In spring and summer, pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) plays a supporting role to other plants by lending texture and greenery to your garden. But it captures the spotlight in late summer when it moves into a starring role in your landscape. That’s when this green-tufted ornamental grass pops with color, painting your yard with its dramatic pink plumes.
An Avalanche of Accolades
- Native. Trends in landscape design include incorporating native plants in your garden design. Why? Native plants typically are adapted to native soils and climate, which also means they thrive with natural rainfall levels. This translates to a term that will fall easy on your ears — low maintenance. After its initial transplanting and establishment care, pink muhly grass needs little attention.
- Perennial. Pink muhly grass is a Southeastern native, but if you live anywhere in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 through 9, you can enjoy it year-round. Even after the pink blooms fade in autumn, they give way to buff-colored seedheads, which give movement to your winter garden on windy days and provide a winter food source for the birds.
- Unsurpassed pink color. Blowing in the breeze, pink muhly grass is a dead-ringer for cotton candy. But the pink blooms are a lot tougher than their airy appearance suggests. Although some flowering plants won’t bloom if conditions aren’t “just right,” pink muhly grass thrives even when conditions are less than hospitable to reward you with a spectacular display, year after year.
- Drought tolerance. There’ll be no standing over these plants in the heat of summer with a garden hose to quench their thirst. Just make sure they’re planted in well-draining soil and they’ll be good to go. If you live in a particularly dry climate, several inches of mulch around plants will help to conserve moisture and keep the plants happy.
- Adaptation to different soil types. Does the soil in your garden leave a lot to be desired? Pink muhly grass prospers in all soil types — sandy, rocky or clay soil. So find that sunny garden spot where you’ve had challenges growing other plants, and “x” marks that spot to plant pink muhly grass.
- Beautiful in floral arrangements. If you enjoy bringing the outdoors in, you’ll love pink muhly grass in floral arrangements. Use it as an accent with other garden cuttings or a standalone vase specimen to dress up your dining table, mantel or dresser. You can make a unique centerpiece for a fall dinner party with pink muhly grass.
- Birds love it. You won’t have to buy bird seed every winter if you feed the birds naturally, with the seeds that pink muhly grass produces. Native birds look for native plants to provide their favorite foods. Because the seeds persist on the plants well into winter, you may see birds feasting on the seeds even when snow is on the ground.
The Fine Print about Its Care
No fine print. Although no plant is completely “plant it and forget it,” pink muhly grass comes awfully close. It’ll grow best in a sunny spot, but it can handle a little shade. If you want to tidy it up in late winter, simply give it a little “ponytail pruning.” Gather the stems together like a ponytail, and tie them with twine. Cut the ponytail off below the twine and you’ll have neat little tufts of grass that produce new leaves when the weather warms in spring. A bonus is that you won’t have trimmed stems to clean up around your plants, because they’re already bound with the twine. Just make sure to leave the plants intact through the winter so the birds can eat the seeds.
What about Pests and Diseases?
Forget about using chemical pesticides on pink muhly grass, because it is virtually bulletproof against the attack of pests and diseases. It’s even deer-resistant!
- Planted as a hedgerow, pink muhly grass is without artistic equal in the late summer landscape. Because it grows in a clump with a mature 4-foot spread, space plants two feet apart to allow them enough growing room to fill in a solid hedge.
- Plant pink muhly grass along your sunny hardscapes — sidewalks, driveway and patio — as a low-maintenance border.
- Welcome your visitors by planting pink muhly grass on either side of your front stairs. Plant in groups of three and wait for every guest to ask, “What IS that stunning plant?!”
Even though it’s a member of the grass family, pink muhly grass is anything but a run-of-the-mill grass. It is determined in the face of harsh growing conditions that other plants can’t handle. Discover the merits of this underused and enduring perennial by introducing it to your landscape — you’ll be tickled pink at the results!
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