Scientific: Pennisetum setaceum (syn: P. macrostachynum)
Common: fountain grass
Family: Poaceae
Origin: Africa and the Middle East, but has naturalized across the world including the American Southwest.

Pronounciation: Pen-ni-SE-tum se-TA-ce-um

Hardiness zones
Sunset
All zones
USDA 2-11

Landscape Use: Grass accent, use in groups of 3 to 5, bank cover, natural landscape. Of questionable future use as it has become invasive. I generally do not recommend it for Phoenix landscapes unless it's one of the fruitless varieties listed below.

Form & Character: Evergreen to deciduous grass, loose, informal, wispy and free.

Growth Habit: Clumping and moderate to 4 feet.

Foliage/texture: Green grass blade with tinged to pink; fine texture.

Flowers & fruits: Bisexual florets on pink flower spikes, florets solitary or in groups of 2 to 3, surrounded by involucre bristles.

Seasonal color: Copious flower plumes during in spring and again during fall.

Temperature: Foutain grass goes dormant in cold winter areas, but not in Phoenix.

Light: Full sun

Soil: Tolerant

Watering: Little to none once established, variety cupreum need more water than species to remain robust.

Pruning: In Phoenix, cut to ground in spring or in fall after flower. Actually the best way (though of questionable legality) to care for this plant is to burn it to the ground in the fall, as it will build up a thatch over time. Burned plants rejuvenate nicely. Silly landscape maintenance 'professionals', aka 'horticultural clods', will shear fountain grass with frequent gusto into a bizarre cosmic geometric orb-like entity.

Propagation: Easy by seed, or division of clumps.

Disease and pests: None

Additional comments: Variety cupreum (purple fountain grass) has purple foliage and flower stalks, tends to rarely reseed. Other purple leaved cultivars include 'Burgundy Giant', 'Rubrum', 'Fireworks (variegated red foliage color), 'Compactum' and 'Rubrum Dwarf'. Cut flower plumes for flower arrangements. Spray flower plumes with hair spray to prolong shelf life. With the exception of sterile varieties, the invasive potential of this grass plant into the Sonoran Desert surrounding urban areas is high. Use with discretion!

Here's a great hybrid fountain grass....it's Pennisetum x advena 'Rubrum'. Totally spectacular hybrid when plants are massed together.

Invasive Alert: All but the fruitless varieties of this large bunch grass have 'naturalized' in Phoenix urban landscapes and riparian areas in and outside of the city. It's an aggressive invader!