Pennisetum setaceum 'Sky Rocket'
Common Name: fountain grass
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 9 to 10
Height: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to October
Bloom Description: White with purple-pink bristles
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful
Attracts: Birds
Tolerate: Black Walnut, Air Pollution

Culture

Winter hardy to USDA Zones 9-10 where it is easily grown as a perennial in average, medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Best performance is in full sun. In St. Louis, it will not survive winter and is typically grown as if it were an annual. Although species plants can be grown from seed each year new plants are typically purchased from nurseries each spring for planting in the garden after last spring frost date. Technically plants can be dug in fall, trimmed and overwintered in greenhouses or indoors in sunny cool areas, but many gardeners simply prefer to purchase new plants each spring. Plants may need some staking or other support and should be sited in areas protected from strong winds. Provide consistent water throughout the growing season.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pennisetum setaceum is a tender perennial fountain grass that is native to Africa, southeast Asia and the Middle East. It is a rapid-growing, clump-forming grass that produces arching, linear, narrow green leaves to 3’ tall and late summer flower spikes that rise above the foliage to 4’ tall. In warm areas where in may be grown as a perennial, it readily self seeds. In colder areas it dies in winter. Location means everything. Overall clump appearance is reminiscent of water spraying from a fountain, hence the common name.

Genus name comes from the Latin penna meaning feather and seta meaning bristle in reference to the flowers having long, feathery bristles.

Specific epithet means bristled.

‘Sky Rocket' is a member of Proven Winner's Graceful Grasses® series and ItSaul Plants' Celebration series. It was discovered and selected in March 2009 by Ronald Strasko and Karen R. Stever of ItSaul Plants in Alpharetta, GA as a culm sport of Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks'. It has variegated foliage with vertical bands of green and white that typically have green centers and white margins. 'Sky Rocket' has sterile, flowering plumes that are white in color and slightly tinged with purple-pink on the bristles. It grows 2 to 3 ft. tall and 1 to 2 ft. wide. United States Plant Patent USPP #21,497 awarded November 16, 2010.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Specimen, group or mass. Attractive foliage and flower spikes of this ornamental grass provide excellent texture, color and contrast to borders, foundations and open areas.