Setaria italica Red Jewel, a rarely-offered variety of annual grass with intensely coloured burgundy red foliage with the added attraction of soft foxtail-shaped flowerheads.
Suitable for growing in the garden or in containers, this form of ornamental millet grass is lovely in the mixed border where the rich, reddish-brown foliage and brown, pendulous seed heads give a stunning display.
Setaria italica grows best in a rich, well-drained soil but will grow in poor and dry soils. It is very drought tolerant and loves to bask in full sun but does not perform well in shade. Red Jewel will start out green and the colour will begin to darken as the plant matures. The fluffy seed heads are very dramatic and the dark foliage is a great contrast for just about anything in the garden or the vase.
Sown in spring this annual grass grows quickly and begins to flower in just 60 days. The plants are usually in flower from June to October. The culms grow to between 50 and 100cm (18 to 36in) tall. The inflorescence, which is a soft panicle (tassel) grows to around 20 to 25cm (8 to 10in) long. The flowers form from the top of the panicle downwards.
Setaria italica seeds are very nutritious for birds, and if the seed heads are allowed to ripen in late summer, wildlife will be attracted to your garden.
Setaria italica is just one of several ornamental millets grown for use as a cut flower. The panicles emerge from the top of the stalk and gradually bend over as they lengthen. After they bend over they expand and open out, a bit like a fluffy squirrel’s tail.
They are pretty at all stages but when used as a cut flower they are easier to integrate into bouquets before they start to curve over too much. The flower plume provides interesting contrast with its colour, unusual shape and fuzzy texture. If dried the colour will last for months.
Sowing: Sow indoors in early spring.
The seeds are best sown indoors in early spring. In areas with a long growing season, the seeds can be started directly outdoors after frost danger has passed. With a later start, the plants will still grow and form panicles but the seed heads may not mature completely in the early autumn to attract wildlife.
Sow on to the surface of a free-draining, moist seed-sowing compost and cover lightly with soil or vermiculite. Keep at around 15 to 20°C (60 to 68°F) Germination should take place in two to four weeks.
Maintain a temperature of 15°C (60°F) after germination until the seedlings are established
Once seedlings are large enough to handle, separate them out and grow them individually in their own pot containing gritty, well drained compost to grow on. Once the danger of frost has passed the seedlings can be transplanted outdoors. Plant 60cm (24in) apart in full sun and well drained soil.
Ensure all ground is weed free and well prepared before sowing. Sow the seed 2 to 3cm (¾ to1¼in) deep in rows 60 to 90cm (25 to 35in) apart with a distance of 10 to 30cm (4 to 12 in) between the plants.
The rate and speed of germination will depend on the soil temperature and weather conditions. Once the plants are growing strongly, thin the plants to a distance of 60cm (24in) apart.
Cut back old foliage in spring as new growth appears in the centres of plants.
Feed in summer with single dressing of a dilute general fertiliser. Even without an annual feed, most grasses will put on a first-rate show. The more nitrogen grasses receive the greener and further they'll grow. Do not over do it…their spreading habit is fine in a field, but in a garden they may become too lush and the flower quality may suffer.
The panicles can be dried and make interesting focal or secondary flowers in dried flower arrangements.
This can be done by cutting the stems off from the base before the seed heads have formed. A group of stems can be hung upside down in a warm dark place until they become fully dry. Make sure to keep the stems away from direct sunlight during this time. They are useful for winter arrangements as once dried the colour will last for months.
Beds and borders, Containers, Foliage and Prairie planting. Flower arrangements. Low Maintenance.
Wildlife, specifically to feed birds in the garden
Setaria, millet may be the first grain cultivated by man, predating even rice. Man learned to cultivate it in East Asia about 10,000 years ago, paving the way for the shift from a nomadic hunting and gathering to a more settled lifestyle based on farming.
Foxtail millet (Setaria italica) is an important grain crop in the world today, thought to have been domesticated from the wild species green foxtail (Setaria viridis) from northern China. It has the longest history of cultivation among the millets, the earliest evidence of cultivation comes from the Peiligang culture of China, which also cultivated the common millet, but foxtail millet became the predominant grain only with the Yangshao culture.
Researchers argue that Foxtail millet was been planted either alongside rice during the summer seasons, or planted in the autumn as a late season supplement after the rice harvests were collected. Either way, foxtail would have acted as a hedge for the riskier but more nutritious rice crops.
Foxtail millet arrived in Europe later; carbonised seeds first appear in the second millennium BC in central Europe. The earliest evidence for its cultivation in the Near East is at the Iron Age levels at Tille Hoyuk in Turkey, around 600 BC.
Nearly 1,000 diverse foxtail millet varieties exist in the world today, including both traditional landraces and modern cultivars.
Setaria italica was formerly known as Panicum italicum.
The plant genus name Setaria is derived from the Latin word seta, meaning 'a bristle' pertaining to the long spikes.
The species italica means 'of or belonging to Italy'
Common names include Foxtail Millet, Italian millet, German millet, Chinese millet, and Hungarian millet.
Varieties of foxtail millet are differentiated according to the colour of the caryopses and spikes (white, yellow, orange, and red).
The term 'millet' comprises several genera of annual grasses that produce small seeds usually grown as cereal crop.
In Korea, the Foxtail millet plant is called 'jo', and the grain obtained is called 'jopsal'. The word is commonly used as a metaphor for pettiness or innumerable small things - such as bumps of a skin rash.
As a Crop:
Outside of ornamental horticulture, Setaria italica, the Foxtail millet is grown both as a cereal grain and as a forage crop. The grain is used for human consumption and in ground form by all species of livestock. It is loved by poultry, aviary birds and wild birds, it is also eaten by hamsters and gerbils.
The Foxtail millet is the second-most widely planted species of millet, and the most important in East Asia. It is cultivated in countries with subtropical and temperate climates. The plants grow in a wide range of conditions, have little disease and are relatively resistant to insects. They have a short growing season and an innate ability to tolerate cold and arid climates. These characteristics lend themselves to adaptation in different and difficult environment.
Foxtail Millet is used in eastern Europe for porridge and bread and for making alcoholic beverages. It is cultivated for hay and green feed and as a pasture plant in the Ukraine, the Northern Caucasus, Moldavia, Kazakhstan, Western Siberia, and Middle Asia. It is widespread in the USA through the Great Plains where it is used for high quality hay, pasture and green fodder. Foxtail millet is harvested for hay at the beginning of tasseling, when the plant is rich in nutritive substances.
In areas with cool summers the seeds may not ripen fully, because of this there are problems with cultivating as a seed crop in Britain and Ireland. Apart from that, the plant grows well here.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 110mg Average Seed Count 50 Seeds Common Name Foxtail Millet, Italian Millet
formerly Panicum italicum
Other Common Names German millet, Chinese millet, and Hungarian millet. Other Language Names FR: Millet des Oiseaux Family Poaceae Genus Setaria Species italica Cultivar Red Jewel Synonym Chaetochloa italica, Setaria viridis subsp. italica Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Soft foxtail-shaped flowerheads. Natural Flower Time June to October. Foliage Rich, reddish-brown foliage Height 50 to100cm (18 to 36in) Spread 40 to 60cm (16 to 24in) Position Full sun preferred. Aspect All aspects. Exposed or Sheltered Soil Moist but well-drained soil.