How To Know if Your Purple Fountain Grass Is Dead

Growing purple fountain grass, or any kind of ornamental grass, can be challenging for gardeners. Purple fountain grass often appears dry, and sometimes doesn’t have any color, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dead. So, how can you know if your purple fountain grass is dead?

You’ll know if your purple fountain grass is dead if its turning brown, its off-colored, or the soil it’s in is completely dry. Another indicator that your purple fountain grass is dead is if it’s full of insects or has been severely impacted by animals.

Growing purple fountain grass isn’t always the easiest, especially when trying to determine the health of your grass. Let’s take a deeper look at the different ways to know if your purple fountain grass is dead.

1. Your Purple Fountain Grass Is Turning Brown

Ornamental grasses, though in particular the purple fountain grass, have a tendency to lose color and feel dry when the plant is experiencing some sort of hardship. Generally, completely healthy purple fountain grass will look green and purple, but some individual flowers at the tops of the grass might be a light brown or yellow color. This often means that the flower is no longer blooming, or that that individual glade has died.

However, when the entire plant begins to turn brown, this is a different issue. Different hews of brown represent different issues

  • A rust-colored brown: means that your plant might be infected with a fungus.
  • A dark brown: can indicate that the grass has been “burned” by the heat and exposure to direct sunlight. 
  • A light brown: can indicate that the plant is between stages, or is dead. 

Therfore, no matter what shade of brown your grass is, it’s an indication that’s it’s dead or dying. Ensure you’re providing your plant with the proper care so it doesn’t turn brown or become off-colored.

2. The Tips of Your Purple Fountain Grass Are Off-Colored

Sometimes, ornamental grass will not completely change color, but certain parts of the grass will feel or act differently than other parts of the plant. One easy way to tell if your purple fountain grass is dying is by feeling the tips of the grass blades. If the top feels especially dry or is looking off-color, that area of the blade might be dead, or the entire blade could be dying.

Similar to issues associated with browning plants, an off-color tip can be indicative of a number of different things. However, the most common reason for the tips of the grass to turn color and dry is because that area of the grass is having issues receiving the nutrients and water it needs. As plants age (or as it gets later into the season), they can have a hard time pushing nutrients to the edges of plants. Therefore, if the tips seem different, your grass might be dying or dead.

3. The Soil the Grass Is Planted In Is Dry

One issue that can cause ornamental grasses to appear dead is the fact that they feel very dry. Dry feeling grass is not necessarily an indication that the grass is dead. 

Sometimes, purple fountain grass can feel incredibly dry and stiff, but be in perfectly fine condition. Other times, dry feeling grass suggests that the plant is dying. There isn’t an easy way to tell just from the plant if it’s receiving enough water.

Instead, try feeling the soil the grass is planted in. Grass needs about 1-2 inches (2-5 centimeters) of water weekly in order to thrive. This isn’t necessarily an arduous demand, but during dry spells, this can be especially challenging. 

If you feel the soil and it’s somewhat moist, the amount of water the soil is getting isn’t an issue causing the plant to die. If it feels completely dry, your plant might be dead or dying. It’s essential to keep up with watering purple fountain grass to ensure the soil never gets too dry to cause it to die. If the soil is very dry but the grass isn’t completely dead, you can try to save it by watering the plants immediately.

4. The Soil Lacks Nutrients

Purple fountain grass is a great plant to grow because it often doesn’t need too much to succeed. As long as the grass gets plenty of sunlight and water, it can grow almost anywhere. This also means it can grow in most kinds of soil, so long as the soil can drain properly. However, one indicator that your grass might be dead is if the soil lacks nutrients.

The easiest way to determine if the soil has the nutrients your grass needs to sustain itself is by conducting a soil sample. This can easily be done at home with a kit purchased at many retail stores, but you can also run a more anecdotal test by seeing if other plants grow well in the soil the grass is planted in. If not, your soil might not have the nutrients needed to sustain your plant.

5. Your Purple Fountain Grass Is Full of Insects

One of the biggest issues that plague many different types of ornamental grass is insects. Purple fountain grass provides the perfect habitat for insects to thrive in. Insects can use the grass as a food source, a warm place to seek shelter, or a spot to lay larvae and reproduce. As a result, many insects reside in ornamental grass growths.

Unfortunately, most of these insects don’t provide much benefit to the grass. While certain insects (bees, for example) are pollinators that will help the grass to reproduce, most insects just like to eat the grass, causing the potential for damage. One way to tell if your grass is dead is by running your hand along the patch. If you find many insects living in the grass, you likely have an infestation and the grass is dead, or soon will be dead.

6. Your Grass Has Been Impacted by Animals

Similar to issues that some ornamental grasses have with insects, purple fountain grass can have problems growing due to animals destroying the plant. Some small animals, particularly rabbits, mice, and other rodents, will try to eat your grass, which is a quick way to kill it. Other animals might try to take shelter in your ornamental grass, or might walk through it. Larger mammals like deer are especially well known for this.

One easy way to tell if your grass is dead is to look for bite marks, signs that the plant has been trampled, or if the plant has been uprooted. While a plant that has been slightly eaten by an animal or even crushed might not always die, these are common indicators that, at the very least, your plant has issues growing.

7. The Climate Isn’t Suitable for the Grass

While it’s true that most regions have fairly predictable weather patterns, other areas are known to have freakish weather. In the Northeast, it isn’t uncommon to see rain, snow, sun, warm, and cold weather all within one day. Not only can plants have a hard time with these rapid changes, but can also have a hard time even slightly outside of average temperatures.

This is especially true with purple fountain grass. Though technically a perennial, the grass can only survive winters in climates that, at their coldest, get around 30° F (0° C). This only occurs in the deep south of the US. If the weather has been poor, your plant might very well be dying.

Final Thoughts

Purple fountain grass is a great plant when conditions are appropriate, but creating and maintaining appropriate growing conditions can be very difficult. Determining if your grass is dead or dying can also be challenging because of the many ways the grass presents itself.

If you notice any of the symptoms listed in this article, your plant is probably either dead or dying. If you’re interested in learning about how you can save your plant when these symptoms are present, check out this article: Why Does Your Ornamental Grass Look Dead?

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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