Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ (Red Fountain Grass) – A clumping semi-evergreen grass that grows upright to 4-5+ feet tall with dark burgundy-red foliage that arches gracefully outwards and produces one foot long red plume-like inflorescences that rise above the foliage and arch over nicely toward the tips. This grass seems to be completely evergreen (red) in frost free zones, but goes deciduous with frost and it is root hardy to about 20° F and useful as a perennial in USDA Zones 9-10 and as an annual in colder areas. Plant in full sun and water sparingly to control height. It is both moderately drought and heat resistant but looks its best with occasional summer irrigation. This is a great ornamental grass with dark foliage that works well in mass plantings or mixed with other contrasting colored plants. It looks its best if it is cut back in late winter to cleanly show of its new emerging foliage. This clone rarely seeds out but occasional seedling plants emerge in garden areas and seem true to the type. For many years most nurseries and references have listed this plant as a variety of Pennisetum setaceum, either ‘Rubrum’ or ‘Cupreum’. While it superficially resembles Pennisetum setaceum, a declared noxious weed in the western US, this plant has in the past also been described by some grass taxonomists as being a selection of the more tropical Pennisetum macrostachyum. In the grass section of the Flora of North America, which includes naturalized and cultivated grasses, the specific name it is listed as in now Pennisetum advena . Dr. Joseph K. Wipff, previously with Texas A&M and now a turfgrass breeder, wrote the section on Pennisetum in the Flora of North America and has indicated that Red Fountain Grass is most likely a cross between Pennisetum setaceum and P. macrostachys and as a hybrid the name most appropriately be Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ and this is how we have listed this plant. The Latin word ‘advena’ means “newly arrived” or “stranger”. Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’, nor selections made from it such as the variegated clone ‘Fireworks’, should really not be listed as a cultivar of Pennisetum setaceum as this is not only incorrect, but it would also confuses these plant with Pennisetum setaceum, a known noxious weed. In California and several other states where Pennisetum setaceum is a declared noxious weed it is actually not legal for nurseries to grow this species. In California it currently it has a C rating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, meaning it must be controlled in nurseries. Organizations such as PlantRight and many others are rightfully advocating that it not be grown at all so it is an important distinction that the non-weedy hybrid cultivars not be mistaken for this species. We have grown Pennisetum ‘Rubrum’ at our nursery since 1982 and until 2006 also listed it as a cultivar of Pennisetum setaceum but have since corrected this. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’.

Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ (Red fountain grass)

Botanical name

Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’

Other names

Red fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’, Purple fountain grass


Pennisetum Pennisetum

Variety or Cultivar

‘Rubrum’ _ ‘Rubrum’ is a frost hardy, clump-forming, deciduous, perennial grass, often grown as an annual, with long, upright to arching, flat or rolled, maroon to dark red leaves, flushed green in spring. Narrow, nodding panicles of long-bristled, reddish-purple flower spikelets bloom from midsummer into autumn.

Native to

Garden origin






RHS AGM (Award of Garden Merit)

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Reddish-purple in Summer; Reddish-purple in Autumn

Flushed green, Maroon in Spring; Maroon in Summer; Maroon in Autumn

General care


Cut back in early spring.

Propagation methods


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Where to grow

Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ (Red fountain grass) will reach a height of 1.5m and a spread of 1.2m after 1-2 years.

Suggested uses

Drought Tolerant, Cottage/Informal, Containers, Coastal, City, Beds and borders, Flower Arranging, Low Maintenance, Prairie planting


Plant in light, moderately fertile, well-drained soil in a sheltered, sunny site. Tolerates drought and heat. In frost-prone areas, needs winter protection or overwintering indoors. May be evergreen or semi-evergreen in areas with mild winters.

Soil type

Loamy, Sandy

Soil drainage


Soil pH

Acid, Alkaline, Neutral


Full Sun


South, West



UK hardiness Note: We are working to update our ratings. Thanks for your patience.

Tender in frost (H3)

USDA zones

Zone 11, Zone 10, Zone 9, Zone 8

Defra’s Risk register #1

Plant name

Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’ (Red fountain grass)

Common pest name

Rice leaf nematode; Strawberry crimp disease nematode; White tip nematode; White tip nematode of rice

Scientific pest name

Aphelenchoides besseyi



Current status in UK


Likelihood to spread to UK (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

Impact (1 is very low – 5 is very high)

General biosecurity comments

Damaging nematode affecting rice crops and strawberry production in warmer climates; could potentially present a threat to strawberry production and ornamental production in protected environments. But modern production practices seem to reduce likelihood of impacts. Pest is also regulated at EU level; which reduces likelihood of entry.

About this section

Our plants are under greater threat than ever before. There is increasing movement of plants and other material traded from an increasing variety of sources. This increases the chances of exotic pests arriving with imported goods and travellers, as well as by natural means. Shoot is working with Defra to help members to do their part in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive risks.

Traveling or importing plants? Please read “Don’t risk it” advice here

Suspected outbreak?

Date updated: 7th March 2019 For more information visit:

Plants & Flowers

Common name: Purple Fountain Grass

Family: Poaceae

Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’

Description: Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ is graceful, clumping perennial with showy, arching, purple foliage. During spring, summer and autumn pinkish, feathery, sterile plumes are produced, rising above the foliage. New growth is lime tinted.

Pennisetum advena Rubrum is a quick growing grass. This grass seems to be completely evergreen (red) in frost free zones, but goes deciduous with frost and it is root hardy to -6 to -3°C (20-25°F). In frost zones can be overwintered in sheltered containers.

Cultivation: Pennisetum advena Rubrum require low maintenance once established. Use any well composted mulch type to maintain the soil humidity during dry times.

Trim it back about to ground level in winter or early spring annually to remove last season foliage and to encourage new growth.

Position: Pennisetum advena Rubrum prefers full sun positions to bring out the rich foliage colour. Also it thrive well in part shaded position. Pennisetum advena Rubrum will perform well in windy locations. Drought and heat resistant.

Soil: Pennisetum advena Rubrum prefers a light, well drained but moisture retentive soil.

Water: Water as required to keep the plant healthy for the first 4 to 12 weeks. After this irrigation is optional. Some summer irrigation may be required.

Fertilising: Fertilise it in spring using slow release fertiliser and water well to start re-growth.

Propagation: Lift and divide congested plants in spring.

Grown in containers: When growing Pennisetum advena Rubrum in container, its hardiness is raised by about 2 zones. However, you can always grow container ornamental grasses as annuals.
Soil: For potted Pennisetum advena Rubrum use soil based potting mixture.
Light: Place the containers in direct light to bright filtered.
Water: Water the plant sparingly making the entire potting mixture moist. Allow the top two-thirds of the mixture dry out between waterings.
Fertiliser: Apply standard liquid fertiliser once every two weeks, from mid-spring through summer only.

Uses: Pennisetum advena Rubrum is suitable for pots, as a feature plant or in mass plantings.

It creates an excellent colour contrast in landscape designs. Works well in borders and helps with erosion control. Suitable as annual waterside planting in frost zones and it is perennial in frost free climates.

The coloured plumes are used for flower arrangements for both, cut flowers and dried flower.

Height: 1m
Spread: 45-60cm
Hardiness zones: 9b-12

Flowers Lady Container Grass, Cutting Flowers, Garden Plants, Ornamental Grasses & Sedges Pennisetum advena Rubrum, Purple Fountain Grass

I never paid the deserved attention to grasses but in recent years I’ve been fascinated for some gardens that included grasses for movement. Movement is an important aspect of any landscape design, along with others such as color and texture. Nothing better to add some movement like the feathers and they are easily divided to create more plants. This article focus on How to divide Fountain grass ‘Rubrum’ (Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’).

So when I went to a garden center and saw this Fountain grass (Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ or Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) I had to give it a chance.

How to divide Fountain grass ‘Rubrum’ (Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’) – original plant

I’m passionate about plant propagation and the first thing I thought was to divide it. It is very easy and I’m writing this post to show you step by step how to divide Fountain grass.

They grow in clumps and, when you see a plant that grows this way, there is nothing better than split the clump in several individual plants.

I did that in the end of Spring when the plant is growing vigorously.

Lift the plant

I lift the plant from the pot and with the help of a shovel I cut the root ball.

How to divide Fountain grass ‘Rubrum’ (Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’) – cut the clump Spread our dear plants:

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