How to Grow Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)


muhly grass

By Jennifer Poindexter

Muhly grass is a hard-to-miss plant. It produces green shoots during the summer and as fall sets in, the plant produces pink, bushy flowers.

Then they dry and become quite the beautiful sight during winter. Whether you’re looking for an interesting plant for the entrance to your driveway or if you’d like to add it elsewhere in your landscape, this option deserves your attention.

Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with how to grow muhly grass. I’m going to walk you through what you should know in regard to planting, caring, and protecting this plant.

Here’s what you should know when learning how to grow muhly grass as part of your landscape:

What You’ll Learn:

  • A brief introduction about the appearance and seasonal changes of muhly grass.
  • The ideal environment and requirements for the thriving growth of muhly grass.
  • Different methods to plant muhly grass, be it by division, seeds, or using containers.
  • Understanding the low-maintenance requirements of muhly grass, including watering techniques and pruning.
  • An overview of pests and diseases that may affect muhly grass and tips for prevention.

Growing Conditions for Muhly Grass

Muhly grass is a great way to add life and color to your landscape. These plants reach heights between one and three feet with a width of up to two feet. 

Plus, they’re hard to miss with their pink plumes. If this is intriguing to you, it’s worth ensuring you provide the right growing location.

Expect muhly grass to remain hardy in planting zones six through eleven and thrive in areas of full to partial sunlight.

This equates to the plant receiving approximately six or more hours of sunlight each day. The more sun, the happier this plant tends to be.

You should plant muhly grass in soil that’s both loamy and well-draining.

Though muhly grass has a certain aesthetic about it, it’s tough. It can survive winter temperatures as low as -10-degrees Fahrenheit.

If you can supply these few ingredients for a growing location, this plant should do well in your growing space.

How to Plant Muhly Grass

There are a couple of different ways you may grow muhly grass around your yard or garden. Whichever method you choose, ensure you only plant in spring or at least one-month before the first frost in fall.

You may grow muhly grass either by division or from seed. If you wish to start these plants from seed, do so indoors or by direct sowing.

If you’re starting the seeds indoors, fill a growing tray or container with nutritious, well-draining potting soil. Place two seeds in each container, or cell of a growing tray, as a germination insurance policy.

Don’t cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Keep the soil evenly damp and the growing container in a bright area.

I like to place my growing trays (or containers) inside a second tray with no drainage holes. Then I pour water into the tray and allow the soil to soak up moisture from beneath. 

When the soil is saturated, I pour off the excess. This ensures the soil receives what it needs and reduces the chance of gardener-error on my end. 

I also like to place a piece of plastic wrap or a dome lid over the growing tray as this produces a greenhouse effect. 

It helps hold in moisture and heat which is vital to sprouting seeds. 

The seeds should germinate in approximately two weeks. From there, provide adequate care until you can transplant them outdoors. Remember to harden your plants off prior to transplanting.

If both seeds sprout in your seed starting container, pick the stronger of the two and cut the other one off at soil level. Use clean scissors to remove the weaker plant. 

If you’d like to direct sow your seeds, till the earth where you’d like to plant. Dig a shallow trench and sprinkle the seeds in it.

Don’t worry too much about seed spacing as you can thin them later when they sprout. Don’t cover the seeds as this allows light for germination. Keep the soil evenly damp until the seeds sprout. 

Once the seeds sprout, thin them to where there’s three feet of space between each seedling to ensure they have room to grow. Continue to provide care to your plants as they mature. 

The final way to start muhly grass is by dividing a mature plant. If your plants are becoming too large and causing an airflow issue, dig the entire plant up.

Use a spade to divide the plant into multiple sections, ensuring each section has a portion of the root system.

From there, replant each division into the soil and care for it as it establishes itself as a new plant.

Remember, no matter the method you use to grow muhly grass, be sure to provide proper spacing around your plants as this helps with better health and airflow. 

You may also grow muhly grass in a container using any of the methods shared here. Be sure to select a container with adequate drainage, proper soil, and that’s large enough to provide the plant with room to grow for approximately two years.

These are a few ways you may go about adding muhly grass to your growing spaces.

pink flamingo muhly grass

Caring for Muhly Grass

Muhly grass is a low-maintenance plant. It needs water and pruning. You shouldn’t need to fertilize this plant.

When watering muhly grass use the deep watering method. This means you’ll apply water to the plant for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.

This saturates the roots at the time of watering while also saturating the ground around the plant. As the days progress, the roots will dig deeper into the ground to retrieve water.

By doing this, the plant develops a deeper root system which normally goes hand-in-hand with a healthier plant.

Pruning of this plant should take place over the winter or in early spring so as not to disrupt the production of pink plumes.

Be sure you don’t cut any closer than four-inches to the crown, as you want to encourage regrowth and not hinder the plant by removing too much.

It’s also wise to winterize your muhly grass when pruning it. Pruning is one step in the winterizing process.

Once the dead portions of the plant are removed, and it’s close to soil-level, add a layer of mulch that’s approximately four-inches thick to provide insulation. 

This is all you need to do to encourage optimal health in your muhly grass. By providing these few basics, the plant should produce ample beauty.

Garden Pests and Diseases Which Impact Muhly Grass

The final thing we should discuss about growing muhly grass is how to protect it. This plant has only a few issues that commonly occur.

The main pest to impact muhly grass are mealybugs. These pests may be treated with an insecticide. The main disease to impact muhly grass is tar spot which is a fungal disease.

This is brought on if the plant is exposed to a lot of humidity and doesn’t have adequate airflow. To deter issues with fungal disease, it’s best to plant in well-draining soil, where the plant has ample sunlight, and by pruning to encourage better airflow.

The other issue you may run into is noticing that the pink plumes aren’t pink. If your plumes are discolored, this is a sign of too little water, too little sunlight, that you pruned during the growing season, or that the plants lack airflow due to being planted too closely.

It’s worth noting that pink muhly grass seems to be deer-resistant, meaning they don’t choose to graze on this variety of plant. 

If you have an issue with deer eating the vegetation on your property, this is one plant that may remain safe in your landscaping. 

Take these pointers into consideration when growing muhly grass. It’s vital that you act quickly to any problems to avoid greater damage to your plants.

You’re now fully in the loop on how to grow muhly grass. This plant is beautiful and low-maintenance which is considered a win to many gardeners.

If you’re looking for a plant that’s different from most traditional landscaping plants but is also less fussy, then muhly grass could be a perfect fit for your plans.

Key Takeaways:

  • Muhly grass is recognized for its green shoots in the summer and pink, bushy flowers in the fall, which dry out during the winter.
  • Muhly grass thrives in planting zones six through eleven, requires six or more hours of sunlight daily, and prefers well-draining, loamy soil.
  • Muhly grass can be grown from seeds, by division or in containers. Always ensure proper spacing for optimal health and airflow.
  • Water using the deep-watering method and prune during winter or early spring. Avoid cutting closer than four inches to the crown during pruning.
  • Be vigilant against mealybugs and tar spot fungal disease. Ensuring proper airflow, sunlight, and water can prevent most common issues with muhly grass.
  • Pink muhly grass is deer-resistant, making it an attractive choice for landscapes prone to deer grazing.

Muhly Grass Quick Reference Chart

Feature Description
Common Name Pink Muhly Grass
Scientific Name Muhlenbergia capillaris
Native Range Eastern North America (Kansas to Massachusetts, south to Florida and Texas)
Preferred Habitat Wet prairies, dry savannas, marsh edges, well-drained upland pine forests
Sunlight Full sun
Bloom Time Late summer to fall
Bloom Duration 6 to 8 weeks
Bloom Appearance Silky, wispy, purplish-pink panicles; 12-18 inches long and up to 10 inches wide
Height Up to 3 feet
Width Up to 3 feet
Planting Style Best in clumps; good in borders, perennial gardens, and as groundcover
Soil Type Prefers well-drained
Propagation Seeds, divisions
Winter Care Leave for winter interest; cut back to 6-8 inches in spring

More About Muhly Grass

https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/muhlenbergia-capillaris/

https://extensiongardener.ces.ncsu.edu/extgardener-pink-muhlygrass-prized-for-ornamental-display/

https://www.uaex.uada.edu/yard-garden/resource-library/plant-week/muhly-grass.aspx

The post How to Grow Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) appeared first on Gardening Channel.

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