Learn About Millet

How to Sow

How to Sow and Plant

Millet may be grown from seed sown directly in the garden after all danger of frost

Sowing Directly in the Garden:

  • Direct sow in well-drained soil and full sun after all danger of frost.
  • Remove weeds and work organic matter into the top 6-8 inches of soil; then level and smooth.
  • Sow thinly and evenly and cover with ½ inch of fine soil.
  • Firm lightly and keep evenly moist.
  • Seedlings will emerge in about 10-21 days depending on soil and weather conditions.
  • Thin to stand about 10-12 inches apart.

How to Grow

  • Keep weeds under control during the growing season. Weeds compete with plants for water, space and nutrients, so control them by either cultivating often or use a mulch to prevent their seeds from germinating.
  • Mulches also help retain soil moisture and maintain even soil temperatures. For annuals an organic mulch of shredded leaves lends a natural look to the bed and will improve the soil as it breaks down in time. Always keep mulches off a plant’s stems to prevent possible rot.
  • Keep plants well-watered during the growing season, especially during dry spells. Plants need about 1 inch of rain per week during the growing season. Use a rain gauge to check to see if you need to add water. It's best to water with a drip or trickle system that delivers water at low pressure at the soil level. If you water with overhead sprinklers, water early in the day so the foliage has time to dry off before evening, to minimize disease problems. Keep the soil moist but not saturated.
  • Until plants become established, some protection from extreme winds and direct, hot sunlight may be necessary. Good air movement is also important.
  • After new growth appears, a light fertilizer may be applied. Keep granular fertilizers away from the plant crown and foliage to avoid burn injury. Use low rates of a slow release fertilizer as higher rates may encourage root rots.
  • Cut flower stalks to encourage reblooming.

Growing tips

  • Mature spikes can be dried in flower arrangements. Use young spikes in fresh bouquets.
  • Fascinating addition to the border for color and texture.
  • Thrives in heat.
  • The best color is in sun.

Common Pests and Problems

Cercospora Leaf Spot: Small lesions develop on leaves with gray or tan centers and black dots. Lesions may also develop on stems. Burpee Recommends: Remove infected plants and destroy all plant debris. Rotate crops. Control weeds.

Downy Mildew: This fungus causes whitish gray patches on the undersides and eventually both sides of the leaves. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops with plants in a different family. Avoid overhead watering. Provide adequate air circulation, do not overcrowd plants. Do not work around plants when they are wet.

Ergot: Flower heads exude a creamy white honeydew that turn into brown spiky structures. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops. Provide good air circulation and garden sanitation, remove infected plant parts.

Rust: A number of fungus diseases that cause rust colored spots on foliage, stalks and husks. Burpee Recommends: Practice crop rotation. Remove infected plants. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.

Smut: This fungus affects the seed-heads causing them to expand and turn dark brown and then black as the spores grow. Burpee Recommends: Remove flower heads at the first sign of the disease, before the seeds burst open. Rotate crops.

Common Pest and Cultural Problems

Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.

Armyworm: Holes in leaves can be singular or clumped together. Leaves can become skeletonized. Egg clusters may be evident on foliage with a cottony or fuzzy appearance. Young larvae are pale green and adults are darker with a light line along the side and pink underside. Burpee Recommends: Introduce natural enemies to the area.

Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.

Stalk Borer: The larvae of this insect tunnel up and down inside the plant stem causing the plants to wilt. By the time the plant wilts it is too late to save it. The larva is 1.5 inches long, greyish brown with one dorsal stripe and two lateral stripes on each side. The lateral stripes on the front half are interrupted and the lower brown stripe extends forward onto the side of the head. The eggs hatch in May to early June, after the moth lays them the previous September or October. Burpee Recommends: Remove and destroy all plant debris and nearby weeds.

Wireworms: These insects live in the soil and kill seedlings by girdling their stems at the soil line, bore into stems, roots and tubers. They may be found around the stems in the soil are and ¼ to ¾ inch long, thin, yellow brown worms with a shiny skin. The adults are called click beetles, and are about 1/3 inch long, reddish brown with a hard shell. Burpee Recommends: Rotate crops. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for pesticide recommendations which must be applied prior to planting.

FAQ

Can I grow millet in containers? Yes, shorter varieties look dramatic in large containers.

Is millet hardy? No, while this is an ornamental grass, it is not able to tolerate winter. It is a tender perennial. You can dig up small clumps and overwinter them indoors.

Is millet related to corn? Yes, corn is related to grass and so is millet.

Does millet attract pollinators to the garden? Yes it attracts bees, butterflies and birds.

Why isn’t my purple millet turning purple? These plants need full sun for the most intense color.

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