Gulf muhly, Muhlenbergia capillaris, also known as hairy-awn muhly or pink muhly, a native perennial ornamental grass, has been named the newest Texas Superstar plant.
Gulf muhly is adapted to most areas of the state and is known for its incredible drought tolerance and pink color of its inflorescences, said David Rodriguez, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist, Bexar County.
This tough native grass is excellent for providing a shot of color as summer beds fade from excessive heat, Rodriguez said. Plants typically grow to 1.5-3 feet tall with airy pink profusion of blooms he described as “clouds, fireworks or a rose-colored fog.”
“Gulf muhly is a true Texas Superstar plant,” he said. “It’s a hardy native perennial with Earth Kind characteristics that works well in a variety of landscape designs, and it can be a showstopper when it blooms. Gulf muhly embodies everything we look for in a Texas Superstar.”
To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must perform well for growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must also be easy to propagate, ensuring the plants are widely available and reasonably priced.
Get to know Gulf muhly
Gulf muhly has an upright mounding habit and usually grows to 2 to 3 feet wide with unbranched long, wiry deciduous green leaves. This perennial grass has a dramatic pink cloud of blooms that may extend to about half the plant’s height.
Gulf muhly is tolerant of a wide range of well-drained soils in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 6-9, but Rodriguez recommends adding 20% organic compost to soils that are extremely sandy, rocky or clay laden. They are also soil pH adaptable and prefer low- fertility sites.
The plant will tolerate light shade but blooms best in full sun, Rodriguez said. It is very heat and drought tolerant once established but mulching around plants with a good layer of double-shredded hardwood can help its performance. Rodriguez said soil or mulch on top of the plant’s crown should be avoided.
Rodriguez also noted Gulf muhly can be planted as an individual specimen but add striking color when planted in groups.
“Right now, going into fall, is when we get a lot of questions about ornamental grasses because they have very showy late-season color,” he said. “Ornamental grasses like Gulf muhly and past Texas Superstars Lindheimer mulhy and Napier grasses Black Stockings and Princess Caroline are very popular because of their versatility and are real showstoppers this time of year.”
Gulf muhly is versatile, shareable
Gulf muhly is very low maintenance once established, Rodriguez said. These grasses provide natural sanctuary for many small birds and pollinators and are known to be deer-resistant and largely pest- and disease-free.
Plants typically die back during winter and can be cut back to the crown, about 6 inches above the ground, while still dormant, he said.
Rodriguez said Gulf muhly is also a plant that can be spread or shared. Once plants are older and become full, root clumps can be dug out and split into halves or quarters to place in other locations or give to friends and family.
Gulf muhly offers a variety of options to utilize in landscapes or to apply in other ornamental ways, he said. Plants should be widely available, and many nurseries stock muhly grasses in the late season for fall planting and to showcase their color.
“Some people like Gulf muhly’s dead appearance and cut it back hard just in time for new emergence,” he said. “The bloom stalks also work well in floral designs as a blend plant. Gulf muhly has a little bit of everything for folks, and I think that is why it is popular and part of what makes it a Texas Superstar plant.”
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Plants are designated by the Texas Superstar executive board, which comprises nine horticulturists from AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and Texas Tech University in Lubbock.