How to Grow Pennisetum Plants

Guide to Growing Fountain Grass, Pearl Millet and Napier Grass

Pennisetum plant genus grasses may be half hardy annuals, half hardy perennials or hardy perennials.

Pennisetum blooms from the end of summer through the early months of autumn and they carry many spikes of fuzzy / feathery flowers that reach from 60 cm to 1.2 m in height.

Some common names for Pennisetum are Fountain Grass and Feathertop.

Fountain Grass

Pennisetum villosum
Pennisetum villosum - Feathertop Grass by Matt lavin; creative commons.

Ornamental millet
Ornamental millet by Quinn.anya.

How to Grow Fountain Grass and other Pennisetum Plants

Fountain grasses and other Pennisetum members can be sown either indoors or outdoors. If sowing outdoors then do so in the first few months of spring and lightly cover the seeds.

Fountain grasses like to grow in sunny parts of the garden; ideally the soil should be moist, well drained, and fertile.

If first growing indoors then start about 7 or 8 weeks in advance. The Fountain grass seeds should take about two to four weeks to germinate at 21 degrees Centigrade. Transplant the young seedlings into the garden about 45 to 90 cm apart about a week before the last frost of spring is expected.

Caring for Feather grass (Pennisetum)

Fountain grasses and other Pennisetum plants like to grow in moist soil so water regularly. In cold areas add mulch in the winter to protect the roots.

If growing perennial Pennisetum species it is best to cut the plants down to the ground just after the last frost of spring to help with vigorous new growth.

If you require extra Fountain Grass plants then they can be propagated by division; this should be done in the spring.

Pennisetum Plant Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Fountain Grass, Pearl Millet, Napier Grass, Kikuyu Grass, Feathertop Grass, Buffelgrass.
Life Cycle: Hardy annual. Half hardy perennial, hardy perennial.
Height: 30 to 160 inches (75 to 400 cm).
Native: Tropical and temperate regions.
Growing Region: Zones 1 to 10. As a perennial in zones 5 to 9.
Flowers: End of summer through to the start of autumn.
Flower Details: White bristles. Panicle. Spikelets
Foliage: Broad. Flat. Long.
Sow Outside: Cover seed. First two months of spring. Spacing 18 to 36 inches (45 to 90 cm).
Sow Inside: Germination time: two to three weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Six or seven weeks before expected last frost. Transplant outdoors following the last frost.
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Rich soil. Moist soil. Some species are drought tolerant. Regular watering. Perennials should be cut back to the ground in late autumn. Propagate: dividing in the spring.
Family: Poaceae.
Miscellaneous: Invasive weed in many countries.