Gulf Coast muhly grass a fall stunner

Gulf Coast muhly grass. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Gulf Coast muhly grass. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

 

By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

Gulf Coast muhly – or pink muhly grass (known botanically as Muhlenbergia capillaris) – is one of the most stunning grasses in the fall landscape in Louisiana. This coastal native ornamental grass has received a considerable amount of attention the past few years.

Not likely to be noticed in spring and summer, muhly grass becomes quite a show in the landscape during the fall. When other ornamental grass are drooping and foliage is looking bad, this native produces attractive, green, fine-textured foliage that will be covered with a pink cloud of wispy flower heads.

Flowering usually begins in late September and continues through November. The flowering effect is amplified when the grass is planted in large masses. By late summer, a mature planting of muhly grass will grow to about 30-36 inches tall with a spread of 3-4 feet.

Mulhy grass is a hardy perennial around the state. It should be pruned in late winter just prior to new foliage growth by reducing the plant height by two-thirds. This allows room for the new season’s growth.

Care for muhly grass is minimal. Other than pruning, light fertilization is beneficial. Plants need a well-drained soil but are adaptive to many soil types and will acclimate well in many typical landscape settings. Fertilizer should be applied in early spring. Provide full sun and only minimum irrigation. Muhly grass is one of the drought-tolerant grass species.

Muhly grass is a great accent plant. You can use it and other grasses in theme gardens, and they work well as “filler” plants in containers. Some are suited for water garden perimeter plantings or pond edgings. And many can be combined with flowering annuals and perennials in color beds.

This grass and other ornamental grasses add beauty to the landscape, but they also can be useful. Ornamental grasses can be ground covers, screens, specimen plantings, container plantings and much more. They are good for erosion control, too. Ornamental grasses also can attract wildlife to the landscape.

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