Pennisetum: Fountain grass, Cenchrus

Family: Poaceae
Common name: Fountain grass, Fountaingrass, Rose fountain grass

Fountain grass plants can be see in all continents; in all kinds of weather, soil and growing conditions. They are very commonly seen on roadsides, hillsides and open areas in India.

Fountain grass is characterized by large clumpy bushes and a cascade of fountain-like flowers spouting from the center, radiating outwards. There are over 140 species of fountain grass ranging in height from 2 feet to over 25 feet.

They have tall thin leaves that are about 2 feet tall; the color varying from green, to pink to purple depending on the species, and the time of the year.
Flowers are thin and tapering towards the tip containing spikelets with small bristles surrounding it.

The flowers can reach a height of 2-4 feet, standing well above the level of the leaves. They are rarely grown as garden plants since they are highly invasive and can take over your garden with their fast growth and propagation rate.

One of the most commonly seen species is Cenchrus Setaceus or crimson fountain grass, characterized by pinkish-red inflorescence. A variant called ‘Rubrum’ is popular among gardeners for its red inflorescence, and because this species are not invasive at all.

Though fountain grass is said to be a native of Africa, they are now common in all parts of the world. They are considered as invasive weeds, because their fast growth-rate can choke native vegetation or agricultural crops. They are susceptible to cause forest fires because of their thin leaves and flowers, but fountain grass can thrive after the fire from seeds that were safe under the soil.

Fountain grass prefers full sun and well-drained soil. They are tolerant to drought, pollutions, winds, salinity, poor soil, shallow soil, pests and almost all adverse conditions that can cause other plants to die.

Propagation is through seeds, each plant producing a profusion of seeds that can remain in the soil for over 6 years, waiting for the right conditions to germinate. They are dispersed by wind, water or insects.

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