The landscape grass that makes you see red

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gulf muhly
muhlenbergia capillaris
poaceae

  • moderate water (terrace zone)

  • FULL SUN to filtered shade

  • HARDY TO 0º F

  • TO ABOUT 3' TALL and wide

  • red cloud of flowers over foliage in fall

  • LARVAL HOST TO MANY BUTTERFLIES

  • leaves used by birds for nest-building

Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) forms an attractive mound (with somewhat spikier leaves than the other deer grasses) which reaches to an average of 3' tall and wide. But what really sets this species apart from the others is the surprise fall color--the flowers and seedheads of gulf muhly are reddish pink, creating a haze of red above the plants. 

Plants are not picky and can take some pretty hot conditions, even in spots where the concrete reflects heat from the boiling summer sun. Plants can take a fair amount of shade but do best if there is some filtered sun coming through the trees. Gulf muhly is hardy to about 0º F and takes moderate water. To help plants look better in the spring, cut back the old growth to about a few inches from the ground in early spring. 

Like most native grasses, this one provides materials for birds to make nests of. But additionally, gulf muhly is also a larval host to several species of butterflies. In the southwest, this species shows up in Texas, but it is also native to more of the east and south part of the country. 

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Katherine Gierlach