Infertile fountain grass

Features - Plant Production

University of Georgia breeds Pennisetum that won’t self-seed.

December 9, 2019

Pennisetum ‘Praline’ (‘TIFT H18’) PPAF
Photos courtesy of ECG
Pennisetum ‘Etouffee’ (‘Tift PA17’) PPAF

In the past, finding long-flowering Pennisetum that wouldn’t reseed has been a challenge, but no more. We’ve looked high and wide for infertile fountain grass varieties and working with the University of Georgia’s acclaimed ornamental grass program, we finally found them. We’ve selected five P. alopecuroides that complement any palette with their vigorous growth and long-lasting blooms.

‘Cayenne’ features big, dark-red bottlebrush plumes that rise above mounds of rich green arching blades. It won’t self-sow and offers a long bloom time. ‘Cayenne’ prefers full sun to partial shade and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Hush Puppy’ has long-lasting pink plumes that spray high over rounded mounds of slender foliage. It is a long-flowering infertile selection that won’t reseed. ‘Hush Puppy’ prefers sun to part shade, reaches 30 inches tall and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Pennisetum ‘Jambalaya’ (‘Tift PA19’) PPAF

‘Etouffee’ features light pinkish brown foxtail plumes rising over graceful arching mounds. It is an infertile variety that flowers spring to fall and will not reseed. It forms a lovely mound that’s excellent in containers and landscapes alike. ‘Etouffee’ loves sun to part shade, grows to 42 inches and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Jambalaya’ grows in a lovely, tidy mounded habit to about 38 inches tall. It produces large, long-lasting silvery-pink plumes that rise above slender, upright foliage from late spring to mid-fall. ‘Jambalaya’ is a long-flowering infertile variety that won’t self-sow. It prefers sun to part shade, reaches a height of 38 inches and is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

‘Praline’ is an infertile variety that won’t self-sow in the landscape. It features lovely soft taupe, gently upright seed heads above mounds of slender, arching green leaves. A sun-lover, ‘Praline’ is hardy in Zones 5 to 9.

Pennisetum ‘Hush Puppy’ (‘Tift PA5’) PPAF

Quick culture tips

Pot up from a 38-cell tray into 1-gallon pots for spring sales in eight to 10 weeks. Consider a preventive fungicide drench at transplant.

Temperature: Keep greenhouses at 70 to 80° F during the day and 55 to 65° F at night.

pH & EC: Aim for pH at approximately 5.8 to 6.2 and electrical conductivity (EC) at 1.0 to 1.5 mS/cm using the 2:1 extraction method.

Light: Provide full sun or at least 5,000 footcandles, along with at least 12 hours of photoperiod supplemental lighting.

Fertilizer: Fertilize with a constant liquid feed of a balanced fertilizer at low levels of 100 to 150 ppm nitrogen.

Water: Allow plants to dry between ample waterings.

Day length: Long day

Pests and diseases: Watch for aphids, mealybugs, spider mites, root and crown rot. Follow a standard program of preventive sanitation and ventilation. Space plants adequately to encourage airflow and discourage moisture buildup. Scout and monitor regularly. Follow a monthly broad-spectrum fungicide control program.

Josiah Raymer is head grower and general manager for Emerald Coast Growers.

Pennisetum ‘Cayenne’ (‘Tift PA18’) PPAF