About a week ago Jenn, of Garden Djinn posted a question to me, “As a professional landscaper in the phoenix area, do you plant fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, and if you do, can we talk about it? It is considered an invasive plant.”
Here is the culprit above.
Pennisetum setaceum - 'Green' Fountain Grass
A native of South Africa, it seeds numerous times during the year and crowds out or own native species in sand washes and creek beds.
Well I recognized the name and I had planted some Pennisetum setaceum – Purple Fountain grass last year. What the heck? This had me worried. I got on the phone with a couple of the growers I buy from including Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, and this is what I’m told:
Above are three of the plants local growers are selling:
Pennisetum setaceum – 'Purple' Fountain Grass.
Yup. They are both called Pennisetum setaceum. But they are different cultivars. There are actually more then two, in fact Mountain States grows there own version called Pennisetum setaceum – ‘Eaton Canyon’, or ‘Red Dwarf’. The red and the purple don’t seed as prolifically as the green fountain grass and most of the seed produced is sterile. How do they know this? They tried it with a test group of 'Purple' and 'Eaton Canyon' before they ever sold a single plant. I did find out however, that if there are some green Fountain Grasses near by, the purple and the red can cross pollenate and make more green fountain grass.
I do have one more call to make, a guy from the Arizona Native Plant Society. I'm saving him for last. I wanted to hear what the local growers were saying before talking to anyone from AZNPS. If I find out anything new, I’ll post it. I the mean time, git yer hoes and dig up some Green Fountain Grasses. Thanks Jenn for your question.
Here is a closer look at a Pennisetum setaceum - Purple Fountain Grass.