By Bonnie L. Grant
Fountain grass is a spectacular ornamental specimen that provides movement and color to the landscape. It is hardy in United States Department of Agriculture zone 8, but as a warm season grass, it will only grow as an annual in cooler areas. Fountain grass plants are perennial in the warmer climates but to save them in cooler areas try taking care of fountain grass indoors. Learn how to winter over fountain grass in containers. This will allow you to enjoy the playful foliage for years to come.
Fountain Grass Plants
This ornamental has astounding inflorescences that look like purple squirrel tales. The foliage is a wide grassy blade with a swath of deep purplish-red along the edges. Fountain grass plants may get two to five feet tall, in a clumping habit. The arching leaves that radiate from the center of the plant give it its name. Mature fountain grass plants may get up to four feet wide.
This is a really versatile plant that tolerates full sun to partial shade, walnut proximity, and moist to slightly dry soils. Most zones can only grow this plant as an annual, but bringing purple fountain grass inside can save it for another season.
How to Winter Over Fountain Grass in Containers
The relatively wide and shallow roots of the grass are no match for freezing temperatures. Plants in cold zones should be dug up. You can put purple fountain grass in containers and bring them indoors where it’s warm.
Dig out several inches wider than the farthest reach of the foliage. Gently excavate until you find the edge of the root mass. Dig down and pop out the whole plant. Place it in a pot with good drainage holes in a quality potting soil. The pot should be slightly wider than the root base. Press the soil in firmly and water well.
Taking care of fountain grass indoors is not difficult, but you need to be careful not to overwater the plant. Keep it moist, (but not wet) because it can die very easily from drying out.
Clip the foliage down to about 3 inches from the top of the pot and stick it in a sunny window in a cool room. It will revert to green coloration and won’t look like much for the winter, but when it goes back outside in the spring, it should come back.
Bringing Purple Fountain Grass Inside
Put purple fountain grass in containers in late summer to early fall, so you are prepared to bring them inside when freezes threaten. You can bring fountain grass plants inside and save them in the basement, garage, or other semi-cool area.
As long as there are no freezing temperatures and moderate light, the plant will survive winter. Gradually acclimate the plant to warmer conditions and higher light during spring by putting the pot outside for longer and longer periods over a week’s time.
You can also divide the roots and plant each section to start new plants.