Does Purple Fountain Grass Come Back Every Year?

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The purple fountain is one of those ornamental grasses gardeners love having around their landscape. The arcing spikes of feathery bristles and purplish flowers that prick up from the tips of the stems are so fascinating to watch. 

However, there is a significant concern: Does purple fountain grass come back every year?

Well, it will die during the winter but come back to live within the spring season. Unfortunately, this Lazarus effect isn’t an every-year grace, even as a perennial plant.

I will explain more on that. But how much do you know about purple fountain grass, though? 

The table below will feed you with some valuable information. 

Purple Fountain Grass Profile

Common NamePurple fountain grass, red fountain grass
Botanical NamePennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’
Plant TypePerennial ornamental grass
Mature Size3–5 ft. tall, 2–4 ft. wide
Sun ExposureFull sun, partial shade
Soil TypeMoist but well-drained
Soil pHNeutral to acidic
Bloom TimeSummer, fall
Flower ColorBurgundy red
Hardiness Zones9-10 (USDA)
Native AreaAfrica, southern Asia

Types Of Purple Fountain Grass

These are the three most famous purple fountain grass species cultivars. 

  • Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’: 
  • P. alopecuroides ‘Burgundy Bunny’
  • P. alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ 

Does Purple Fountain Grass Come Back Every Year?

Purple Fountain Grasses are hypersensitive to freezing temperatures. 

Therefore, they barely make it through the freezing winter outdoors. It is like a dead stop for the plant. 

They are most likely to grown as an annual plant. 

However, they are hardy in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 9 and can thrive regardless. That is because these zones witnesses mild winter or temperature do not drop significantly. 

Some gardeners claim it can flourish in zones 7 and 8. 

I’m not too sure of that one. 

It will likely grow when given adequate weather protection in a turbulent winter. 

But I am only confident with zone 9 that your Purple Fountain Grass will (without a shadow of a doubt) come back. 

Anything outside these zones, your fountain grass will perish in icy winter and only grow back if you grow yours in a container and bring them inside.  

Is Purple Fountain Grass Easy To Care For?

There was a time when I used to have a purple fountain and a couple of other ornamental grasses around my garden. 

I didn’t remember doing much to have healthy growth and blooming. 

That is why they are such a popular choice for many gardeners because they are carefree in the yard as long as they get enough sun.

However, most gardeners apply a balanced, slow-release fertilizer in spring and summer to boost growth and flowering. 

It is a good idea. But Fountain grass can also thrive in poor soil. However, you do expect to get the same result. 

Pruning is also vital and should be done after each flowering cycle. 

The only drawback I can relate to is that purple fountain grasses are susceptible to pests like grasshoppers, mealybugs, and aphids. 

What Are The Best Alternatives For Purple Fountain Grass?

For whatever reason, you can’t get the purple fountain grass for your garden, or you simply want something different; there are alternative ornamental grasses that provide a similar visual impact. 

Here are a few purple fountain grass substitutes that might interest you: 

  • Plumegrass
  • Big bluestem
  • Maiden grass
  • Zebra grass
  • Purple silver grass
  • Purple fountain grass
  • Ornamental millet
  • Blue oat grass
  • Northern sea oats
  • Lilyturf
  • Black mondo
  • Blue fescue
  • Golden Hakone
  • Japanese blood grass
  • Mexican Feather Grass
  • Switchgrass
  • Little Bluestem
  • Red Fountain Grass
  • Fountain Sedge
  • New Zealand Flax

We advice doing a bit of Googling on the particular one you want to know if it is in line with your climate, growing conditions, and display characteristics you want.

What Pairs Well With Purple Fountain Grass?

Most homeowners like mixing plants to create a more dynamic and harmonious landscape that elevates the overall visual appeal of the property.

Well, you can do that with your purple fountain grass. Here are a few recommendations that complement each other: 

1. Silver Or Gray Foliage Plants:

  • Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)
  • Lavender (Lavandula spp.)
  • Artemisia spp

2. Bold Contrasts:

  • Orange or Red Marigolds (Tagetes spp.)
  • Yellow or Orange Lantana (Lantana spp.)
  • Red or Orange Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

3. Grasses And Grass-Like Plants:

  • Ornamental Grasses (Miscanthus, Panicum, etc.)
  • Sedge (Carex spp.)

4. Dark Foliage Plants:

  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)
  • Dark-Leafed Cannas (Canna spp.)

5. Subtle Neutrals:

  • Green Foliage Plants

6. Annuals And Perennials:

  • Pansies or Violas
  • Salvia spp.

I urge you to experiment with these combinations; see which combo REALLY speaks to you or reflects your style and preferences. And then replicate that.

There are many plants, each with different color schemes, textures, and characteristics.

Is Purple Fountain Grass toxic?

No, purple fountain grass isn’t toxic. 

But does it mean it is edible? 

Of course not! 

It hasn’t been proven that purple fountain grass has chemical toxins in its walls or tissues, but when ingested, it can cause mild gastrointestinal discomfort. 

While they are categorized among poisonous plants, they can harm you. 


And based on your climate, if you are skeptical about whether your purple fountain grass will come back, here are a few tips that might help:

First is mulching. 

If it frightens you that frost might kill your fountain grass, you integrate a thick mulch around its base right before the first frost. 

This insulates the root and helps heighten the chances of survival 

You can also grow them in containers and bring them indoors during the colder months. However, this technique works best for container gardening.