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Pink Muhly Grass

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Mature Height*: 

3-4 ft

Mature Width*: 

3-4 ft

USDA Hardiness Zone Range:

6 to 11

Hardy to: 


Water Requirements: 

Moderate Water

Shade Requirements:

Full Sun

Native to:

Southeastern US

Origin and Adaptability:

Hailing from the vibrant grasslands of eastern North America, the hairawn muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) or Pink Muhly Grass, brings a touch of native charm to landscapes. This warm-season grass thrives in full sun and well-draining soil, making it a perfect choice for xeriscaping, meadows, and borders. Its adaptability extends beyond its native range, flourishing in gardens throughout the United States, adding a touch of prairie elegance to diverse landscapes.

Architectural Form and Foliage:

The muhly's beauty lies in its contrasting layers. Its base forms a dense clump of green, blade-like leaves, swaying gently in the breeze. As summer progresses, these leaves turn a captivating copper hue, creating a warm understory. Rising from this base, airy, feathery inflorescences emerge in fall, reaching heights of 2-3 feet. These delicate structures, initially a pale pink, gradually deepen to a mesmerizing rose-purple, creating a cloud-like effect that dances in the autumn light.

Floral Display and Growth Speed:

The hairawn muhly delivers a stunning floral display that lasts throughout the fall season. The airy panicles, adorned with countless tiny florets, shimmer with a delicate sheen, attracting butterflies, bees, and other pollinators for a vibrant autumn feast. While the inflorescences steal the show, the grass itself maintains a moderate growth rate, forming dense, clumping colonies that gradually expand over time.

Light and Water Requirements:

This sun-loving native thrives in full sun exposure, basking in the warmth to fuel its growth and spectacular fall display. Once established, its drought-tolerant nature allows it to flourish with minimal irrigation. However, occasional deep watering during extended dry periods can enhance its growth and ensure vibrant blooms. Remember, moderation is key, as overwatering can be detrimental.

Wildlife and Pollinators:

The hairawn muhly serves as a vital food source and habitat for diverse pollinators. Butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds flock to its nectar-rich flowers, contributing to a thriving ecosystem within your garden. Its dense foliage provides shelter for small creatures, adding to the ecological balance of the landscape.

Cultural and Ecological Significance:

While not traditionally consumed, the muhly holds cultural significance for Indigenous communities throughout its native range. Historically, various parts of the plant have been used for medicinal purposes, reflecting the deep connection between indigenous communities and the land. The hardy nature and drought tolerance of this plant make it a valuable tool for ecological land reclamation projects. Its dense roots help anchor the soil, preventing erosion and paving the way for other native plants to repopulate the land. Additionally, its clean-burning properties make it ideal for controlled burns in natural areas, promoting healthy ecosystem renewal.

Challenges and Considerations:

This low-maintenance grass requires minimal care. Pruning involves removing spent flower stalks after the fall season to maintain their graceful form. Planting in well-draining soil is crucial to prevent root rot, especially during periods of heavy rainfall.

Integration into Landscape Designs:

With its captivating fall display, textural contrast, and easy care, the hairawn muhly seamlessly integrates into diverse landscapes.

Landscape architects and designers can utilize it as:

• A stunning focal point: Create a mesmerizing autumn display by planting it in mass.
• A textural accent: Contrast its airy inflorescences with bold foliage plants for added visual interest.
• A low-maintenance border: Line pathways or edges with its graceful form.
• A pollinator haven: Attract butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your garden with its nectar-rich blooms.

Designing with Muhlenbergia capillaris:

Capture the essence of the changing seasons and support biodiversity by incorporating the hairawn muhly into your landscape. This versatile native grass offers a unique blend of visual appeal, ecological value, and cultural significance, enhancing any outdoor space with its captivating dance of texture and color.

*Height and width estimated for growth in the Tucson, AZ area. True sizes may vary.

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