Friday, October 24, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Pennisetum 'Fireworks'

I've developed a keener interest in ornamental grasses since we moved into our current house almost 4 years ago.  My most recent acquisition is Pennisetum 'Fireworks,' a sport of P. setaceum and P. macrostachys.  While it would be premature for me to make any predictions concerning its long-term performance after just 2 months in my garden, I'm pleased with it thus far.  I bought it mainly for the vibrant red-pink foliage but also because it's said to stay smaller than the P. setaceum 'Rubrum' that came with the garden.




Estimates of its mature size vary from source to source ranging from as small as 1 foot (30 cm) tall and wide to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and wide.  Mine are placed along the edge of one wall and at the front of another bed so, in this case, I'm hoping they stay at the smaller end of the range.





The variegation is said to be unstable, especially when the plant is grown in full sun.  All of mine get late afternoon shade so I hope they'll retain their current bright color.




The flowers are very similar to those on P. setaceum 'Rubrum,' although I've noted that a lot of 'Fireworks' plumes develop a crimp at the end.  The flowers are long-lasting when used in floral arrangements.




This grass is hardy to 25F (minus 3.9C) and, according to San Marcos Growers, it has proven to be root hardy to 20F.  Most sources claim it has low water needs once established.  Mine, still in the process of developing their root systems, currently get watered twice a week.

Pennisetum 'Fireworks' is my favorite plant this week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden, the host for this weekly review, to see her favorite and to find links to other gardeners' selections.


All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party



19 comments:

  1. Such a pretty grass! I tried it here my first year, and it declined so drastically after its first winter in the ground that I just took it out. It didn't even get down to 20 degrees that winter, but maybe it was the heavy rain more than the cold that affected it. I might try it again as an annual.

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    1. It's supposed to have low water needs so the heavy rain sounds like a good theory, Alison.

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  2. I love this grass, sadly we need to treat it as an annual here in Scotland. It works out rather expensive, if like me you don't have the room to do the seeds. As Alison says, it's the wet that does for it, so you should be very successful with it.
    It looks beautiful in every spot you have it in Kris - very eye catching.

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    1. Too bad it didn't work for you either, Angie. Faced with this ongoing drought, it's hard for me to realize that too much water can be a bad thing.

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  3. Such a lovely grass! Shame it's not hardy here but they do make great annuals too.

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    1. I hope you can enjoy it - or its cousins - as annuals.

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  4. The grass looks almost like a Phormium with that colouration. I hope it does prove drought tolerant for you. I'll look for it here as I would love a grass that colour.

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    1. The color was the primary motivator in selecting it. I've read that P. 'Cherry Sparkler,' which has similar variegation, holds its color better.

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  5. I'm a little bit envious that you can grow it with a realistic hope of longevity! Love the whitish flowers - I don't think I've ever seen it in bloom before. So pretty...

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    1. The flowers make great additions to flower arrangements too, Anna.

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  6. I almost bought one of those last spring (to plant as an annual). Then I got a little nervous the pink would start to wear on me, (I know I'm weird). I love the darker base of your plants, nice fav!

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    1. Anti-pink, are you Loree? This one's more red (less pink) than P. 'Cherry sparkler.'

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  7. I have a few pennisetum's too but none are variegated. I've seen them sold as annuals here. The ones I've seen here are really big. Maybe it's the extra moisture. 'Fireworks' is really pretty. I love it with the red semps.

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    1. Based on the reports from Alison and Angie, excess water seems to be a big negative with these plants. (I didn't know there was such a thing as excess water...)

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  8. I love Pennisetums but I haven' t seen this one before. It is gorgeous. You are lucky to be able to grow such a beautiful grass, it wouldn' t last the winter here.

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    1. Plants do have a very easy life here in winter, Chloris.

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  9. A very striking pennisetum! I've never seen any apart from the purple and green, will need to keep an eye out. When I looked hard at your garden bed I realised just how well colour co-ordinated it is, with repitition of the same colours throughout. How is the cage working out over your Leucadendron?

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    1. So far, the tomato and gopher cages I've got spread around the garden have effectively protected the plants they cover, if not necessarily the uncovered ones nearby. Scanning my garden, there are a hodge-podge of different types of protective covers - it probably looks quite ridiculous to new visitors but I'm going to stick with them until those plants are well-rooted to prevent the heartbreak of waking up to raccoon mayhem. I'd love to get some more tomato cages but no one sells these locally out of season!

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  10. I have been eyeing this plant, and can see why you like it. It is used here as an annual only. Wish it was hardier.

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