The 11 Best Types Of Fountain Grass To Add To Your Garden

Last Updated September 28, 2021 By Bella Zinti

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Fountain grasses— often referred to as ornamental grasses— are easy-growing plants that add interest and texture to your garden beds. These decorative perennial plants grow in mounds with cascading foliage that create a fountain-like display.

But with so many varieties to choose from, it can feel a tad overwhelming to navigate the different types and know which is right for your growing conditions and greenery display. So to help you find your perfect new plants, we've rounded up the 11 best types of fountain grass below. With ornamental grasses of all shapes, sizes, and growing conditions to choose from, there's something for every garden space.

The 11 Best Fountain Grasses to Add to Your Garden

1. Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass

Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) is a fine-textured ornamental grass with wispy, light green foliage that sways with even the slightest breeze. The cool-season grass is native to the Southwest, Mexico, and South America, so it does best in dry soil with full sun. It's hearty, drought-tolerant, and grows remarkably well in containers. During the late spring, a single plant will produce thousands of light, wheat-like seed heads that may self-sow, so it's best to plant it somewhere you can control the spread.

Growing conditions— Full sun, little water, and dry soil

Size— 1.5 to 2 ft

USDA growing zones— 6 to 10

2. Red Fountain Grass

Red Fountain Grass

Red Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), sometimes called 'Red Head' Fountain Grass, gets its name from the large red plumes it sprouts during mid-summer. The unique blooms are a great way to add texture and interest to your garden beds. The grass' fast-growing, rounded shape lends well to mass plantings along borders and behind colorful perennials.

Growing conditions— Full sun, well-drained soil, and infrequent deep watering

Size— 3 to 4 ft

USDA growing zones— 5 to 9

3. Chinese Silver Grass

Chinese Silver Grass

Chinese Silver Grass (Miscanthus Sinensis) goes by many names: maiden grass, Japanese silver grass, miscanthus, and Eulalia, to name a few. It's a popular choice for landscapers and gardeners due to its impressive size and silvery-white flower spikes. While it's undoubtedly beautiful, it's known to spread rapidly and is considered invasive in some parts of the US, so it should be planted with caution and cut back each spring before new shoots appear.

Growing conditions— Full sun, well-drained soil

Size— 3 to 6 ft

USDA growing zones— 4 to 9

4. Bamboo


Did you know that bamboo (Bambusa sp. or Phyllostachys sp.) is actually a member of the grass family? Its sturdy, upright stalks grow incredibly quickly, especially when watered regularly during its first growing season. This allows the plant to develop its deep, sprawling root system. The tall plant can be used as a natural fence, privacy barrier, or simply as a spectacular backdrop to your favorite blooms. With a range of bamboo varieties to choose from, it's easy to find one that's the right height and appearance for your garden space.

Growing conditions— Full sun, well-drained soil that is slightly acidic

Size— 3 to 30 ft, depending on the variety

USDA growing zones— 4 to 11

5. Switchgrass


Switchgrass (panicum virgatum) is a hearty prairie grass that can withstand all kinds of soil types and weather conditions. It's tolerant to drought, salt exposure, and dry soil. You may also see switchgrass referred to as prairie grass, thatch grass, wild redtop, and tall panic grass.

Growing conditions— Full sun to partial shade, moderately moist to dry soil

Size— 2 to 8 ft, depending on the cultivar

USDA growing zones— 5 to 9

6. Zebra Grass

Zebra Grass

Zebra grass (Miscanthus Sinensis Zebrinus), sometimes called porcupine grass, is striped green and yellow fountain grass that pairs well with tropical plants and brightly colored flowers. It dies off in the winter and produces new dark green leaves every spring that develop golden yellow stripes as they mature throughout the growing season. They're resistant to most pests and diseases, well in containers, and can grow to be quite tall in the right conditions.

Growing conditions— Full sun, moist soil

Size— 4 to 6 ft

USDA growing zones— 5 to 9

7. Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass

Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) is a tall, reed-like grass that works well as a privacy screen or natural fence. The stiff, upright plumes can grow to be ten to thirteen feet tall, and a single clump can spread upwards of six feet wide. But caution, this eye-catching fountain grass is considered invasive in many areas due to its hardiness, rapid growth, and ability to crowd out other perennials.

In addition to the full-size fountain grass, there's also dwarf pampas grass which grows to be 4 to 5 feet tall. It develops the same impressive white plumes in the late summer.

Growing conditions— Full sun, moist soil

Size— 6 to 13 ft

USDA growing zones— 6 to 11

8. Purple Fountain Grass

Purple Fountain Grass

Thanks to its gorgeous burgundy-purple foliage, Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum rubrum) is one of the most popular warm-season grasses. The fast-growing plant is drought tolerant, easy to care for, and grows well in containers, making it a great choice for inexperienced gardeners and ornamental grass lovers alike. The rich reddish-purple hues look stunning paired with deep green foliage and bright blue and yellow blooms.

Growing conditions— Full sun, evenly moist soil

Size— 3 to 4 ft

USDA growing zones— 9 to 10

9. Japanese Forest Grass

Japanese Forest Grass

If you're looking for fountain grass that's on the shorter side, you can't go wrong with Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra). The Japanese native has slim, bamboo-like stalks that bring an exotic look to any garden space. It works particularly well in containers, on borders, and mixed with dark green plants and purple foliage. The bushy fountain grass thrives in moist, humus soil and should be watered at least once per week (and oftentimes more frequently during high temperatures in late summer) to support healthy growth.

Growing conditions— Part shade, moist soil

Size— 2 ft

USDA growing zones— 5 to 9

10. Blue Fescue

Blue Fescue

Blue Fescue (Festuca glauca) is a short, spiky fountain grass that works well as groundcover and edging thanks to its silvery-blue stems and densely mounded shape. The evergreen plant is incredibly tolerant and doesn't require much care, making it a great choice for low-maintenance gardens. It comes in several cultivars with slightly different shades and sizes, the most popular being the Elijah Blue Fescue.

Growing conditions— Full sun or part shade, well-drained soil

Size— 1 ft

USDA growing zones— 4 to 9

11. Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass

Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia) is the perfect choice for gardeners looking to add a splash of color to their landscape design. The plant's fluffy, feather-like plumes emerge during fall and winter to brighten up garden beds during the off-season. It's incredibly hearty, drought-tolerant, and hassle-free. You may also see the pink-tipped fountain grass listed as sweetgrass, mist grass, hairawn mulhy, and gulf muhly grass.

Growing conditions— Full sun or part shade, well-drained soil with medium moisture levels

Size— 3 to 4 ft

USDA growing zones— 4 to 9

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About the author

Bella has a Bachelors degree in interior design, is a master gardener. She designs nourishing outdoor & indoor spaces guided by the practice of Feng Shui.