© RHS, Herbarium



Common name: Fountain grass

These arching ornamental grasses with fluffy flowers add drama to a late summer or autumn border and can soften the edge of a path or patio. They are also effective in large containers that restrict their spread.


Pink, reddish-purple, pale green or white feathery flowers in spike-like panicles, appear in summer and autumn among ribbon-like, mid or dark green leaves, sometimes striped with cream or yellow or flushed purple. Deciduous types can have good autumn colour.


Mainly drought-tolerant, these grasses appreciate light soil that drains easily, ideally in full sun.


They will not thrive in heavy soils that tend to be wet, especially in winter, and do not do well in shade.

Did you know?

The flowers are good for cutting, for use in both fresh and dried arrangements. Some of these grasses self seed in gardens: for this reason Pennisetum setaceum can be invasive and so is no longer sold in British and European garden centres or nurseries. Thankfully there are plenty of other Pennisetum to try growing.

Growing guide

Pennisetum we recommend

Buy pennisetum from RHSPlants.co.uk

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Useful advice

Containers: summer selection

Containers: summer selection

Ornamental grasses: selection

Ornamental grasses: selection

Perennial borders: choosing plants

Perennial borders: choosing plants

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