Ornamental grasses: How to properly plant – and care for – decorative Pennisetum grass

The botanical name is "Pennisetum" and is made up of the Latin words "penna" (feather) and "seta" (bristle).

Ornamental grasses: How to properly plant – and care for – decorative Pennisetum grass

The botanical name is "Pennisetum" and is made up of the Latin words "penna" (feather) and "seta" (bristle). For this reason, Pennisetum grass is also called feather bristle grass. Since it usually grows in warmer climates, including Australia, the ornamental grass prefers a sunny location. This is the only way it fully develops its flower spikes, which are reminiscent of bottle brushes, between August and October. Depending on which variety you choose, you can enjoy different colors. Below we will introduce you to five different specimens and give you the most important tips - from planting to care.

The “Dance with me” variety impresses in late summer (from July to October) with its large, white flower spikes. The perennial plant is hardy and can easily survive long dry periods. Due to its dense growth habit, the ornamental grass is not only a decorative eye-catcher in the garden or flower pot, but also as a ground cover against weeds.

As the name suggests, this Pennisetum grass has black flowers that bloom from August to October. Its slightly overhanging green leaves do not need to be cut back and turn yellow in autumn, so that you also have an eye-catcher in the bed or garden in the second half of the year. The plant is also winter hardy.

These rosé-white flowers will decorate your beds, balcony or terrace if you choose the “Hameln” variety (Pennisetum alopecuroides): The hardy Pennisetum grass begins to bloom in July and does not stop until October. In order for the plant to grow bushy, it needs a sunny location and loose soil that is rich in nutrients.

At first glance, the flower spikes appear slightly grayish, but in reality they are reddish to brown and have white tips. The perennial Pennisetum grass "Magic" is also hardy and, due to its upright growth, is particularly suitable for perennial borders, rock gardens or grass beds. The flowering period is from August to October.

The "Red Head" Pennisetum grass is characterized by its red inflorescences with white tips, which appear between July and October. It looks particularly good next to roses, perennials and shrubs, but is also suitable for beds or near ponds. The leaves change color in autumn and then appear gold.

As already mentioned at the beginning, Pennisetum grasses prefer a warm, sunny and - ideally - sheltered location from the wind (for example on a wall or house wall). As far as soil is concerned, the plants grow particularly well in permeable and nutrient-rich soil. If it is a little heavier, it can be loosened up by mixing in sand so that waterlogging does not form and negatively affect growth.

The best time to plant pennisetum grass is spring: the soil is nice and moist and the temperatures are still below 15 degrees - ideal conditions for the plant to grow and form new roots. Place the ornamental grass and ball in a hole twice the size, leaving enough space for surrounding plants. The soil should then be watered well and enriched with nutrients (fertilizer).

The ornamental grass does not like wet feet, so waterlogging should be avoided. Nevertheless, the plant needs sufficient water - especially after planting. If it rarely rains, the pennisetum should be watered regularly. After a year, when the plant has grown, it can survive longer dry periods and only needs to be supplied with water if the soil is very dry or it doesn't rain for a long time.

If you want to cut back a Pennisetum grass to encourage strong new growth, you should do this in spring and not in autumn - the old blades of grass serve as natural protection from the cold in winter. Between February and March, cut the stalks above the ground (one hand's width) so that they are only ten centimeters high.

It is possible to propagate the Pennisetum grass - and at the same time rejuvenate it to promote flower growth. This works by dividing the plant: lift the ornamental grass out of the ground with a spade, divide it two to three times and put the plant parts back into the ground.

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