17
September
2018

Brushes of Millet

FN 1.02 Millet Brushes
The tiny, tiny flowers of Millet ‘Purple Majesty’

Several houses of our freshly grown Millet for fall are shipping right now. These plants resemble corn or maize, but they are known for their signature feature—brushes that rise above the crown. We grow different cultivars for the different types of plumes they bring to market—each one has its own unique personality.

FN 1.03 Millet Brushes
‘Purple Baron’ has red-tinged flowers

Now keep in mind that the brush itself is not the flower of the plant. In fact, the true flowers are delicate, tiny inflorescences that emerge when the spike is extended. Once the blooms are pollinated by the wind, the seeds follow—nestled tightly within their bristly cradle.

FN 1.08 Millet Brushes
Small white seeds forming in a Millet brush

You may recognize the Millet seed as that small white one you see in birdseed mixes. Technically, Millet is an edible grain, still eaten or grown as a forage crop. Those stiff bristles you see are actually guard hairs to protect the developing seed from early harvest by various critters—they fall away once the seed starts to ripen.

FN 1.05 Millet Brushes
Guard bristles protect the seeds from predators while they are forming

After the seeds form and the bristles fall away, Millet becomes a feeding station for native birds. If you leave the dried stalks alone the feeding station will remain for a long time. These plants are great bird attractors for the end of fall and beginning of winter.

FN 1.07 Millet Brushes
We grow ‘Jade Princess’ for the curly, fluffy, fox-like brush 

Millet leaves come in different colors: a green version that stays green, a bronze version, and a purple version that darkens when grown in direct sun. You’ll notice that the more sun it gets, the blacker the purple becomes. Don’t be afraid of full, full sun—Millet has a habit of sending out secondary roots from the stems that anchor the plant into the ground and make it extraordinarily drought-resistant. This plant truly loves the sun and grows larger and stronger in total sun, while its colors continue to darken and get richer.

FN 1.11 Millet Brushes
Millet leaves comes in different tints: green, bronze, and purple

You might be surprised to know that Millet is a member of the Pennisetum family, just like the grasses. It has a broader leaf however, when compared to a standard Rubrum or ‘Fireworks’. Some varieties, like ‘Jade Princess’, do exhibit the beautiful fountain-shaped style of arching leaves—and the pretty foliage color is a bonus. Generally the leaves come in shades of one of three striking colors: chartreuse, like ‘Jade Princess’, bronze like ‘Copper Prince’, or dark purple like ‘Purple Baron’ and ‘Purple Majesty’.

FN 1.10 Millet Brushes
It looks like a corn leaf but Millet is part of the Pennisetum family

As a matter of fact, ‘Purple Majesty’ ushered in the modern use of Ornamental Millet as a decor plant when it was introduced in 2003, due to its extraordinary darkness. Other variations have been developed over time, so we now have a complete toolbox of sizes and types to work with among the Millet family.

FN 1.01 Millet Brushes
Millet is a popular autumn product so we have plenty available to feed the need

Most of the varieties we grow are dwarf and mid-sized, around the three-foot range or knee-high. ‘Purple Majesty’ is the tallest, and that gets about as tall as Elmer does, for a point of reference. Millet makes an effective screen in the landscape because it’s big enough to hide unsightly elements like old rusty pumps and air conditioners. It’s used as a vertical accent in gardens and planters, and has the greatest impact when planted in groups of three or five per center/mound.

Our five Millet selections—‘Jester’, ‘Purple Baron’, ‘Purple Majesty’, ‘Copper Prince’, and ‘Jade Princess’ are currently shipping in the 8-inch pot.

‘Jester’ and ‘Purple Baron’ are available in the 4.5-inch pot as well.

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Diefenbacher Greenhouses is a supplier of annuals and creative green goods. We sell directly to Garden Centers and Landscapers in the Cincinnati Area. 

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