Propagating of fountain grass is very easy. We either use division or seeds. In our nursery we grow thousands of pennisetum alopecuroides (swamp foxtail grass or swamp fountain grass) each year.
Fountain grass is really popular as a landscaping plant. It looks amazing mass planted. It’s hardy to a wide variety of conditions.
We propagate the common (green foliage) variety using seed. To propagate the purple foliage fountain grass we use division.
First i will detail how we propagate pennisetum using seed.
Pennisetum will begin to flower towards the end of spring right through until the beginning of winter.
The seeds are the inside the beautiful plume flowers that the grass is grown for. When the hairs of the feathery flower plume being to go brown the seeds are ready for harvest.
Because this is a deciduous grass we find it best to harvest the seed early in the season. That way you’ll still be able to produce plants that flower during the same season.
We simply strip the fluffy flower heads off the stem. The remove really easy and each flower head will give a heap of seed. Not all the seeds will germinate but due to the sheer volume that each flower produces you’ll end up with tons of viable seedlings.
Sowing the seeds
We like to sow our seeds into a seedling tray. But any container that can hold some potting mix and will drain water freely is fine.
First we fill our seedling trays with a good quality potting mix. We then spread the seed heads as evenly as possible over the surface of the potting mix.
Then very lightly cover the seed heads with more potting mix. Keep this layer very light! It’s ok if you can still see some of the seed heads.
If we cover them in too much potting mix they will struggle to germinate!
When the seeds are covered you want to give the tray or container a good watering. You shouldn’t need to water them again until they start growing.
Overwatering may lead to the seed heads rotting before they germinate.
It will only take about 7-10 days before you start to notice the little seedlings emerging.
It usually takes around a month before we start potting the seedlings. A you can see from the above pictures the growth is very fast.
We like to pot ours into a 2′(50mm) tube pot. Again you can use whatever container you like so long as the drainage is adequate.
Make sure you use a good quality potting mix to ensure success. Another little trick we like to do is water all our seedlings with some seaweed liquid fertiliser to really kick start their growth.
It will only take 3-4 weeks for a decent root system to develop. Once the roots are looking good your plants can be planted directly into the garden.
You’re then only looking at another 3-4 weeks before the new plants are producing beautiful flower plumes.
So if you collected the seeds at the end of spring you’ll have new plants producing flowers by early autumn.
When we collect the seed later in the season we will leave the plants in tubes in our greenhouse over the winter. They will still brown off but will not die in any sever frosts we may have.
Then come spring after the last frost we can plant them outside. Established plants out in the garden will survive the frost provided we do not cut them down to ground level.
Below is a short youtube video we created showing the above steps. We try are trying to create short videos on all the plants we propagate. So gives us a helping hand and give it a like and a subscribe😉
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Pennisetum alopecuroides Propagation Video
Pennisetum alopecuroides- swamp foxtail grass information
Pennisetum alopecuroides- swamp foxtail grass is a clumping perenial grass with slender green foliage. It produces feathery purple flower spikes that resemble a foxes tail in late spring right through to autumn. It goes dormant in winter.
Swamp foxtail is great for adding texture to landscapes. Looks amazing mass planted.
Prefers a sunny position. Tolerates a wide variety of soil types. Plants should be cut back after winter to allow new growth. Its a good idea to remove finished flower heads. It seeds readily.
Botanical name: Pennisetum alopecuroides
Common name: Swamp foxtail grass, Fountain grass
Native to: Australia & Asia
Flowers: Late spring-autumn
Position: Full sun
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