FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is a uniform compact cultivar of Asian fountain grass. ‘Hameln’ has attractive deep green arching linear leaves. In late summer culms are tipped with silvery bottlebrush like flowers. The flowers arch from the clump giving the plant a fountain-like appearance. Plants develop bronzy fall foliage before assuming a soft beige winter color. ‘Hameln’ thrives in sunny exposures with moist well drained soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: The parent species Pennisetum alopecuroides is indigenous to grasslands, open woods, wastelands and wetlands of Eastern Asia and possibly Western Australia.
‘Hameln’ is the oldest Pennisetum alopecuroides cultivar. The variety may have had a German origin since it is named for the Pied Piper’s Hamelin, Germany. This selection is known for its compact habit, consistent hardiness and floriferous nature. ‘Hameln’ is said to have deeper green leaves and to bloom about 2 weeks earlier than the species.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is hardy from USDA Zones 6-8. This cultivar is reportedly not as cold hardy or heat tolerant as the species.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is a diminutive mounding grass that produces many vertical culms from short rhizomes.
Blades are narrow and sharply pointed with a deep green color that transforms to orange or bronze in autumn.
In late summer as the foliage reaches mature height, creamy spike-like panicles appear. The panicles have a dense bristly bottlebrush form. They are silvery with yellow pollen and are produced about two weeks earlier than those of the parent species.
At maturity each spikelet contains one almond colored grain. The dried bristly flowers and foliage have a soft beige winter color. In warm climates, however, foliage is evergreen.
Plants attain a 2’ height with an equal spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ prospers in sunny sites with average to moist soil. Plants tolerate part sun, clay, heat, drought, salinity and seasonal flooding.
Avoid excessive shade, fertilizers or water as these conditions promote weak sprawling stems. In northern zones, plants should be sited in protected areas.
Winter seedheads contribute little ornamental value since they usually shatter and disperse early in the season. Since self-seeding can be a problem, plants should be deadheaded in autumn before seed mature.
In most cases, the only other maintenance needed is to cut this grass to the ground in late winter.
Plants are relatively pest free but young foliage may be grazed by livestock, deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: This grass is an appealing Accent, Mass Planting, Border or Groundcover that provides Erosion Control, Fall Color, Winter Interest, Cut Flowers, and Attractive Blooms. Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ is appropriate for Containers, Coastal Gardens, Cottage Gardens, Low Maintenance Plantings, Water Wise Landscapes, Rain Gardens, Edges of Water Gardens and Perennial Borders.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Hameln’ with Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’, Echinacea purpurea, Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’, Liatris spicata or Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’.
Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ offers similar appearance and cultural needs. ‘Little Bunny’ is much shorter (to 1’), however. Sporobolus heterolepis could provide similar foliage texture and growth habit for a native plant garden.
TRIVIA: In 2000 ‘Hameln’ received the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association Growers Choice Award.
Tips For Care Of Fountain Grass
Fountain grass (Pennisetum) is a mound-forming ornamental grass and a garden favorite, as the care of fountain grass is easy. The cascading leaves on this plant have a fountain-like appearance. Clump-forming grasses grow in mounds or clumps, making them ideal for many areas without becoming invasive. It can be used alone as a specimen plant or in a border alongside other perennials.
Fountain grass is an attractive perennial grass with densely clumped growth. Blooming of its foxtail-looking flowers generally takes place from late summer through the fall. The small flowers of fountain grass are tan, pink or purple. During fall and throughout winter, this plant will also reward gardeners with spectacular foliage displays.
Types of Fountain Grass
There are different types of fountain grass to choose, ranging in size from 12 inches to 3 feet. One of the most common varieties is dwarf fountain grass Hameln (P. alopecuroides ‘Hameln’). Its light tan blooms turn pinkish brown in fall. This fountain grass blooms earlier
than the others, making it a great choice for gardens with shorter growing seasons.
Purple fountain grass (P. setaceum) has both purple foliage and blooms. Used for its reddish foliage and showy flowers is red fountain grass (P. setaceum ‘Rubrum’), which grows about 3 to 4 feet tall. Other types of fountain grass cultivars include ‘Cassian,’ ‘Little Bunny’, ‘Little Honey’, and ‘Moudry’.
Growing Fountain Grass
Growing fountain grass is easy. As with most ornamental grasses, fountain grass is extremely adaptable. Care of fountain grass is easy as well. It’s sometimes helpful to cut back the foliage in the spring prior to growth.
Although not specifically a requirement for fountain grass, fertilizer can be applied as growth resumes in the spring. Established plants do not need regular watering, except during periods of drought.
Fountain grass does well in nearly any type of soil; however, for greater results, fountain grass should be planted in fertile, well-drained soil. Fountain grass enjoys full sun but tolerates some light shade. Look for areas receiving full sun, as these plants prefer warm conditions. Warm-season grasses thrive in warmer temperatures ranging from 75 to 85 F. (24-29 C.).
Transplanting Fountain Grass
Transplanting fountain grass is not always necessary; however, it can be dug up and divided in areas where overcrowding may occur or if more plants are simply desired. Division usually depends on spacing or visual appearance. For instance, plants suffering from die-out in the center can be divided to improve their appearance. Division can be performed in early spring prior to new growth or after the growing season in the late summer or fall.
Taking care of fountain grass is a rewarding undertaking for a gardener. By growing fountain grass, you add a low maintenance option to your garden.