Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris: Pink flowering perennial grass

Description: Gulf Muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris, also known as Pink, Hairawn or Autumn Blush Muhly, is a medium-growing, grass native to Texas. It has an upright bushy habit and usually grows to 3 feet tall in bloom and 2-3 feet wide. Gulf Muhly has unbranched long wiry deciduous green leaves. This grass is named in honor of botanist and chemist Heinrich Muhlenberg (1753-1815), who described many native American plants.

Flowers and Seeds: Gulf Muhly has a pink cloud of blooms in the fall that may extend to half the height of the plant. Blooming starts in early to mid-September, with the blossom color fading in November. Quarter- to half-inch tan to brown seeds may be collected when the pink flower color fades and is best accomplished with a comb so as not to damage the faded flower spikes.

Planting sites: Gulf Muhly should be planted where it will receive at least 6 hours of sun a day. It prefers well-drained sandy soils although it will tolerate other well-drained soils.

Watering Instructions: Gulf Muhly is drought tolerant. During long dry spells, it may appreciate supplemental water, although it is not necessary. As is the case for many other native Texas plants, “wet feet” may cause plant death.

Comments: Growing Gulf Muhly is easy. The only maintenance is to cut the dead leaves and flower spikes to 6-12 inches high in the winter or early spring to allow for new growth later in spring. Gulf Muhly is deer resistant and can be used for erosion control. It looks nice as a specimen plant and also works well planted en masse. Gulf Muhly provides shelter for birds and beneficial insects like ladybugs. Gulf Muhly was named 2012 Plant of the Year by the Garden Club of America and is a Texas SmartScapeTM plant. Good companion plants include Fall Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium), white-blooming Lindheimer's Muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri), Gayfeather (Liatris mucronata), Gregg's mistflower (Conoclinium greggii) and Mealy Blue Sage (Salvia farinacea). Gulf Muhly should be used instead of invasive and exotic non-native grasses like grasses of the genus Miscanthus or Weeping Lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula).

Written by Becca Dickstein

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