Darrell Blackwelder: Hardy, colorful muhly grass

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 3, 2019

Driving north on I-85 toward Lexington, you may observe colorful white and pink grasses planted on the roadsides and the medians. The mass of pink or white grass plantings are muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia capillaris).

These perennial grasses along the roadsides are rather nondescript in the spring and summer, however when cooler fall temperatures arrive, they are aglow with pink and white plumes that dominate the hillsides.

The grasses are grouped in steep locations along the roadway to aid in erosion control and to add interest along the drive. They also have the ability to withstand excessive heat, drought, and poor soils normally associated with roadside plantings.

This native grass is long-lived, with very few insect or disease problems and is also deer resistant. Birds are attracted to the small seeds produced in the late fall.
The grass reaches 2-3 feet tall and can be implemented as colorful addition to our home and urban landscapes. The plumes provide a striking contrast in both color and texture, adding an interesting design feature to fall blooming annuals.

Muhly grass is best utilized in mass plantings, preferably in full sunlight. The blooms endure into the winter, but it is best to tidy the plants by cutting the spent blooms back before new growth in early spring.

Go to https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/muhlenbergia-capillaris/ for more detailed information.

Darrell Blackwelder deblackw@ncsu.edu is the retired horticulture agent and director with the North Carolina Cooperative Ex