Fall Sunset in Your Landscape: Gulf Muhly (Muhlenbergia Capillaris)

Gulf Muhly

"Gulf Muhly" Photo from Desktoppictures.com

Gulf muhly is a favorite of landscapers and home-owners alike.  It may be hard to determine why when it only grows about 2 feet high and has thin stiff leaves.  For most of the year, it’s easily ignored.

In fall when gulf muhly is in bloom it is stunning. The wispy, pink-purple blooming tufts can double the size of the plant.  Their wispy nature blows easily in the wind, creating an effect of crashing waves on the coast.

Gulf muhly can act as a specimen plant or focal point in your garden.   You may also use them in mass plantings.  Back light the cluster by planting them on the east or west side of your house so the magenta blooms can catch the sunlight and enhance the sunrise or sunset.  Better yet intersperse some lime green bamboo muhlies to make the bloom color pop out in your landscape.

gulf muhly in january

"Gulf Muhly in January"


Plant gulf muhlies in full sun in well-drained soil, and space about 2 feet apart.  They don’t like a thick layer of mulch around the base of the plant, it can cause root rot.  Spread a two-inch layerof mulch, but be sure to leave a two-inch ring free of mulch around the base of the plant.

Water gulf muhlies once a week during the first year, to establish.  During the hot dry summer it may become necessary to water more than once a week.  Check for moisture in your soil before watering.

When planting incorporate compost to increase drainage and fertility in your soil.  Additionally, top dress the area around your plants with 1/2 inch of compost in spring.

To encourage full growth and make sure you get a good show out of your gulf muhlies, fertilize three times a year with an all-purpose organic fertilizer.  Once after pruning in February, the second time in June, and third in September.

Cut gulf muhlies back around Valentines Day.  If you start to see new growth emerging before Valentines, cut them back before the new growth gets too big.  The grass will become difficult to cut without damaging the new growth, if not cut back in time.

You may divide the clumps of grass every two to three years in early spring while plants are dormant.

Plant Characteristics

The blooms will emerge in fall and last several months.  In winter gulf muhlies will slowly start to turn a straw like color as the blooms become seed heads.

In the spring and summer gulf muhlies will be smaller because of the lack of blooms and a deep green color.  To bring color to the landscape during these seasons throw out wildflower seeds in November.

Gulf muhly has many common names such as:  Pink Muhly Grass, Pink Hair Grass, Hairy Awn, and Regal Mist.

  • Height: 1-1/2 to 3 feet tall
  • Hardiness: to zone 7-11
  • Soil: well-drained soil
  • Light: sun to light shade
  • Evergreen or Deciduous: deciduous
  • Seasonal Interest: fall
  • Water Needs: low to medium
  • Wildlife: attracts butterflies, birds & insects
  • Deer Resistant: usually
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