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Family:  Poaceae 

Origin: Asia, Africa, Australia

The Size: 1 to 4 feet tall

Temperature & Humidity: Pennisetum grasses enjoy warm, humid environments and can be grown as perennials in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 10. They thrive in sunny, hot, humid regions. However, these grasses can be grown as annuals in colder zones. 

Lightning: These plants thrive in full sunshine. They prefer at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. A bit of shade is acceptable, but too much shade can cause these grasses to take on a leggy, floppy appearance and they might not flower

The Soil: The Pennisetum genus generally prefers rich, evenly moist soil that is slightly acidic. However, if the soil is well-draining and moist, these grasses can be grown in a mix of clay and sand as well. 

Watering: Regular watering will keep any variety of Pennisetum grass happy. The species within this genus prefer moist conditions, so water when the top of the soil begins to feel dry. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist, but never soggy. Some varieties are drought tolerant and will not need as much watering. 

Fertilizer: Fertilizer is not normally necessary for the healthy growth of the Pennisetum species, but giving these plants some well-balanced fertilizer in the spring won’t hurt. This will help encourage healthy, plentiful growth.

Reproduction: Propagating these grasses can easily be done through division in the spring. Here’s how: Use a sharp garden shovel to dig around the grass and slice through the root system. Slowly work around the separated section until you can gently lift it from the ground.  Fill in the hole and transfer the new section to its own area.
Press down on the soil around the transplanted grass and water thoroughly.

Transfer: Choose a pot that provides several inches of growing room on all sides. When the grass outgrows its container, gently tip the container onto its side and tap the pot to loosen the root system. Slowly work around the pot until the plant can be slid out. Plant the grass into a larger container and fill it in with rich, well-draining soil.  

Features of Care: Once established, Pennisetum grasses do not require much maintenance. They are great choices for hot, sunny, humid areas and do well in containers. However, these eye-catching grasses can still be enjoyed outside of their growing zones if you’re willing to grow them as an annual. 

Difficulties: Some varieties of these grasses cannot survive cold winters in zones 5 and below and are often grown as annuals in those zones. If you’re located in one of the northernmost hardiness zones, add a layer of mulch before the winter begins to help insulate the roots. If kept in pots, it is best to move the pot indoors before cold temperatures arrive.