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How to Save Dying Purple Fountain Grass

By Kathleen Sonntag ; Updated September 21, 2017

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' or purple fountain grass is a very attractive ornamental grass. It is sold as a perennial in many nurseries, but it is not winter hardy. It should be a considered tropical plant and grown as an annual in areas that have cold winters. In mild winter areas, purple fountain grass will survive the winter outdoors. Grasses like full sun and well-drained soil. If your plant is dying, it is either planted in an area that got too cold in winter, or it is not getting enough sun, or the right amount of water.

Prune back the grass plant leaving a little green growth of if there is some.

Dig carefully around the roots and remove the plant from the soil. Try not to break the thicker roots as you loosen the soil.

Look for healthy roots. If the root ball is dry and the roots are shallow and thread-like, the fountain grass is not getting enough water and the soil is too heavy for the roots to spread.

Gently remove loose soil from the roots and place the plant in a container with at least 3 inches of potting soil in the bottom. Water thoroughly and allow the pot to drain.

Fill the container with soil, water again and place your fountain grass in a sunny location. Water regularly and watch for new growth.


Things You Will Need

  • Purple fountain grass plant
  • Pruning shears
  • Shovel
  • Container large enough for the plant (drainage holes essential)
  • Potting soil


  • When any plant does not do well in your garden, first dig it up and plant it in a container with good potting soil. Place the container in a location that meets the plant's requirements for sun. Water regularly to keep the roots moist. When new growth appears, replant in the garden.


  • On the USDA Invasive and Noxious Weeds List, Pennisetum setaceum is included as an invasive species in Hawaii.

About the Author


Kathleen Sonntag lives in Carmel, California, where she is a writer, teacher and editor. She is a Master Gardener and writes articles for gardening publications. Sonntag has written and edited reading test passages and has edited children's books, cookbooks and memoirs. Her articles appear on GardenGuides.com. Sonntag holds a Bachelor of Arts from University of California, Berkeley.