Ornamental grasses are an invaluable addition to the modern landscape. In the not too distant past, suggesting someone add grasses to their garden would probably have been met with scorn. Now, however, ornamental grasses are a mainstay of many beautiful gardens, including Bok Tower Gardens. Ornamental grasses can make great groundcovers, border plantings, and accent pieces; they frequently add color and texture as well as architectural interest to the landscape. Among the numerous species found at Bok Tower are bluestem, panicgrass, lovegrass, lopsided Indian grass, Fakahatchee grass, and muhly grass.
October is prime time for many ornamental grass species, but few can match the beauty and appeal of our native muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). Requiring minimal care throughout the year, muhly grass bursts forth every fall with a profusion of delicate pinkish-purple flowers borne atop gently arching flower stalks. Muhly grass is native to the eastern United States where it can be found growing in a variety of habitats, including wet prairies, pine flatwoods, coastal uplands, and even along roadsides. These days, however, you are more likely to encounter muhly grass in home and commercial landscapes, and for good reason.
Muhly grass makes an excellent border plant but is most effective in mass plantings, where the effect is instantly memorable. When viewed from a distance the feathery inflorescences combine to form a pinkish-purple billowing mass that hovers above a sea of dark green leaves. The fine-textured floral branching is spectacular glistening with condensation in the early morning sunlight, and equally mesmerizing when swaying in gentle unison to the late afternoon breeze. This carefree, native perennial is a rewarding addition to any mid-to-large sized Florida landscape and will provide years of wonderful fall color and autumn delight.
Cultural Requirements: Muhly grass is a clumping grass that requires full sun. The species is relatively drought tolerant once established but may benefit from supplemental irrigation during prolonged periods of drought. Space plants 24 to 36 inches to allow for optimal growth and adequate air circulation.
Blog written by Patrick Lynch, Plant Records Curator and Sarah Lingwall, Bok Tower Gardens Volunteer. Photographed by Cassidy Jones, Social Media Coordinator.