Pennisetum orientale - Oriental Fountain Grass

For maximum hardiness this plant should be grown in well-drained soil and full sun. Light shade is acceptable, but only in the hottest climates. Oriental Fountain grass will start to bloom by late June and will continue until frost. Considered by some to be the most floriferous of all the grasses. It even blooms for us the first year from plugs!

The multitude of 8-10 cm (3-4") flowers are nearly white with a hint of pearlescent pink. Dividing this grass can be difficult, with a high percentage of losses and should only be done in early Spring, just as the new growth appears. When transplanting be sure the crown of the plant isn't covered.

Many reference books list Pennisetum orientale as a Zone 6 plant, but it seems to be quite hardy in Zone 5, as long as there is good snow cover. Planting on a slope to improve drainage is recommended.

Good in containers.

Description: warm season*; clump forming
Foliage is green; narrow blade width; 30-70 cm (12-28") in height
Flowers are white; bloom in July through Sept; 40-100 cm (16-40") tall

Ideal conditions: full sun to light shade; moist, well-drained soil; will grow in any soil except those that are poorly drained

Coldest zone: 5 (find your zone; further info on plant hardiness)

Season of interest: July to winter

Drought tolerance rating: 2 (water to root depth once every 2 weeks); further info

Native to: mountains of central and south-western Asia to north-western India

Recommended spacing between plants: 50-90cm (20-36") why such a difference?

When to divide: when it shows a good flush of greenery in the spring, continuing until the new growth is about 12" tall; only in the spring (further info on dividing grasses)

When to plant or transplant: plant bare root plants only in late spring to early summer, when the soil is warm, about the same time you plant your bean or corn seeds. The roots will grow only in warm soil. Planting too early in the spring may cause the roots to rot. Similar story in the fall when the roots may not grow enough to establish before the cold and wet of winter, resulting in the demise of the plant.

When to cut back: before the new growth starts to appear, but after the cold weather is over. Cut back to about 3-4" from the crown of the plant.

Pronunciation: Pennisetum (pen-ih-SEE-tum) orientale (or-ee-en-TAL)


*a warm season grass likes to grow in warm weather. Before it will show signs of life in the spring, the soil must warm up, and be warm for possibly as long as two weeks.

More ornamental grasses

Compare Pennisetum orientale to our other grasses in this handy chart.


Pennisetum orientale - Oriental Fountain Grass
Pennisetum orientale - Oriental Fountain Grass