Millet – Ornamental

Q: I’ve recently purchased two ‘Purple Majesty’ millet plants. I was wondering if this plant comes back true to seed and when to collect the seed. They both have several seed heads on them and the kernels are fat and hard: the most amazing purple/pink color!

A: ‘Purple Majesty’ millet is one of the hottest plants in the horticultural world right now. It was discovered at the University of Nebraska in their agricultural millet breeding program. The scientists in Lincoln recognized that although it didn’t meet expectations for a grain plant the millet was certainly ornamental. “Tall, dark and handsome” is the phrase some gardeners use to describe it. It somewhat resembles purple fountain grass, which enjoyed its own quick fame after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The purple foliage surrounds several tall, stiff seed spikes.

The 2003 All-America Selections Gold Medal Flower award was given to ‘Purple Majesty’. The Gold Medal award is reserved for plant breeding breakthroughs according to A.A.S. It’s awarded rarely, typically only once or twice a decade. This ornamental grass topped the floral class in A.A.S. trials at thirty three locations across North America.

Since ‘Purple Majesty’ is an F1 hybrid, the seed will probably not produce plants identical to the parents. Some of the offspring may not turn purple at all, although some probably will do so. Remember that ‘Purple Majesty’ goes through a four week “green period” before the leaves turn purple. Once you see lots of swollen seeds (or birds beginning to peck them), wrap your seedheads with cheesecloth or a length of old pantyhose. Grass seeds are slow to ripen so leave them on the plant until they easily drop from the spike. Keep the collected seed dry and cool this winter and plant them in a sunny spot in mid-April next year.

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