Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty'
Common Name: pearl millet 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 2 to 11
Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Purple, Yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Annual
Flower: Showy, Good Cut, Good Dried
Leaf: Colorful
Fruit: Edible
Tolerate: Drought, Dry Soil

Culture

Easily grown in evenly moist, well-draining soil in full sun. Tolerant of drier soils and drought. Overly wet soils or periodically waterlogged conditions will result in poor seed set. Performs best in areas with hot summer climates. Easily grown from seed. Best germination in warm soils above 70°F. Cool temperatures or allowing seedlings to become root-bound can lead to stunted growth.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Pennisetum glaucum, commonly called pearl millet, is a cultivatd annual bunch grass native to Africa. It was first domesticated in the western Sahara Desert more than 4,000 years. It is now widely grown around the world as a summer forage crop for livestock, a cereal grain, and an ornamental. Young plants superficially resemble corn. Mature plants can reach up to 10' tall and 3' wide and are held in place by a robust root system. The upright stems can reach up to 1" in diameter and have a dense covering of hairs at their nodes. The narrowly lanceolate leaves can reach up to 3' long and 3" wide. The inflorescence is a terminal, bottle-brush like, dense raceme of tiny, wind pollinated flowers that bloom from late summer into fall. The flowerheads can reach up to 1.75' long. The fruits are small, rounded grains that range in color from white to yellow and occasionally brown and purple. The seeds are highly attractive to birds.

Genus name comes from the Latin penna meaning "feather" and seta meaning "bristle" in reference to the flowers having long, feathery bristles.

The specific epithet glaucum means "having a bluish grey cast".

The common name pearl millet refers to the round seeds of this millet species.

'Purple Majesty' is a compact, purple-leaved selection of pearl millet developed at the University of Nebraska. The stems, leaves, and flowerheads of this selection are all dark purple. The spike-like, terminal infloresences emerge in summer and can reach 8-12" long. The foliage of young plants is green but matures to purple with exposure to the warm, summer sun.

Problems

Rust and leaf spot diseases are potential problems. Susceptible to damage by chinch bugs and stink bugs.

Uses

Use as a vertical accent in mixed beds, borders, and large containers for one growing season. A good choice for bird gardens. The flowerheads can be used fresh or dried in flower arrangements. The fresh cut stems do have a somewhat strong odor which some may find off-putting. Ornamental varieties tend to produce fewer seeds than those breed for seed production. The nutritious seeds are edible raw or cooked. They can be ground into a flour, roasted, or steamed for use in fermented and non-fermented breads, porridges, snack foods, and beverages. The seeds are also commonly used in birdseed mixes.