Purple three-awn

Aristida purpurea


Purple three-awn deserves more attention than it gets. This California clumping perennial grass has finely rolled foliage, grows 18-24 in. tall and produces colorful purple flowers and seed inflorescences that grow throughout the summer. The seed stage is when it’s most colorful. Foliage and flowers fade and decline during fall transition into dormancy; little trimming is needed to maintain good character from year to year.

Purple three-awn is widely distributed in Southern California as well as northern Mexico and the Great Plains states. It is a robust plant that has caught the eye of horticulturists for its ornamental value in native and exotic landscapes and gardens. It can remain in an evergreen state in mild winter zones throughout the year, otherwise it turns deciduous by late fall and becomes sparse and reduced in size. Purple three-awn does best in sunny locations and does well in containers, along borders and in mass plantings to provide color and texture contrast to trees and shrubs. Some seeds can germinate in irrigated settings but are usually easy to manage.

Plant Type: Grass, Native
Foliage Character: Drought deciduous
Habit: Clumping
Growth Rate: Fast
Foliage Color: Bright green
Flower Color: Purple
Flower Season: Summer
Soil Adaptations: Well-draining soil, Loam, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Aridity, All day sun
Function: Mass planting, Foliage accent plant, Container plant, California native, Borders, Small spaces
Height: 18 in. – 24 in.
Width: 24 in. – 30 in.