03 March 2012

Grasses for our gardens

Growing ornamental grasses has always been pretty popular if you consider all the amaranths, purple millet, bird seed millet, pampas grass, broom, blue fescue, plume grass, fountain grass, blue oat grass, northern sea oats - well you get the idea.

Purdue University's helpful information sheds additional light on millet.
"Millet is a general term for a wide range of small seeded cereals. The millets of the Poaceae (Gramineae) are small seeded annual grasses, including a wide range of cereals, that may be used both as grain and for forage. Millets can be successfully grown in a wide range of environmental conditions, being better adapted than most crops to hot, dry regions. They are of potential value particularly in semiarid regions because of their short growing seasons. They can either tolerate drought and intense heat or avoid these conditions by growing to maturity very quickly. The millets can play an important role in the economy of many less-developed countries of the Old World because they are consumed directly for human food. However, the millets in the western world are grown primarily for birdseed, livestock feed, hay, or as an emergency catch crop."

Do you grow any ornamental grasses in your garden? Take a look at the White Flower Farm website for some ideas with photos.
Miscanthus sinensis Silver Feather


Millet is this year's popular grass to plant. If you think it is only for bird seed, think again. Millet is also a delicious nutty-flavored, nutritious food for humans with 15% protein, tryptophan and minerals.

Try cooked millet as a replacement for rice to improve nutritional punch and reduce starch in your diet. Foxtail millet is an ancient food crop.

The ones we think of as ornamental millets -

Pearl Millet - white or cream colored flowers/seed heads

Jester Millet -
Summer Hill seeds
Pennisetum glaucum Purple Majesty - Purple/maroon flowers/seed heads  

Jade Princess is 2-feet tall with green leaves and purple spikes

Burpee has seeds for a few varieties.

The ornamental millets are heavy feeders needing an abundant supply of nutrition and water to produce maximum results. They should be grown in full sun in a good loamy soil. They can be grown in large containers (24 inches in diameter) but frequent attention to watering and fertilization is required to achieve good results.


Panicum miliaceum grows 4-feet tall. If you want purple spikes, grow Violaceum.

Foxtail millet, Setaria macrostachya, or large-spike bristle grass, is native in Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas.

Broadcast seed in rows outside or in starter pots inside. They are easy to grow, germinate quickly and are easy care.

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