How to Grow Pennisetum Plants

Guide to Growing Fountain Grass, Pearl Millet and Napier Grass

Pennisetum plant genus grasses may be half hardy annuals, half hardy perennials or hardy perennials.

Pennisetum blooms from the end of summer through the early months of autumn.

When in bloom they carry many spikes of fuzzy / feathery flowers. These can reach from 60 cm to 1.2 m (2 to 4 feet) in height.

Some common names for Pennisetum are Fountain Grass and Feathertop.

Fountain Grass

Pennisetum villosum
Pennisetum villosum - Feathertop Grass by Matt lavin; creative commons.

Ornamental millet
Ornamental millet by Quinn.anya.

Pennisetum Plant Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Fountain Grass, Pearl Millet, Napier Grass, Kikuyu Grass, Feathertop Grass, Buffelgrass.
Life Cycle: Hardy annual. Half hardy perennial, hardy perennial.
Height: 30 to 160 inches (75 to 400 cm).
Native: Tropical and temperate regions.
Growing Region: Zones 1 to 10. As a perennial in zones 5 to 9.

Flowers: End of summer through to the start of autumn.
Flower Details: White bristles. Panicle. Spikelets
Foliage: Broad. Flat. Long.

Sow Outside: Cover seed. First two months of spring. Spacing 18 to 36 inches (45 to 90 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: two to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Six or seven weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.

Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Rich soil. Moist soil. Some species are drought tolerant. Regular watering. Perennials should be cut back to the ground in late autumn. Propagate: dividing in the spring.
Family: Poaceae.
Miscellaneous: Invasive weed in many countries.

How to Grow Fountain Grass and other Pennisetum Plants

Fountain grasses and other Pennisetum members can be sown either indoors or outdoors.

If sowing outdoors then do so in the first few months of spring and lightly cover the seeds.

Fountain grasses like to grow in sunny parts of the garden. Ideally the soil should be moist, well drained, and fertile.

If first growing indoors, then start about 7 or 8 weeks in advance.

The Fountain grass seeds should take about two to four weeks to germinate at 21 degrees Centigrade 70°F.

Transplant the young seedlings into the garden at about 45 to 90 cm (18 to 36 inches) apart. Do this about a week before the last frost of spring is expected.

Caring for Feather grass (Pennisetum)

Fountain grasses and other Pennisetum plants like to grow in moist soil so water regularly.

In cold areas, add mulch in the winter to protect the roots.

If growing perennial Pennisetum species, it is best to cut the plants down to the ground just after the last frost of spring. This encourages vigorous new growth.

If you require extra Fountain Grass plants, then they can be propagated by division; this should be done in the spring.

Common Questions

How many members does the Pennisetum genus contain?

The Pennisetum genus contains from 80 to 140 species, mainly consisting of perennial and annual grasses.

Do Pennisetum members make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, members of the Pennisetum genus, particularly ornamental fountain grasses, are widely used in landscaping for their attractive foliage and bottlebrush flowers.

Which Pennisetum species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

Pennisetum alopecuroides, commonly known as Fountain grass, is popular among gardeners for its arching, fountain-like foliage.

Are Pennisetum plants fragrant?

Typically, Pennisetum plants do not have a fragrance.

What is the perfect location to grow Pennisetum?

Pennisetum prefers a sunny location and well-drained soil. It can tolerate a range of soil types and conditions.

Is Pennisetum invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Some species of Pennisetum, such as Pennisetum setaceum or Crimson Fountain grass, are considered invasive in certain areas of the USA, especially in California and Hawaii.

How do I remove Pennisetum plants from my garden?

To remove Pennisetum plants, cut back the grass and dig out the root system. Keep an eye out for self-seeded plantlets which may require additional removal.


Pennisetum is a genus in the Poaceae family, containing around 80-140 species. Commonly known as fountain grasses, these plants are admired for their arching, feathery blooms which create a "fountain" effect.

Pennisetum plants prefer a sunny position with well-draining soil. They are typically planted in spring. With their attractive foliage and showy flowers, these plants make excellent additions to borders, beds, or as specimen plants, adding texture and movement to the landscape.

I hope that you found this guide on how to grow grow Pennisetum plants in your garden. You may also enjoy my gardening guides on how to grow Magnolia grandiflora, Anethum plant, and Galanthus plants.