Pennisetum purpureum

Common Name: elephant grass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: Africa
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 4.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Bloom Time: October
Bloom Description: Yellow-brown
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Tolerate: Black Walnut, Air Pollution


Warm season tender perennial grass that is winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10. It is grown as an annual north of USDA Zone 8. This grass performs best in medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. It appreciates consistent water throughout the growing season. It can be dug in fall, trimmed, and overwintered in greenhouses or indoors in sunny cool areas in cold winter climates, but many gardeners simply prefer to purchase new plants each spring. Tall plants may need some staking or other support and should be sited in areas protected from strong winds. When grown as a perennial, species plants can become invasive self-seeders. Species plants are not currently recommended for landscape use in warm winter areas where freezing temperatures typically do not occur prior to December 1 (USDA Zones 9-10) in large part because plants will flower, seed and self-seed invasively in such conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pennisetum purpureum, often commonly called napier grass, cane grass or elephant grass, is a tender perennial grass that is native to Africa. It is a rapid-growing, clump-forming grass that produces upright arching, narrow, linear, green leaves in dense clumps growing to 4-6' tall.

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 purple.


No serious insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

Attractive purple foliage of some cultivars provides excellent texture, color and contrast to borders, foundations and open areas. As an annual, it may be grown as a specimen, in groups or massed. It may spread invasively in warm winter areas where plants will flower and seed. Containers.