Great Grasses: The Annual Pennisetums

Great Grasses: The Annual Pennisetums

There has been a tremendous interest in the annual ornamental grasses, and the one that is leading the pack is the genus Pennisetum. It is a large group of plants, better known as fountain grasses, because the first grasses introduced were the burgundy fountain grasses, P. setaceum. Approximately 20 species have been described in the genus, and those used in the ornamental field number about five. The pennisetums provide some extraordinary beauty in the landscape, are reasonably easy to produce and enjoy a strong demand that’s getting stronger.

Fountain Grasses

It all started with wonderful ornamental grass, purple fountain grass, or P. setaceum ‘Rubrum.’ Well known for years, it has provided arching, light burgundy flowers over burgundy foliage. Often seen in containers, plants are inexpensive and nearly as popular today as ever. ‘Red Riding Hood’ is a recent introduction and is far more muted.

‘Fireworks’ is one of the finest new fountain grasses to reach the marketplace in some years. When it first appeared, the plant coloration was unstable, but that problem appears to have been corrected. Everyone who sees the plant is smitten. When we ask people to mark their favorite plants with a flag in the trial gardens, this one ends up with dozens of flags. Plants are no more than 3 feet tall and the flowers are similar to ‘Rubrum,’ yet are tan colored. The flowers are fine, but it is the rainbow of foliage color that makes this a no-brainer.

The Millets

The first selection that caught our eyes a few years ago was ‘Purple Majesty,’ an outstanding upright deep purple plant with erect dark flowers. This became an immediate success because of the coloration and handsome flowers.

This was followed by others, but ‘Jester’ gained popularity because of the bicolor foliage, especially where leaves met the stems.

This year, we were stunned by the beauty of ‘Jade Princess.’ It sports wide iridescent chartreuse leaves and dark flower stems. The flower heads start out tan and mature to a deep brown. It’s another flag magnet. I like it because it’s pollenless, and for hay fever sufferers like me, that is a real bonus.

The Princess Grasses

This collection of grasses first appeared on the scene about three years ago, through the breeding of Dr. Wayne Hannah at the University of Georgia. They are vigorous and, depending on cultivar, grow 3 to 8 feet tall. Most have spectacular purple foliage that gets darker as temperatures become warmer.

‘Prince’ came out with little fanfare, but its vigor, dark foliage and absolute disregard for heat and humidity resulted in many landscapes with ‘Prince’ in it. Its vigor was a problem in the greenhouse and in the landscape where it often topped 7 feet.

‘Princess’ is its sister and became far more popular because it was about three-quarters the size of ‘Prince,’ and it had various shades of purple and burgundy. ‘Princess’ is spectacular in full sun. None of the plants flower in temperate climates, and that’s a good thing where reseeding of grasses is frowned upon.
‘Princess Caroline’ and ‘Princess Molly’ are Dr. Hannah’s latest “inventions.” They are shorter, more pendulous grasses. Each has been enhanced through better disease resistance and shorter, more-compact growth. All of these grasses are available through plant brokers or individual grass propagators.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Great Grasses: The Annual Pennisetums

  1. I love my 2 princess carolines. I believe them to be evergreen but unsure. Should I cut them back. If so when? I am in SAVANNAH. Any info would be helpful. Thanks!

More From Varieties...
2017 North Carolina University Field Trials

January 17, 2018

2017 North Carolina State University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for North Carolina State University/JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More

January 16, 2018

Ball Horticultural Company, KeyGene Announce Successful Genome Sequencing of Impatiens

The companies’ breakthrough high-quality genome sequence and assembly of I. walleriana should lead to more efficient breeding and identification of disease resistance markers for important industry solutions.

Read More
Golden-State-Bulb-Begonia-Feature

January 16, 2018

PanAmerican Seed Buys Begonia Product Line From Golden State Bulb Growers

The acquisition of the popular AmeriHybrid and On Top begonia genetics expands PanAmerican Seed’s assortment in this important class.

Read More
Latest Stories
2017 North Carolina University Field Trials

January 17, 2018

2017 North Carolina State University Field Trial Result…

Check out the 2017 field trial results for North Carolina State University/JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, NC.

Read More

January 16, 2018

Ball Horticultural Company, KeyGene Announce Successful…

The companies’ breakthrough high-quality genome sequence and assembly of I. walleriana should lead to more efficient breeding and identification of disease resistance markers for important industry solutions.

Read More
Golden-State-Bulb-Begonia-Feature

January 16, 2018

PanAmerican Seed Buys Begonia Product Line From Golden …

The acquisition of the popular AmeriHybrid and On Top begonia genetics expands PanAmerican Seed’s assortment in this important class.

Read More

January 16, 2018

20 Colorful Foliage and Tropical Plants for Garden Inte…

Add a bit of the tropics to your product mix with new foliage and tropical plant varieties that offer bold colors and distinct patterns.

Read More
Overview-UGA-Trial-Gardens-2017

January 15, 2018

2017 University of Georgia Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for the University of Georgia in Athens, GA.

Read More
Ipomea-FM-Limon

January 14, 2018

2017 Texas A&M University Field Trial Results

Check out the 2017 field trial results for the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Overton, TX.

Read More
Metrolina-Southern-Garden-Tour-Feature

January 13, 2018

2018 Southern Garden Tour Includes Visits to Young’s Pl…

The tour is scheduled for June 5-7, 2018, and offers floriculture industry members the opportunity to view trials of thousands of new and proven plant varieties.

Read More
Bidens-Golden-Empire-Danziger

January 10, 2018

Growing Tips for Bidens From a Plant Expert

Even with the ramp up in breeding, producing bidens still takes attention to detail and a focus on quality.

Read More
California Coast

January 9, 2018

2018 California Spring Trials Dates, Times, Locations

It’s time to start planning for a great road trip in April to see all the latest plants on display. This quick reference guide will help you map out your trip.

Read More
Take-2-Veggie-Combo-Burpee-Seed

January 6, 2018

Why Growers Should Not Market Their Plants, But the Sol…

In his latest column, Allan Armitage says landscapers, designers, and gardeners want solutions to problems, not simply a recommendation for one more handsome plant.

Read More

January 4, 2018

Stand-Out New Varieties That Keep D.S. Cole Growers Co…

See what new varieties stood out to Doug Cole, owner of D.S. Cole Growers in Loudon, NH, this year.

Read More
New-Plant-Display-at-Retail

January 3, 2018

Kelly Norris: Why We Need to Reevaluate the New Plant T…

The value of a new plant seems scaled on how quickly producers add it to their lines as opposed to the value it might actually have at the point of consumption.

Read More
Houseplants-for-Millennials

December 29, 2017

Why Millennials Can’t Get Their Fill of Foliage Plants …

The latest Millennial obsession with houseplants goes beyond a desire to grow something. It’s a lifestyle choice they’re making for the mind, body, and soul.

Read More
WebTrackToGo

December 24, 2017

Ball Seed Updates WebTrack To Go App With Enhanced Feat…

The latest update lets users scan seed packets for germination percentage, allowing for efficient production planning and inventory management.

Read More
Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens mimic spring garden conditions across the U.S. to test the metal of new varieties

December 22, 2017

Costa Farms Hosting Winter Open House in January

Costa Farms is planning to open its 2-acre trial garden on Jan. 15, 2018, for its annual Winter Trial Garden Open House, where visitors will have the opportunity to see more than 500 plant varieties of annuals and perennials.

Read More
Begonias-I’Conia-Series-Dümmen-Orange-Miss-Montreal

December 19, 2017

34 New Flowering Annuals to Brighten Up Your Product Mi…

Consumers will soon have the opportunity to experiment with colorful, big-impact blooms in their containers and landscapes. Here are 31 new introductions to consider that will color-up your product mix.

Read More
Combo-at-Youngs-Plant-Farm

December 12, 2017

How to Produce Stunning Combination Containers

It’s easy to produce your own attention-grabbing combos, if you follow this advice from a master combination designer.

Read More
SunStanding-New-Guinea-Impatiens-Dummen-Orange-feature

December 7, 2017

Growing Tips From a Pro for SunStanding New Guinea Impa…

SunStanding New Guinea impatiens hybrids spruce up the landscape with vibrant blooms that explode with color in both sun and shade areas, and they hold up well in heat and humidity.

Read More