down to keep it from overshadowing everything else can be done at any time, transplanting is also easy. Excellent for windy sites, like all grasses the movement of the stems and feathery seed heads is very attractive.

Note that there are some mixed comments here: some people are referring to the Rose Fountain Grass which... read more


On Aug 15, 2002, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

This is an annual for me in Zone 6 but sure a great accent plant. It would go well with almost any color scheme. It is a plant I will grow again next year; I have really enjoyed having it in my garden.


On Aug 8, 2002, usmale90 wrote:

I bought about six of these plants from a friend. They were nearly dead when I got them but I planted them around a wellhead in my backyard and they took off. During the dry season I cut them down to about 8 inches tall and that helps them survive until the rainy season when they take off again.