Pennisetum advena ‘Rubrum’ or Purple Fountain Grass is a tall (1.5m tall x 1-1.5m wide), ornamental grass with origins in Africa. Its foliage, which remains a striking burgundy red to bronze colour for most of the year in mild climates, seems relevant for discussion in Autumn.
Rubrum also features large, attractive cream feathery flowers held above the foliage during Spring, Summer and Autumn. Notably, flowers are completely sterile so it will not become a weed like its invasive cousin Pennisetum setaceum.
Both the spectacular foliage and flowers of Rubrum can be used to great effect in landscapes, particularly when mass planted. A dwarf form is also available.
It has a place in the formal garden in untamed sweeping masses among well-ordered and clipped plantings. It fits in well with meadow gardens, providing height and colour variety in a sea of other grasses and perennials. Rustic landscapers will enjoy Rubrum’s rugged appearance. It even does well as an informal hedge –picture it doubled with clipped buxus or syzygium. Using some imagination, Rubrum can offer something for most gardens.
Full sun will encourage Rubrum’s rich foliage colour. It will also tolerate up to 50% shade. It has good drought tolerance, becomes quickly established and thrives under a wide variety of conditions from protected coastal to dry inland climates as well as damp, poorly drained soils. It will even survive light frosts with some leaf burning and die back. The dwarf form is not as cold tolerant as it’s full sized parent.
Caring for Rubrum is simple:
- · annually trim Rubrum by 2/3 in early Spring to remove last season’s spent foliage
- · fertilize with slow release fertilizer after trimming
- · keep mulched and
- · water over hot Summers to keep it looking it’s best
Bluedale sell Rubrum in 140mm pots and recommend 2-3 plants per square metre for mass planting and 1 plant per square metre for specimen planting. From Spring 2014, Rubrum will be available in Viro-tube 10 pacs.