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Garden Article Feb. 1, 2020

When planning what plants you will be planting in your patio pots or in the flower garden  this spring, please consider Pennisetum ‘Fireworks ‘ and Pennisetum ‘First Knight’.  These two ornamental grasses create an eye catching display planted by themselves or with other annuals and perennials

Both grasses are annual ornamental grasses in our area but that’s okay.   The beauty they bring to the landscape and their minimal care makes them worth it. They have no major insect pests or diseases.  Plant them in Premier Pro Mix Potting Soil, fertilize them every so often and keep them watered.  If you miss a watering don’t worry they are fairly drought tolerant and will bounce back quickly.

The narrow leaves of ‘Fireworks’ are variegated with white and green near the base but have strong red, hot pink, and cream variegation along their length, with a burgundy mid-vein. The new growth is most vibrant, with the colorful stripes eventually maturing to a rich shade of burgundy. It will grow to 24-30” tall and wide and will reach this size by July.

Showy reddish-purple, foxtail-like inflorescences appear in mid- to late summer above the foliage, adding color and motion to the landscape. These bottlebrush plumes eventually age to a tan color. Use ‘Fireworks’ in beds and borders for contrast in color to green plants and for a contrast in texture to mounded or clumping plants; in masses for a stunning display of color; or as small specimen plants.  It creates seasonal interest in cottage gardens, rock gardens; plant it alone or in combination with other plants in large containers to provide color on patios and decks. It mixes nicely with annual bedding plants, such as marigolds, petunias, saliva, and zinnia, or can be interplanted between perennials such as coneflowers, sedums, or rudbeckia. Grow ‘Fireworks’ in full sun for the best coloration. It tolerates a wide variety of soils as long as it has good drainage. It is drought tolerant once established but also can handle moist soil. It is not preferred by deer.

‘First Knight’ boasts a royal flush of the deepest, darkest, blackest purple foliage. This striking grass has center leaves that thrust skyward like broadsword blades raised in triumph; outer leaves arch gracefully.

‘First Knight’ was selected for its superb disease resistance and versatile height of 48 to 54 inches with a spread of 24 to 36 inches. A rich red midrib adds an elegant flourish and ups the interest.

Garden- or container-friendly, ‘First Knight’ stands out in creative combinations with annuals or perennials alike.

This ornamental annual grass is also great performer in the landscape as a specimen. Its low maintenance and high disease resistance make it a reliable choice as well as its ability to thrive in the heat.

Once you go through a growing season with either one of these two grasses they will become a permanent summer home in your landscape.

Garden Tip: Plant several 12-14”  pots ofFirst Knight’ to create a background or  privacy on your patio or deck.  ‘First Knight’ doesn’t need any underplanting due to its growth habit. Its about as foolproof of a plant you can grow.

Dave Vargo is the owner of Arnold Feed & Garden Ctr (724-335-1821) and Kiski Plaza Garden Ctr. (724-845-8201) Visit their web site at www.kiskigardencenter.com Email questions to dvargokiski@comcast.net all products mentioned in this article are available at either garden center