Whimsical cotton-candy pink clouds can dot your garden as well as the pages of your kids' favorite Dr. Seuss books when you plant muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Perennial in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 11, muhly grass looks like a normal clump of ornamental grass throughout the growing season, standing 3 to 4 feet tall and wide until it blooms with tiny purplish-pink blooms on wiry stalks that form a colorful haze a foot above the rounded clump of foliage each fall. Plant muhly grass in the spring from nursery transplants.
1 Put on garden gloves.
2 Remove rocks, weeds or sod from an area in full sun to partial shade. Muhly grass is adaptable to most soil types and is even tolerant of nutrient-poor soil and areas with slow drainage, though soil that drains well is best. Clear enough area to allow for 2 to 3 feet between the centers of each muhly grass clump you plant.
3 Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost over the planting area, and work it into a depth of 8 to 10 inches with a shovel.
4 Turn your pots of muhly grass on their sides, and push up on the flexible bottoms of the nursery pots to loosen the plants -- don't yank them out by their foliage. Loosen any circling roots with your fingers or cut slices in compacted roots with a clean utility knife.
5 Dig holes an inch or so shallower than the depth of the root balls in the loose soil of the planting bed, spaced so you have 2 to 3 feet between the centers of each muhly grass clump.
6 Place the plants in the holes so the crowns of the plants are about an inch above soil grade. Fill around the plants. Firm the soil with your hands, making a slight slope from the crown to the surrounding soil.
7 Water until the soil is moist to the root zone. The plant needs at least an inch of water each week, so water as needed to make up for the lack of rain.
8 Lay 2 inches of an organic mulch around the plant, keeping the mulch 4 inches from the stem, to cut chances of stem rot.
Items you will need
- Use your judgment of your soil composition and the performance of nearby plants to decide whether or not you need to add fertilizer when planting your muhly grass. Expert opinions vary. Mississippi State University Extension recommends adding 2 pounds of a 12-6-6 slow-release fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area for muhly grass. University of Illinois Extension advises 1/2 to 1 pound of a 10-10-10 product over the same area for ornamental grasses, while University of California Extensions notes that ornamental grasses usually don't require any fertilizer when planted correctly. The time to add it, if you choose to do so, is when you incorporate the compost into the planting bed.
- Muhly grass is not considered toxic for animals or humans. Ornamental grasses can have sharp edges though, so wear gloves and long sleeves when cutting it back to the ground each year in late winter.
- University of Florida IFAS Extension: Muhlenbergia Capillaris, Muhly Grass
- University of Tennessee Gardens: October 2011 Plant of the Month — Purple (or Pink) Muhly Grass, Muhlenbergia Capillaris
- Mississippi State University Office of Agricultural Communications: Muhly Grass Puts on a Show
- University of California Cooperative Extension - Sacramento County: Ornamental Grass
- University of Illinois Extension: Care and Maintenance of Ornamental Grasses
- Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk Project: Muhlenbergia Capillaris