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PENNISETUM glaucum

Image of Pennisetum glaucum

James H. Schutte

Family

Poaceae

Botanical Name

PENNISETUM glaucum

Plant Common Name

Millet, Pearl Millet

General Description

Highly valued as both a crop plant and ornamental, pearl millet is easy to cultivate, tough, and its seeds are attractive to birds. This warm-season grass is among the most ancient of the cultivated annual grains. It is believed to have originated from sub-Saharan Africa and was then taken to the Middle East and India approximately 4,000 years ago. In recent years garden-worthy purple and bronze-leaved forms have hit the market.

Millet is a broad-bladed grass with a narrow, upright habit. Each plant is solitary and looks a bit like a small corn plant. The flower panicles are dense and upright and appear when summer temperatures are hot. Upright clusters of little, round millet seeds follow. This is the same millet that you buy for parakeet treats at pet stores and wild birds eat it just as well. The best ornamental forms are the rich dark purple ‘Purple Majesty’ and bronzy green ‘Jester.’

This tough and easy-to- cultivate grass is widely adapted to drought and extreme heat. Be sure to provide it with full sun, average soil with a neutral to alkaline pH and excellent drainage. It is an important grain and forage plant for livestock in the Third World where climates are too extreme for wheat or corn. Millet looks best when planted in groups or dotted among other colorful ornamentals for sun. Perennials with soft, rounded habits are complemented by its sharp, vertical lines. The seed heads are wonderful cut, fresh or dried.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 8

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    8 - 11

  • Sunset Zone

    A1, A2, A3, H1, H2, 1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Grass

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    1'-2' / 0.3m - 0.6m

  • Bloom Time

    Early Summer, Summer, Late Summer, Early Fall

  • Native To

    Hybrid Origin

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Clay, Loam, Sand

  • Growth Rate

    Very Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Drought Tolerant, Average Water

  • Habit

    Upright/Erect

  • Seasonal Interest

    Summer, Fall

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    Light Green, Tan

  • Fruit Color

    Tan, Sandy Brown

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Green, Gold

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Bedding Plant, Container, Dried Flower/Everlasting, Edible, Herb / Vegetable, Mixed Border

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    Sometimes

  • Attracts

    Birds

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes