Pennisetum are typified by the feathery plume flowers, normally nodding from arching stems.
They are all low growing and best suited to the front of a bed or border where the bending flower stems and fluffy flowers can best be seen.
Some Pennisetums are annuals and have to be sown each year - others are perennials.
The Pennisetum group of grasses are renowned for their feathery, sometimes hairy flowers. They enjoy the sun, but will also thrive in dappled shade. A sunny position gives a better visual display than shade.
Pennisetum villosum - The Feathertop Grass.
Deciduous perennial grass, though it can also be grown as an annual - flowers the first year from sowing seed. Prefers a dry situation, though occasionally moist is ok. Any light soil will do.
This grass forms an arching mound of feathery, hairy flowers some 2ft - 60cm across and in height. Well suited to the front of a herbaceous border or as a long bed of hazy flowers. Looks good at the edge of a drive or path.
Individual flowers start off light green, turning white and then pink purple in the Autumn. The flowers are around 4 in long and borne in profusion.
Best display is with evening sun from the side or behind, against a dark background.
Pennisetum setaceum Purpureum. Purple Fountain Grass.
Deep bronze foliage on this deciduous perennial grass that can also be grown as an annual.
Individual flowers can be as long as 12in - 30cm - and arch over in a slightly untidy mass. No matter, is looks great. The flowers start off wine red, then fading a little to burgundy, Later in Autumn, the flowers turn to seed heads - but not universally at the same time. this gives a two toned effect of the new red flowers and older fading flowers to straw brown
Pennisetum setaceum purpureum grows to 4ft - 1.2m - sometimes less with younger plants. The height and spread are about the same. It makes a dense groundcover grass as an added bonus.
This ornamental grass makes a superb patio-pot subject. Plant in a tall pot and surround with lower pots of contrasting colours - or simply grow as a stand-alone specimen. Long season of interest.
Pennisetum alopecuroides Hameln - Not Hamelin! Fountain Grass.
This variety of Pennisetum has individual flowers of around 8in - 20cm - that arch over after an upright start. It is a clump forming evergreen grass - unlike the two deciduous plants above. However, it is for flower rather than foliage that it is grown. Flowers start of light green, turning white, then purplish as the season progresses. Seedheads follow, which are light brown.
This cultivar P.a. Hameln is compact in habit - forming good ground cover - reaching a height and spread of up to 3ft - 1m. Maybe a little more or less depending upon age and growing conditions.
Good for shrub beds, herbaceous borders, or as patio pot plant. Plant in full sunshine, or dappled shade.
Pennisetum are easily grown from seed sown in early spring. Seed boxes in unheated glasshouse or low heat in an electric propagator. Pot up the individual seedlings and plant out when large enough after all frosts have gone. Although hardy once established, new seedlings can succumb to late frosts.
All varieties of Pennisetum can be increased by dividing the plant in early spring, and planting the divisions out in flowering position.
Pleased to say, that as with most other ornamental grasses, there are no disease of pest problems to worry about.