Pink Muhly Grass – Grow and Care for Gulf Muhly

Pink Muhly Grass is one of the most beautiful ornamental grasses you can grow in your garden, or use to accent part of your yard.  In my opinion it is the most beautiful, as the wispy, wavy purple stalks blowing in the wind are just gorgeous.  Also known as Gulf Muhly, Pink Muhly Grass is not only beautiful but hardy.  It looks nice as a background ornamental grass during Spring/Summer with its stiff-spikey blades.  Only to turn into the sea of pink/purple waves in the fall that last for several months.  Finally in winter turning into a golden stray like color, it still provides interest.  I love this plant, as it is attractive in some way during the most of the year.purple gulf muhly in autumn

Be sure to scroll to the bottom, after the quick reference table to see a short video overview / guide on this plant!

Pink Muhly Grass Facts

Gulf Muhly rain drops
Pink Muhly Grass after a rain storm. The grass will stand up again after the rain, but it is really pretty seeing the individual blades covered in rain drops.

As stated above, Pink Muhly Grass is a native ornamental grass that gives stunning fall displays of pink/purple shades.  The pink color is generated from the ‘spiklets’ on the stalks that are purple in color.  The seeds can cover half of the stalk (upper-half), which gives is a ton of color relative to the overall size.  The seeds on the blades of grass will catch the wind and really dance in the breeze.  It is almost like a sea with pink-purple waves crashing in the Fall.  This grass is found in the Eastern United States, from Zones 7 – 11.  Check your gardening zone here.

pink muhly grass rain drops
Beautiful intricate water droplets on blades of Gulf Muhly grass

Scientific Name

The scientific name of Muhly Grass / Pink Muhly is Muhlenbergia capillaris

Pink Muhly Grass Growing Conditions

Gulf Muhly Grass prefers full sun and well-drained soil.  So, if you have sandy soil in an open area with Southern Exposure, you should be good to go.  Conversely, if you have clay soil, it needs to be well drained, and probably not in a low spot.  I have clay soil, and when I planted our Pink Muhly Grass I made sure that I incorporated good compost two feet down to make sure I had enough drainage.  These grasses are on year 3 and are looking good.  Make sure you space the plants appropriately, as if they are too close together they may not have good airflow which could result in a fungus.

Finally, if placing this plant in a mulched area, you need to keep mulch at least a couple inches (5 cm) away from the base of the plant.  Having mulch that close to the plant can cause root rot, which will kill the plant.  This is a greater risk if you have clay soil (which I do).

Gulf Muhly flanked by Echinacea Purpurea

Muhly Grass is typically listed as hardy to zone 7.  So, I live on the edge of zone 6/7, and haven’t had any issues for the last two years as I have not lost any plants.  Will my luck hold up?  I hope so, or perhaps this grass is tougher than the literature says.

Growing Pink Muhly Grass from Seed

The most economic way to grow Pink Muhly Grass is from germinating seed yourself. To grow from seed first prepare some pots with moist potting soil, and make sure it is somewhat firm but not compacted. Then lightly sow the seed into pots or on the ground.  Then, lightly sprinkle / cover the seed with a dusting of soil, so you have a mix of exposed and slightly buried seed.  Finally, gently press the seed into the soil.  Keep moist, and you can expect germination of Pink Muhly grass in a week or two.  Don’t over water it, and take care to mist the seed – as these seeds are so tiny they can be washed out easily.

Pink Muhly Grass Seedlings

Where to get Muhly Grass Seed?

I’ve found seed is hard to come by, as the company I bought my seed from no longer carries it for some reason (it was Roundstone seed, no affiliation, but a good company with good seed).  But if you know someone with Pink Muhly, you can harvest the seed yourself (with their permission).  To collect the seed of Pink Muhly you just need to wait until the pink color fades to golden brown/straw, and rake the stalks.  You can use your hand or even a comb to do this.  Then, just wait until the following Spring and sow the seed in pots, lightly covering the seed with soil.  Keep the seed moist until germination, then treat it as you would any other seedling until large enough to plant out, once they reach 3-4” tall with multiple blades of grass.

Another, easier way to harvest the seed is to collect it when you cut the grass back in the Spring.  Just stroke your hand over the stalks into a bucket or container.  Most of what will fall off the stalk will be seed/chaff.  Then you can just plant this mixture where you want more plants.

Pink Gulf Muhly Grass in Spring
Gulf Muhly grass in the Spring, about one month after emerging from dormancy

Gulf Muhly Landscape uses

Since this plant can get 1-3 feet, it is nice in the ‘shorter’ areas of the flower beds.  If placed behind taller plants may result in shorter growth as it will be in the shade.  This plant can be interesting as a single focal point / specimen.  But I prefer to try to make at least a couple of rows to create a mass planting/layered effect.  It makes the ‘purple waves’ of Pink Muhly Grass in the wind more dramatic and relaxing.

But it is great for a border in front of a flower bed, intermixed with other perennials.  I plan incorporating some into our micro-prairie to act as a better border with our ‘proper lawn’. [See guide to make a micro-prairie, wildflower garden here ==>]

Pink gulf muhly in fall
The gentle pink and purple hue of Muhly Grass makes for a stunning Fall display…Happy Halloween!

In one of our front flower beds we have 6-10 specimens in a two layer arc, which provides the mass planting effect with some depth.  It is really beautiful in the autumn with our jack-o-lanterns, or in winter during the first snowfall.

Gulf Muhly snow winter
The first snow of winter contrasts beautifully with the Pink Muhly Grass

Dividing Pink Muhly

When should you divide Pink Muhly Grass?  You should divide it in early Spring when it is just emerging.  Wait until you have had a good rain, or water the ground thoroughly, then dig out the root ball.  Just start digging an inch or two outside of any visible plant, so that you don’t accidently damage the root ball.  Then, use a shovel, bow-saw, or knife to divide the clump into two or three.  See our guide on dividing perennials here for more detailed information ==>

Gulf Muhly Grow and Care Reference Table

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Pink Muhly Grass How to Grow

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Joe Foster

Hi - I grew up outdoors in nature - hiking, fishing, hunting. In high school I got my first job at a garden center where I learned to garden and landscape. I've been growing plants from seed and designing native plant gardens for over six years. I hope to share some of my knowledge with you! Additionally I am a wood worker / DIY enthusiast. I enjoy designing/building projects (with hand tools when I can!). I hope to give you some tips and useful information!

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