Pennisetum alopecuroides (pen-ih-SEE-tum, al-oh-pek-yur-OY-deez) is an ornamental grass belonging to the family Gramineae, and hailing from Asia, Africa, and a variety of other temperate, tropical and subtropical climates around the world.
More on Landscaping with Ornamental Grass
There are over eighty species contained within this genus, Poaceae.
‘Hameln’ is a dwarf species which is one of the oldest cultivars of this genus.
This attractive, hardy grass is a good choice in settings where taller ornamental grasses would be too large.
It blooms early in the season and does well in climates experiencing shorter growing seasons.
You may hear this species referred to as Dwarf Fountain Grass or simply Hameln.
Another popular grass is Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’ (purple fountain grass) – Learn more about purple fountain grass care.
Dwarf Fountain Grass Care
Size & Growth
Hameln has a moderate growth rate and reaches a height of 2′ or 3′ feet and a spread of 1′ or 2′ feet.
It is best to place the plants 20″ to 30″ inches apart.
The plants’ long, sharp, arching leaves start out like a bright green and gradually transition to golden brown as the season progresses.
Leaves typically emerge directly from the soil and do not have stems.
Flowering & Fragrance
The plants’ inflorescence has a bottle brush appearance.
It begins blooming mid-summer and persists into mid-autumn.
The flower heads go through a number of changes from start to finish, transitioning from pale green to white to a harvest gold as they turn from bloom to seed.
Although there are many seeds on each seed head, this plant does not reseed itself.
Seed heads do make a good source of food for birds.
Light & Temperature
- This warm weather grass prefers full, bright sunlight and a warm, fairly sheltered setting.
- It can tolerate light shade.
- Temperatures ranging from 75° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit (24° – 29° C) are best.
- You will not see new growth on these plants until spring is well underway, and the soil has thoroughly warmed up.
- Dwarf Fountain Grass is perennial in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 9.
Soil & Transplanting
Dwarf Fountain Grass does well in almost any type of soil as long as it is well-draining.
For best results, amend the soil with plenty of organic matter to provide natural fertilization.
Transplant bare-root plants late in the springtime when the soil is thoroughly warmed.
If you plant too early in the springtime, the cold, damp temperatures may cause root rot.
If Hameln plants are planted during autumn, be sure to do so at least four weeks before the first predicted frost.
This will give the plants time to establish themselves before winter arrives.
Grooming & Maintenance
In the springtime, when your plants begin to grow, check to see if they need to be thinned and divided.
This is also the time to provide a light pruning, which will encourage bushier growth.
It’s also wise to prune away dead foliage early in the winter.
How To Propagate Pennisetum Alopecuroides
Dwarf Fountain Grass may be grown by sowing seed directly into the prepared bed in the springtime after all danger of frost has passed.
Be sure to keep the soil evenly moist until plants begin to grow and become established.
Or propagate Hameln by division.
As plants age, the centers open, and you’ll see the new stems originate around the margins of the plant.
When you see this, you’ll know it’s time to divide the plant into two or more smaller plants.
Generally speaking, you’ll need to perform division once every 5 or 10 years.
Pennisetum Alopecuroides Main Pest or Disease Problems
This hardy grass is not usually bothered by any sort of pest, and it is deer resistant.
When properly cared for, uncrowded, and planted in well-draining soil, the disease is not problematic.
Is Pennisetum Toxic Or Poisonous?
This grass is not toxic.
The seeds provide a food source for birds, and the blades are edible to some types of livestock and wildlife in Africa; however, the blades are sharp.
Take care not to plant this grass in heavily traveled areas as incidental cuts can occur.
When pruning, be sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection.
Keep in mind the cut stubble is also sharp.
Is The Pennisetum Plant Invasive?
Dwarf Fountain Grass is not listed as an invasive species, and it does not reseed itself.
Suggested Dwarf Fountain Grass Uses
This bird-friendly dwarf plant makes a lovely specimen plant in a small cottage, Zen, or Asian garden.
It makes a pretty border around a pond and casts a lovely reflection on the water‘s surface.
Hameln is a good tall border plant or tall groundcover, and it looks lovely in dry streambeds, mixed in with flowering perennials or as an addition to a bird garden.
Individual plants can do well in large containers.