The most well-known member of Muhlenbergia has to be the Pink Muhly Grass. Even people who aren’t familiar with ornamental grasses often know Muhlenbergia capillaris. With dramatic arching plumes of soft pink flowers reminiscent of headdresses worn by Vegas showgirls, a large planting of this wonderful grass is enough to stop traffic.
Muhlenbergia capillaris forms an arching clump of fine blue-green leaves throughout the summer, turning a copper colour during autumn. In late summer, this unique specimen creates a spectacular, billowy inflorescence of massed, vibrant pink, airy flowers on 4-foot stems. The blooms are exquisitely beautiful and persist well into winter, giving a real end-of-season show.
Muhlenbergia capillaris thrive in full sun or partial shade, grow best in fertile, well drained soils and is a good companion to our favourite sun loving perennials. Use at the back of your flower beds to contrast its fine texture against broad-leafed perennials or plant great sweeps of them in the place of shrubs. The plants make exceptional specimens and create textural drama which it is enhanced by the deeply coloured flowers. They make great focal points in the garden and are wonderful when planted en masse.
Muhlenbergia, often simply called Muhly grass is noted for its tolerance to poorly drained soil, of drought and heat and are resistant to deer grazing. The foliage arches wide, and they can take up some space. For impressive plantings space the plants three to four feet apart.
Gardeners are fast coming to appreciate the charms of Muhlenbergia. Very few cultivars have come to market, and only a few are widely commercially available, perhaps because the species are so outstanding.
Sowing: Sow in spring or in autumn.
Sow seeds into trays or large pots containing a good quality seed compost or potting soil. Sow thinly, if you sow them too thickly, you risk the seedlings developing fungal diseases or growing spindly. Do not cover the seed with compost as light is required for germination, just tightly press the seeds into the earth.
Moisten the seeds, cover the container with a clear plastic dome or put it in a clear plastic bag so the seeds remain moist. Keep at temperatures of around 15 to 20°C (60 to 68°F).
Put the container in indirect light away from the sun, germination should take place in two to four weeks. After the seedlings appear, remove the cover and place them where they can get plenty of sun and maintain a temperature of around 15°C (60°F) until the seedlings are established.
Once seedlings are large enough to handle, transplant them to a one-litre pot containing gritty compost. They will form a bushy plant and be ready to go into the garden in summer. Be sure to plant in a place where either the morning or evening sunlight will illuminate the thread-like sprays, the low slanting light will make them glow as they wave in the breeze. Space at 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) between plants.
Muhlenbergia is a beautiful warm-season grass that forms a neat, upright clump with fine blue-grey foliage. It produces attractive, plumes in autumn and goes dormant in the cold season. It continues to be attractive in the winter landscape. For appearances sake, cut this fast-growing plant to the ground in late winter or early spring before new growth appears to remove the brown leaves and spent flowers. After pruning, add a small amount of fertiliser to the soil around the plant.
It grows best in fertile, well-draining soil and needs ample irrigation in the summer to maintain a lush appearance. It is hardy and is tolerant of high salinity but does not like to be waterlogged in winter. If it is sat in water through the winter it will die so make sure drainage is good as you plant the small plants into the garden. A handful of course grit into the planting hold will help with drainage. If you have clay, sandy soil, or other poor conditions, add a healthy amount of organic matter to the soil.
If you would like to collect seeds, they grow on the fine, branched inflorescences or plumes of flowers that are half as long as the rest of the plant. The flowers mature from the bottom up and seeds are best collected in late autumn just as the wispy plumes lose their rich pink colour. If you carefully comb the seeds with your hands from dried plumes, you won’t destroy their good looks. Collect into a paper bag and sow as soon as possible.
Borders, naturalistic and perennial planting. Specimen or focal point, Cut or Dried Flower arranging.
The genus Muhlenbergia contains over 150 species, and approximately 65 are native to North America, the majority make their home in the southern U.S. and Mexico.
Muhlenbergia capillaris is native to eastern North America, Florida to eastern Texas, north to Massachusetts, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, Kentucky, south Indiana, Missouri and Kansas. However, it is endangered in Connecticut, Indiana, Maryland, and New Jersey, and is said to have vanished from Pennsylvania and almost certainly Ohio. It can be found in acidic soils in open woods, glades or openings along roads.
The German naturalist Johann Christian Daniel von Schreber (1739-1810) named the genus Muhlenbergia after one of the first early-American scientists. Gotthilf Heinrich (Henry) Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815) was American born but returned to his ancestral Germany for schooling and later returned to America. He was an ordained Lutheran minister but devoted his free time to the study of the botany. The G.H.E Muhlenberg pressed plant collection now resides at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in Pennsylvania. This assortment of fungi, molds, lichens, mosses and more is considered a national treasure.
The species name capillaris derives from a Latin word capillus, caput meaning 'head' and pilus 'hair', meaning 'to resemble a strand of hair’ and refers to the fine blue-green leaves.
Interestingly, the word capillary refers to the slender hairlike tubes that are the smallest blood vessels and in some Romance languages the adjective is used to mean ‘widespread’ - like the capillaries in a body.
Pronounced muh-len-BERG-ee-ah kap-ill-AIR-iss. It has the common names of Pink muhly, Pink hair grass, Purple muhly grass, Hairawn muhly, Gulf muhlygrass and Mist grass.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 20 mg Average Seed Count 100 Seeds Common Name Mist grass, Pink Hair Grass Other Common Names Gulf Muhly, Hairawn muhly, Purple muhly grass Family Poaceae Genus Muhlenbergia Species capillaris Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Arching plumes of soft pink flowers Natural Flower Time Late summer and well into winter. Foliage Glossy green Height 100cm (39in) Spread 100cm (39in) Spacing 60 to 90cm (24 to 36in) Position Full Sun prefered Soil Fertile, moist but well-drained soil. Season Good autumn colour