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


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 Forsskål in Flora Aegyptiaco (Arabia) in 1775. 

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. 

Plants of the World Online currently lists 10 synonyms of Cenchrus setaceus (the same species previously given other names). Nine of the synonyms are species of Pennisetum that were all discovered to be the same species).

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 edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

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

Plants of the World Online by Kew currently lists 108 accepted species in the genus Cenchrus (as of when I updated this page on 3-4-19). (See links below).

The Cenchrus and Pennisetum genera are very closely related and species have been moved back and forth from time to time. The Wikipedia page says, “Authors recently proposed to transfer Pennisetum into Cenchrus, along with the related genus Odontelytrum.” Well, right now, if you click on Odontelytrum, it takes you to the Cenchrus page already but not Pennisetum…

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 bought this Purple Fountain Grass from Muddy Creek Greenhouse on June 7, 2018. I put it in the bed on the left side of the porch on the north side 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 make 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 churh 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.


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