Saturday, November 1, 2014

Gulf Muhly: the Fine Details about Muhlenbergia capillaris

It's the time of year when great clouds of pink haze in the landscape prompt gardeners to ask about this beautiful native grass.

1. Is Muhly Grass easy to grow and how much maintenance is involved?

Muhly is not difficult. I started with gallon pots. It requires full sun, moderate moisture and excellent drainage. The soil here is loamy sand. 

In early spring, for good results of fall bloom, it must be cut to the ground or set on fire. Its neighbors will try to climb into the clumps, as Lantana has done here. Falling leaves will collect in the clumps in the fall.

2. Have you ever killed any Muhly grass? 

Yes. I let Tithonia come up and shade some young divisions. I was busy admiring visiting butterflies and failed to notice the decline of the Muhly until it was too late. The Muhly pictured above are divisions that I managed to keep unshaded by its neighbors until it got a good start.

3. Nursery hype says it blooms from September to November. True?

Pictured below are wispy blooms from October 10, 2014. Full bloom comes later in the month of October. Frost in November will end the color show.

4. What does Muhlenbergia look like the rest of the Year?

Early August, it is just a clump of green.  After frost, the blooms are tan and last until properly cut to the ground in late winter before new growth starts.

July, 2014

July, 2013


5. Does the pink really look like your pictures?

It really does. It varies with the light. For the best view, the infloresences must be backlit by the sun. I make pics in early morning and late afternoon.  Viewed against a plain background away from the sun, they are not very colorful.


6. Have you grown Gulf Muhly from seeds?

I haven't tried. Dividing clumps in spring is not that difficult and much faster.

October, 2012

October, 2011

7. Is there a substitute Native grass to use instead of Muhlenbergia?

Eragrostis spectabilis, here in a meadow setting.

Eragrostis, Purple Love Grass,  has a slightly longer bloom time.

A cool-season grass, Agrostis hyemalis, Winter Bent Grass or Tickle Grass blooms here in early spring and makes a beautiful show en masse when it blooms. I don't know how it might behave in a garden setting.

Muhlenbergia atop a berm, 2014.


  1. I love this grass. DH and I used to see fields of this until buildings over took fields. It was always so pretty to see.

    I have two big pots of it, and need to divide it for more. Thanks for the info in this post Jean.

    Happy November ~ FlowerLady

  2. This is a great grass that you can grow well there, but it languishes here in the PNW. I have some divisions in the ground for their second year, that are still small and barely flowering yet. They don't get enough sun, even in our full sun setting, to bloom before frost. I may give Eragrostis a try. Your shots of it are glorious.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience growing this grass. I've always admired it when I see picture on-line but didn't think it grew here as I never saw it anywhere. Then recently I saw a beautiful row of it in full bloom separating lanes of traffic in an upscale community nearby. It was breath-taking and, ever since, I've been thinking about where I could try it in my own garden.

  4. I grow a similar grass, eragrostis elliotti, Wind Dancer. The bloom is tan; I much prefer your pink. Mine tosses seeds and I find lots of little starts here and there.

    Yours is rated for my zone, but I wonder if my heavier soil would work.
    Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis grows it. I am thinking my new barer front ditch......I could let some grasses run rampant. Burning them off might be an issue with traffic.

  5. I love gulf muhly, but alas, I don't have quite enough sun for it my gardens. But I do enjoy it in other gardens. Great post--lovely photos!


I look forward to comments and questions and lively discussion of gardening and related ideas.

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