The lovely purple fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (ht 1-1.5m), is very popular in Sydney gardens. It has deep burgundy leaves that grow into an attractive shape, and fluffy purple-pink flowers throughout summer and autumn. The foliage is a dramatic contrast to silver leaves, such as those of Artemisia cultivars, or white flowers, and also can echo near-black blooms, such as Hemerocallis 'Black Ambrosia'. The fresh growth in spring has limey undertones, which can be echoed by placing the grass near lime-leaved plants.
Ornamental grasses bring a unique dimension to the garden with their graceful movement in the breeze and their simple elegance, unique linear texture and arching form. They can be used as a focal point in a border, or repeated amongst plantings to create a unifying effect through the garden. The foliage provides an excellent contrast to big bold leaves or rounded shrubs. Purple fountain grass also looks wonderful in a container. There are dwarf versions of this plant available, such as 'Red Riding Hood' (ht 40-75cm) and 'Ruby Magic' (ht 45 cm), for very compact places.
I cut all my specimens as low to the ground as possible around June so that the regrowth can commence in late winter. They only seem to need routine feeding and watering once established, and seem to suffer from no pests or diseases. Divide every five to ten years. This cultivar so far has not self-seeded in my garden, unlike others in this species of ornamental grass.
Pennisetum setaceum originated in tropical Africa, South-West Asia and the Arabian Peninsula.