Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Syn. Pennisetum setaceum)-Purple Fountain Grass

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ after I brought it home on 6-7-18, #455-19.

Purple Fountain Grass, Etc.

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’

SENCH-rus   se-TAY-see-us


Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’

pen-ih-SEE-tum   se-TAY-see-um


Synonyms of Cenchrus setaceus (10) (Updated on 1-14-21): Pennisetum erythraeum Chiov., Pennisetum numidicum Paris, Pennisetum parisii (Trab.) Trab., Pennisetum phalaroides Schult., Pennisetum ruppellii Steud., Pennisetum scoparium Chiov., Pennisetum setaceum (Forssk.) Chiov., Pennisetum spectabile Fig. & De Not., Pennisetum tiberiadis Boiss., Phalaris setacea Forssk.

Cenchrus setaceus (Forssk.) Morrone is the correct and accepted scientific name for this species. It was described as such by Osvaldo Morrone in Annals of Botany (Oxford) in 2010. It was first named and described as Phalaris setacea by Pehr Forsskålin Flora Aegyptiaco (Arabia) in 1775. Mr. Marrone passed away in 2011 at the age of 54… 

Pennisetum setaceum has been regarded as the scientific name for the Purple Fountain Grass for MANY years. The industry still uses this name on their labels and MOST websites still use this name. 

Pennisetum setaceum (Forssk.) Chiov. was described by Emilio Chiovenda in Bullettino della Società Botanica italiana in 1923. 

The genus, Cenchrus L., was described by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

The genus, Pennisetum Pers., was named and described by Christiaan Hendrik Persoon in Synopsis Plantarum in 1805.

There has been a long debate between the Cenchrus and Pennisetum generas and many species have been moved back and forth for many years. The page on Wikipedia says, Cenchrus was derived from Pennisetum and the two are grouped in a monophyletic clade. Some species now in Pennisetum were once members of Cenchrus, and some have been moved back. A main morphological character used to distinguish them is the degree of fusion of the bristles in the inflorescence, but this is often unreliable. In 2010, researchers proposed to transfer Pennisetum into Cenchrus, along with the related genus Odontelytrum. The genus is not accepted as separate from Cenchrus in Kew’s Plants of the World Online database.”

Plants of the World Online by Kew currently lists 107 species in the genus Cenchrus  (as of when I updated this page on 1-14-21). It is a member of the plant family Poaceae with 757 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made.

Formerly, the Pennisetum species included various grasses and grains and is commonly referred to as the fountain grass family. The Cenchrus genus is a family of buffalo grasses, sandburs, and sand spur. In other words, members of one genus are loved and the other hated. 🙂 I hesitated to completely change the genus and species name on this blog because names keep changing back and forth and become synonyms of one or the other. But, since the name stuck for a while I decided to go ahead and change it. Keep in mind, just because many websites use the other names it doesn’t mean they are wrong. They can use whatever name they choose as long as they were validly published.


Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 6-11-18, #458-4.

I brought this Purple Fountain Grass home from Muddy Creek Greenhouse on June 7, 2018. I put it in the bed on the left side of the porch on the northeast corner of the house. 

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 7-13-18, #477-2.

Family: Poaceae
Origin: Africa, Southeast Asia, Middle East
Zones: USDA Zones 9a-11b (20 to 40° F)
Size: 3-5’ tall x 2-4’ wide
Light: Sun to part shade
Soil: Medium, well-drained soil
Water: Average

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 7-13-18, #477-3.

Typically grown as an annual outside zones 9-10, they will not survive the winter here. So, if you want a grass that is perennial, you should choose a different species. There are many ornamental and wild grasses that have a similar seed head that are perennial just about everywhere. Just don’t plant an invasive species…

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 7-13-18, #477-4.

The Purple Fountain Grass is best grown where they will create an interesting focal point and in the back or center of combination planters. They probably aren’t too particular about the soil type as long as it is well-draining. After all, it is a grass…

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 7-29-18, #487-28.

The Purple Fountain Grass makes an excellent addition to flower beds but are best placed where they can be seen. I say that because I put a Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ in this bed which nearly hid the Purple Fountain Grass.

Cenchrus setaceus ‘Rubrum’ (Purple Fountain Grass) on 10-5-18, #516-2.

I haven’t really grown many cultivars of ornamental grasses so this one was a new experience. I am pleased with its performance and will definitely buy more in the future if they are available locally.


I didn’t bring any Purple Fountain Grass home with me in 2019, but I did use a couple when I planted the bed at the church I attend. I may add photos of them at some point.

I hope you enjoyed this page and maybe found it useful. If you have any comments, questions or suggestions, I would like to hear from you. Please click on “like” if you visited this page. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. 🙂 You can check out the links below for further reading. The links take you directly to the genus and species of this plant. The links below are to websites that list this plant as a Cenchrus setaceus or Pennisetum setaceum.


Please leave a comment. I would like to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.