Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Of all the grasses, the Purple Majesty millet stands out from the others. This makes a delightful cut flower.
Purple Majesty was named a 2003 Gold Medal All-America Selections winner. This distinction is only used for plants that represent plant breeding breakthroughs.
This plant is a hybrid of pearl millet (Pennisteum glaucum). It is likely the most colorful annual grass youíll find. Every part of the plant is deep purple from the stems and leaves to the corn-like seed heads.
Initially, when the seeds first sprout, the plants are green. This changes within a matter of weeks. The first part to change is the stem. Then, a bright reddish-purple stripe appears down the mid-rib of the leaves. Next, the foliage deepens to a rich, dark purple.
The flower plumes are so full they resemble a cattail. Unlike some tall, skinny grain plants, this millet develops into a bushy plant. This can have three or more main stems, each of which has additional branches.
For best results, cut the stems when the seed spikes are still immature. Otherwise, they might shatter.
With this plant, you can get quite a few stems to use as cut flowers. They are ready to harvest about four months from the time the seeds are planted.
Purple Majesty deserves the name for it reaches five feet or more in height. The plumes alone are easily a foot in length.
If you donít have room in your cutting garden, this can be grown in large pots. Though the plants can tolerate hot, dry weather, they will bloom better if you water and fertilize them on a regular basis. Plant in full sun for best color.
You can buy seeds and plants of Purple Majesty from Territorial Seeds and other sources. The seeds can be direct sown in the garden or started early indoors in pots. Cover the seed to a depth of one-half inch. It should germinate within two to three days at 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Lower temperatures will delay germination.
Plant breeders at the University of Nebraska created this wonderful plant during the late 1990ís. The first purple colored plants showed up during the breeding process when the breeders were working with grain crops. The purple color attracted so much attention. This led the breeders to use the original purple-colored plants to create this ornamental hybrid. Later, they were persuaded by the plantsí admirers to enter these in the All-America Selections trials.
The original species is called bulrush millet, cattail millet, spiked millet, and pearl millet.