Alternatives – Purple Fountain Grass

Q: I read that the purple fountain grass I planted last year will not come back this spring because it freezes in winter. I really like the way it looks but can’t afford to plant it every year. Is there something similar that comes back every year?

A: Purple fountain grass is indeed a beautiful plant! Its seeds are sterile, so you’re confined to buying small plants as they become available in spring or dividing a large plant into several small clumps. I have a couple of alternatives for you. Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, has several cultivars with varying degrees of red or purple in the foliage. Consider ‘Shenandoah’, ‘Heavy Metal’, or ‘Cheyenne Sky’. Muhlygrass, Muhlenbergia capillaris, has beautiful pink seedheads in fall. Look online for pictures of these plants to see if they suit your wants.