Muhly Grass-See You In September*

october-26-2008-059-2The end of the reign of the mighty muhly grass has drawn near. Muhlenbergia capillaris has been a star performer in the fairegarden this past year.sept-8-29-3In the beginning, the little bit of lawn planted at the garage side extended down to the driveway curbing, edged in liriope. This spot was part of the old driveway of the house next door that was purchased and knocked down to build the garage. When we had the new configuration circle drive paved the gravel was shoveled to the space where the muhly now grows. Continual sowings of lawn grass, a mixture of Kentucky blue and tall fescue failed to thrive in that gravely muck. This photo from 2003 shows the spot with yet another attempt at grass planting with the dying ferngully at the left back of the property.september-28-2008-004-2 A couple of pots of muhly were spied a few years ago at the local big box home improvement store and quickly scooped up and into the cart. It has been divided innumberable times to add autumn glory to the landscape. While this highly ornamental grass is planted hither and yon around the gardens here, the patch along the driveway has caused traffic to come to a screeching halt come September as passersby are stunned by the mass of pink cotton candy atop waving stems beckoning to them.november-8-2008-024-3Some facts about our muhly from an article in Fine Gardening magazine:
Height- 3 ft. to 6 ft.
Spread- 1 ft. to 3 ft.
Growth Habit- Clumps
Growth Pace- Moderate Grower
Light- Full Sun to Part Shade
Moisture- Adaptable
Maintenance- Low
Tolerance- Deer Tolerant;Drought Tolerant
USDA Zones 7-10
Characteristics- Native; Self Seeds; Showy Flowers; Showy Foliage; Showy Seed Heads
Bloom Time- Fall
Flower Color- Pink Flower; Purple/ Lavender Flower
Uses- Beds and Borders, Container, Ground Covers, Cut Flower, Dried Flower, Naturalizing, Specimen Plant/ Focal Point, Suitable as Annual, Waterside
Style Cottage Garden, Meadow Garden
Seasonal Interest- Winter Interest, Summer Interest, Fall Interest
Type- Grasses
december-28-2008-021-2By the end of the year, there is no color left in the muhly. It is a mere faded skeleton of its former beautiful self. Time to cut it down.december-28-2008-029-2There is an imperative popping up amid the straw like stalks too, Allium sphaerocephalon, drumstick alliums are showing foliage growth. In addition to these, Allium aflatunense ‘Purple Sensation’ joins the Muscari ‘Valerie Finnis’ to extend the interest in this focal point area.december-28-2008-033-2All cut down and mulched with a bag of soil conditioner, finely chopped pine bark, the muhly is already showing new blue green stems emerging from each clump. To get this look of fullness, the row was planted three deep. Some self sown seedlings have appeared to fill in even more. The lower end is still being sprigged and should soon catch up to the top of the bed which was planted first.september-21-2008-016-2 The rest of the muhly and other grasses will be cut as time and weather allow. It will be ready to grow strong and give us another lucky day in 2009.
*’See You In September’, written by S. Wayne and recorded in 1969 by a group out of New Jersey named The Happenings. It reached to #3 on the Billboard charts.

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46 Responses to Muhly Grass-See You In September*

  1. Darla says:

    That grass really is a star isn’t it? Never paid too much attention to grasses until , Maybe Gail? visited you this summer? Anyway whomever it was took pictures of this grass and I have been looking around at different grasses since. Great post!

    Hi Darla, thanks. Grasses are all great performers in any garden, so easy and they add so much movement. The muhly is a favorite, especially in the fall with the long bloom time. I do think Gail may have taken a photo of it, or some other, she was here when it was in bloom.

  2. Joy says:

    Frances .. I am such a fan of grasses in general .. but more so with this impossible dream grass ! It is so stunning especially when planted in mass like you have done. It reminds me of cotton candy .. I couldn’t squeeze fudge in the description but this is truly applicable ! LOL .. Some sites say it will survive in zone 5, which I find is probably unlikely .. BUT if I ever see it at the garden centers here I will surely give it a try .. it would be a gorgeous annual in any case : )

    Hi Joy, thanks, I love all the grasses too, they really can make a garden dramatic and exciting. We have friends in central PA that are successfully growing this muhly in a protected spot, they are zone 5, remember good drainage and maybe near some large shrubs or southern exposure of a building for winter protection. Water well when you first plant it. Good luck!

  3. Beautiful. I need to find a place for that grass in my own garden.

    What does “imperative” mean when applied to plants?

    Hi Susan, thanks. It would be an excellent addition to your lovely garden. I am being a bit freewheeling with the language, but imperative in this case means something that must be done NOW.

    I am thinking of you and your family during this difficult time.


  4. Monica says:

    Ah, the muhly is so splendid, so gorgeous in color and texture and flow… it’s almost ethereal! But of course, the dreaded zone description follows: “USDA Zones 7-10.” Pout pout pout! Actually, I would use this as an annual; it’s so dramatic. (Monica adds it to her list of plants for 2009). And, by the way, are you planning to go to the Chicago spring fling? A comment you left for me somewhere kind of sounded like it, only I thought I recalled from something else earlier it was too far for you??? Monica

    Hi Monica, thanks, it is a wonderful plant. Our friend in PA has been growing some we gave them several years ago outside in a protected area, zone 5, so there is hope. I do plan on going to Chicago, not sure about driving or flying, but I will be there!

  5. Racquel says:

    What a great performance the Muhly put on last fall. I was mesmerized by the clouds of pink. πŸ™‚

    Hi Racquel, thanks, it was the best year ever for the muhly, so glad you liked it!

  6. Dave says:

    The muhly grass is fanstastic. I hope the one’s I have now will someday become as bright and bold as yours. I really like the photo of the pink seed heads laying down. It’s almost like a pink waterfall.

    Hi Dave, thanks. Yours should be just as nice or even better if they are named cultivars, which mine are not, just the straight species. It has taken several years to get that full effect along the driveway, and they are planted quite close together too. Gardening is about patience, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

  7. Gail says:

    Dear Frances, I do love this plant and the photos are splendid…I thought the shot of the newly mulched muhly was the end. But, there was that final Mrs. America winning shot…muhly with red roses! Have a great weekend, see you before September! gail ps…good idea planting alliums, etc with the muhly.

    Hi Gail, HA, I wanted to end on a high note and that is one of my favorite shots of it even though it is not as dramatic as the driveway planting. Those are Knockout roses, a perfect mate for the muhly. We shall see how the alliums work out, I needed something fairly tall, the little muscari disappeared in there so there were moved to the front.

  8. Frances, I don’t have any of this plant, but yours makes me want some. Now, where would I put it. Very nice indeed. See you in September, Muhly.~~Dee

    Hi Dee, I think the muhly would be a great addition to your garden, it looks fabulous with roses! πŸ™‚

  9. tina says:

    It still looks really great even without the color Frances. I must find some of this muhly since it says part shade too. You are brilliant with your designs. I can see traffic coming to a full stop for the ‘cotton candy’. I’d be knocking on your door! What is it? Can I have some? I can sometimes be bold you know. Have a great day!

    Hi Tina, thanks so much. People did actually knock on my door to ask what it was. I would have had to say they could not have some though, when it is blooming is the worst time to dig it, I know, for I have killed many a plant of it that way. I’ll bet you end up with some. πŸ™‚

  10. Kim says:

    Ahhhh, the lovely, the fantastic Muhly! I’d like to urge all the commenters who can’t grow it as a perennial to grow it as an annual. I do that with purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’) and I’d hate to be without it. So give it a try. Now, all I need is some of that Muhly, and I WILL get it this year!

    Hi Kim, thanks for the back up. I also grow the purple fountain grass as an annual, it is absolutely worth buying it new every year. Our friends in PA have been growing a plant I gave them years ago with success in a protected spot with good drainage, zone 5, so there is hope. πŸ™‚ Your New Year’s eve sounded dreadful!

  11. Randy says:

    I just ventured outside to check on our Muhly and it is indeed showing signs of life. So is the Blood grass. I was worried about them to begin with. I hope we have a beautiful stand like yours one day!

    Hi Randy, good deal on your grasses showing life. The muhly so dislikes to be moved except during the winter months. The blood grass is much more forgiving. To get the look of my driveway planting, they were divided to small, about the size of a quarter, plugs and planted about six inches apart, three plants deep. And yes, it takes a whole lot of those to fill such a large space, but the end result is worth the wait. πŸ™‚

  12. Hilde says:

    So, beautiful!!
    When I see pictures like this I wish for a moment that I lived a little bit further south. But I have to try how it works up here, don’t you think?

    Klem -Hilde

    Hi Hilde, thanks. You may be able to grow this grass as an annual, from the looks of your snow cover, but it might winter over if offered a protected location and good drainage. It is worth a try! πŸ™‚

    Klem to you too, Frances

    ps, I love learning some of your words, klem = hug, I love it. πŸ™‚

  13. Brenda Kula says:

    I was telling my neighbor about this beautiful grass of yours. When we’re out and about, we look for signs of it in yards. It is like a confection dream!

    Hi Brenda, thanks. There are probably lots of plantings of this around you, it is a Texas native. And lucky you with days in the 70’s! And Mr. Robert. πŸ™‚

  14. ourfriendben says:

    Thanks for featuring your Muhly grass this year, Frances! I was not familiar with it (living in Zone 6), and would not have recognized it had you not showcased it. Thanks to you, when we visited Nashville over Thanksgiving and saw the fabulous pink grass, we knew what it was! Thanks too for your info on “See You in September.” I was aware of the song but had no clue that such an obscure group had recorded it! Wishing you and your Muhly grass a very happy and prosperous 2009.

    Hi OFB, thanks and you are most welcome. Our friends in Berwick, where we attended a wedding this summer, have been growing the muhly we gave them when they visited here several years ago with success in a protected area with evergreens and fencing. If you see some, give it a try! Nowhere like the internet to find facts about songs and lyrics, and just about everything else too!

  15. Daphne Gould says:

    Wow that is such a beautiful grass. Too bad about the zones though. I’m in zone 6. I would love to plant it, but it would just die. I say that about way too many plants though. Maybe some year I’ll move a little bit south so I can grow more things.

    Hi Daphne, so nice to see you and happy new year to you and yours. I gave some of this grass to friends who live in central PA several years ago and it is doing well in a protected area with good drainage, so who knows? It is worth trying, even if it ends up being an annual for you.

  16. Weeping Sore says:

    Like most grasses, muhlenbergia is drought tolerant too. An extra bonus adding to its seasonal beauty. I always enjoy the way you feature an area/plant and show how it changes with the seasons.

    Hi WS, thanks. It certainly is drought tolerant, once established, the magic words. Chicken pot pie! πŸ™‚

  17. Spectacular!! I am going to get me some if I have to go to the moon and back. All because of your pictures over the last few months. It’s not just your camera is it?

    Hi Anna, thanks. It will look fabulous in your garden. My camera is actually not doing it justice either. It is much prettier in real life. πŸ™‚

  18. Spectacular! and so much prettier than the regular lawn grass. Frances, it is always such a joy to see what’s happening in your garden.


    Hi Karrita, thanks. I do love all the ornamental grasses, but the muhly was special this year. So glad you enjoyed the garden this year.

  19. Frances~
    I’ll be doing feature interviews this year of fellow Blotanical members who have Etsy shops or websites.I have been compiling the member list today and am glad to add you to it. Would you be interested in a feature on My Mothers Garden blog?

    FYI~ Great tips and tricks of etsy can be found here:

    If you need any etsy help…drop me a line.


    Hi Karrita, thanks so much. I haven’t put anything up for sale yet on ETSY, but plan to in the future, so there wouldn’t be anything for people to look at yet. I might ask you some questions about doing so when I am ready to sell stuff though, if you don’t mind. πŸ™‚ Thanks for the helpful link also. I am excited about joining the fabulous artists on this great site!

  20. Nicole says:

    I have always loved the wispy elegance of grasses and bamboos. That pink muhly looks spectacular, and I will certainly plant some if ever i see it.

    hi Nicole, thanks and welcome to the alternative universe. The muhly would look fantastic in your tropical paradise! Happy 2009!

  21. Pam/Digging says:

    I’ve never felt like I had a big enough garden to devote a large space to one plant, as you’ve done. But wowie, what an impact that muhly has in a large sweep rather than the onesie-twosies I’ve planted.

    Hi Pam, thanks so much. This was certainly not my normal planting technique either, but I had seen a hillside planted with all muhly and was blown away by the impact of that mass planting. Instead of a mass planting of lawn grass, try a mass planting of the muhly at your place, it can take some shade too!

  22. Lola says:

    Oh my, that Muhly is perfect. I sure wish I had the room for it. I have purchased a couple grasses that I have in pots so as to curtail their spreading. But I did try to get the kind that doesn’t spread. I would be stopping also to ask what it was.

    Hi Lola, thanks. If you have some lawn, you have a large enough place for a mass planting, that’s what I did and our lawn is tiny.

  23. petra says:

    Hello, I found to your site via a friends blog (Lindalunda). Must say I love the gardenpictures you show. Have a nice day,
    regards, Petra

    Hi Petra, thanks and welcome from my good friend Linda’s site. I am so glad you enjoyed your visit here and do come back again! πŸ™‚

  24. Amy says:

    I could weep because that gorgeous grass won’t grow in my zone!! I enjoyed these photos so much – no wonder you’re stopped traffic πŸ™‚

    Hi Amy, thanks but I am so sorry you cannot grow the muhly, maybe as an annual as some of the others suggested? It is worth it for the impact and beauty it adds to the fall garden. I am so glad your knee is improving and you are getting around a little, and that purse is an absolute gem!

  25. marmee says:

    very cool looking grass, i am sure my daughter would love the pink shades. i bet you are looking forward to seeing it again.

    Hi Marmee, thanks. It is highly anticipated as the blades swell in late summer with the encased flowers, I check it every day and when it begins to open I am so happy!

  26. gittan says:

    I wish that my garden was twice the size so that I had room with all the plants I would like… As allways your post takes my breath away / gittan

    Hi Gittan, thanks so much. It is nice to have room to plant a lot of different type of garden beds. I see that my friends from the daylily nursery here have sent you some links, hope you are able to locate what you are looking for! πŸ™‚

  27. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is a gorgeous display Frances. I am just out of the growing zone for this grass. I would be tempted to try it if I lived a little further south.

    Hi Lisa, thanks so much. You might be able to get this to live at your place. We have friends in PA, where we went to the wedding this summer who are growing it successfully in a protected sunny well drained spot!

  28. Frances,

    Pardon my being late to the muhly farewell celebration. I was cooking all day and then entertaining our guests (and they us) until midnight. Then, it was clean up time. Another cup of coffee and I’ll be awake, I think.

    I am a HUGE fan of your muhly. I have one large clump of pink and three white.

    When is the best time to divide muhly?


    Hi Cameron, you are never late, the party goes on 24/7 thanks to the internet! πŸ™‚ Sounds like you had fun at your own shindig, great! Now is the perfect time to divide the muhly, cool, moist conditions are the best time to divide nearly every plant here, that means winter. I do love the white too, we just got some this year.

  29. Monica says:

    Hi again! I’m either taking the train or megabus to Chicago. I’m not sure how meetings/lodging works. Did you go to the fling in Austin? Is there a central location where everyone stays overnight and then meets up during the day? I’d like to meet as many bloggers as possible, so want to stay centrally, but Chicago is expensive and I may have an option to couch surf free way north of town near the gardens… but don’t want to miss out on blogger contact. ??

    Hi Monica, you are so funny! I did go to Austin and stayed at the designated hotel with the other out of towners. It was the meet up place for everyone in the morning so people had rides to the places we went. As for what is happening in Chicago, I don’t know anything about the plans. You need to contact Mister McGregor’s Daughter, she is in charge. It will be fun to meet even more garden bloggers, including you!

  30. Kathleen says:

    Another person who would come to a full blown stop upon spying it in bloom Frances! I’d BEG you for a start. Describing it as cotton candy is perfect. It really resembles that. I think you were SO smart to plant it in mass too ~ that really makes it so much more spectacular then a few puffy heads. It’s pretty amazing that you’re already seeing new shoots. I think spring must arrive much earlier at Faire Garden then in mine? I usually cut my grasses back the end of Feb or first of March and there’s still no sign of life at that point. Lucky girl you are.

    Hi Kathleen, thanks. I was hesitant to divide the muhly so thinly, who could afford to buy enough plants for that kind of mass planting? Not me! I did it about this time of year, when the ground was very moist and the plants had been cut down, much easier to work with that way. I was out cutting more things today before the bulbs poke up any farther and I ruin them by stepping on them. The Karl Foerster calamagrostis had lots of green new blades, even the blood grass was showing new growth, it is a bit early for that I think. We must be ahead of schedule!

  31. TC says:

    Ms. Frances, I always get a tad envious when I see something I’d truly love to have in my garden but can’t on account of zonal limitations. I suppose I could have me some of that “cotton candy” in a nice big pot though and just treat it as an annual. It’s really gorgeous!

    Hi TC, thanks. My friend in central PA is growing this grass and it has survived his zone 5? winters for several years now. It is planted in a sheltered location against a fence with large shrubs around it, and good drainage, that is key. Sandy soil or gravely muck like my driveway planting suits it just fine. Give it a try!

  32. Thanks for the muhly division info!

    Yes, we had a wonderful time and I made a few new recipes. Of course, I was so caught up in my cooking that I didn’t take photos.

    Hi Cameron, you are most welcome. Isn’t that the way, I often forget to take photos too, if we are having a great time. πŸ™‚

  33. Marnie says:

    I am so jealous that I cannot grow the muhly grass here. Your photos remind me of a pink foam bubbling up in your garden. So pretty.

    Hi Marnie, thanks. It is a beautiful grass, I like your foamy vision, like pink bubble bath!

  34. Rose says:

    Oh, Frances, I am so sad! You know how much I have admired your Muhly grass, but I didn’t realize until now that is recommended for zone 7-10, and I’m in zone 5:( I guess I will have to be satisfied with admiring yours.
    Thanks for the link to Ferngully; I know you’ve often mentioned it, but I never knew until now specifically what it referred to. I hope that Ferngully 2 is doing well.

    Hi Rose, don’t be sad! It is possible to grow this in a protected spot in zone 5. Our friends in PA whose daughter’s wedding we attended last summer have some that has lived for several years now. It is surrounded by larger shrubs, evergreen and deciduous and a fence behind in a sunny well drained spot. He has only one plant, has not tried to divided it like I did, but it is his pride and joy. πŸ™‚ And thanks for asking about ferngully 2, it is growing nicely in that loamy spot next to the rotting carcass of number one and has even doubled in height this last year. Your post featuring the Chihuly exhibit in Phoenix was excellent!

  35. The picture of the grass weeping over the edge of the drive actually gave me goose bumps…now that is cool! I must absolutely without a doubt plant some of the wonderful grass. Thanks so very much for sharing! Kim

    Hi Kim, thanks so much, a high compliment from a masterful photographer like you! I really love your header of the camel in the snow!

  36. Stuart says:

    Gorgeous grass Frances. We’re a little limited in what our ‘big-box’ outlets stock in this department. I shall have to search for some further afield. Delicious pics.

    Hi Stuart, so nice to see you, thanks. That was a lucky break to find that muhly grass at that type of store. You never know what they are going to get in, and they don’t seem to know either! I do think it would look great in your garden, hope you find some. All you need is one plant to get started. I divide in late winter here, while the ground is moist and cool, any other time it will die.

  37. I love that muhly grass! It’s still kicking here in L.A.!

    Hi Shirley, thanks for stopping by. How wonderful that the muhly is still going strong there!


  38. cheryl says:

    O wow ! Cotton candy right at your doorstep. I’m so envious πŸ™‚ An absolutely heavenly plant Frances, I am in awe! Me gots ta move south. Thank you…

    Hi Cheryl, thanks! Come on down! πŸ™‚


  39. Tuija R. says:

    Oh my God, how beautiful grass!! I really want that to my garden too… but how.. I am in Finland..? :/

    Hi Tuija, thanks and welcome to the alternative universe of wordpress. In Finland it would have to grown as an annual, but still worthy if you can find some. Happy anniversary for your blog! πŸ™‚

  40. Barbara says:

    Frances, I have wanted that muhly grass since I saw a picture of a mass planting in a gardening book. Didn’t find it anywhere this last year but will have to really put the pedal to the metal in my search this coming year. I moved to NE Alabama from Portland, OR in August 2007, so I am still feeling my way with growing things here. Thanks for the extra inspiration!

    Hi Barbara, it was my pleasure to give inspiration! Keep looking for the muhly, even if you have to mail order it. One plant will turn into that mass planting with division in late winter each year and planting the seed heads, but it will take several years to get the look I showed. It has been about four or five years for our stand by the driveway to look like it did this year and the lower end is still sparse but will fill in. It is worth it though.

  41. jen says:

    Your Muhly grass is just beautiful!! Wow. I planted 3 clumps last summer, but the bloom was not as bright and full as yours.

    Simply beautiful! Thanks for sharing!

    Thanks, Jen. The light has to be just right, backlighting is best, to get that color. Siting is important for this grass. And it is about fifty plants, jammed together. πŸ™‚

  42. ryan says:

    Thanks for posting photos of the straw and cut down muhly. A client just spotted it at the nursery and was asking me about it, and I knew of a great stash of photos to show to her. Really useful. Thanks. I think we’re going to put some patches of it in her garden.

    Hi Ryan, thanks. I am glad this was useful to you, for that is the purpose of my blog. πŸ™‚

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