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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’: New from Thompson & Morgan

Posted by Graham Rice on 04 Jan 2010 at 03:33 PM

Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' - new variegated fountain grass. Image ©ItSaul Plants.The African fountain grass, Pennisetum setaceum, is an elegant and attractive, but rather tender, ornamental grass most often seen in the form with burgundy red foliage – ‘Rubrum’. But now the first variegated form has been released.

And it’s not a variegated form of the wild green-leaved version but of ‘Rubrum’ – so the leaves really are colourful.

Reaching about  90cm/3ft in height, the attractive arching foliage is deep burgundy in colour in the central part of each leaf but pink at the edges. In the heart of the plant, where the foliage is shaded from full light, the foliage fades to green and white. The overall effect is dazzling. ‘Fireworks’ also flowers, in summer, the plumes opening in reddish-purple and turning light brown as they mature.

Unlike the more familiar fountain grasses grown in perennial borders this is not a hardy grass. It makes a superb centrepiece in a large container and with the trailing lime-yellow foliage of Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight’ around it, or with orange calibrachoas (not for the faint-hearted!), it makes a stupendous summer display. Make sure it gets not only plenty of sunshine but is fed regularly and does not dry out.

This new variegated form was found by Ron Strasko of Creekhill Nursery in southern Pennsylvania. He noticed a single variegated shoot on a container grown plant of P. setaceum ‘Rubrum’ on his nursery back in the spring of 2004. He separated it off, grew it on to prove that it was stable and a good grower as well as attractive. And now it’s available for the first time.

You can order Pennisetum setaceum ‘Fireworks’ from Thompson & Morgan.


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