Showy and easy to grow, these native U.S. grasses combine handsome, slender leaves with eye-catching flower plumes that typically appear in late summer and fall. Foliage is semievergreen to evergreen in mild-winter areas, deciduous elsewhere. Plants tolerate heat and drought, but they look better and grow larger if given supplemental water. Good drainage is a must. Most are well adapted to Texas and the Southwest but will also succeed in many other areas, including Florida. Cut plants nearly to the ground in late winter to encourage fresh new growth.
M. capillaris. PINK MUHLY, HAIRY AWN MUHLY. Native to eastern U.S. Looks much like M. filipes but is taller and blooms earlier. Dark green foliage forms a mound to 34 ft. tall and at least as wide. Very showy flower plumes, like puffs of rosy red smoke, rise 2 ft. above the foliage in early fall. 'Regal Mist' ('Lenca') sports deep rosy pink flowers. 'White Cloud' is a 4-ft.-tall-and-wide white cloud in autumn. 'Pink Flamingo' is a hybrid between M. capillaris and M. lindheimeri, growing upright to 35 ft. tall with showy, 12-inch pink plumes.
M. dumosa. BAMBOO MUHLY. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to Arizona, Mexico. To 36 ft. high and wide. Resembles bamboo, with slender, pendulous, woody stems set with narrow, bright green leaves up to 3 in. long. Inconspicuous flower clusters in spring. Endures heat, cold, and limy soil.
M. emersleyi. BULL GRASS. Native to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas. Gray-green leaves form a mound 1123 ft. tall, 34 ft. wide. From summer into fall, reddish or purplish flower spikes rise 23 ft. above the foliage; they fade to cream with age.
M. filipes. GULF MUHLY, SWEET GRASS. Native to the Southeast. Considered by some to be a variety of M. capillaris, this plant is shorter and blooms a little later in the year. Narrow, dark green leaves form mounds 23 ft. tall and wide. Rosy purple, wispy plumes rise an additional 2 ft. in mid- to late fall. Young leaves are used by the Gullah people of South Carolina to make traditional baskets. Called sweet grass because of its pleasant fragrance, which some liken to the scent of freshly mown hay.
M. lindheimeri. LINDHEIMER'S MUHLY. Native to Texas, Mexico. Clump of soft, arching, blue-green leaves grows to 5 ft. tall and wide, with amber flower spikes rising 2 ft. above foliage in autumn. Blooms of the species fade to gray; those of 'Amber Glow' turn yellow in fall. Tolerates moist conditions as well as dry, rocky, chalky soil.
M. rigens. DEER GRASS. Zones US, MS, LS, CS: USDA 6-9. Native from California to Texas and south into Mexico. Bright green leaves form a dense, tight clump to 4 ft. high and wide. Slender yellow or purplish flower spikes rise 2 ft. above the leaves in autumn; they are erect at first, then leaning. Good vertical accent.
M. rigida. PURPLE MUHLY. Native to Texas, New Mexico. Green clump to 2 ft. high and wide, producing 3-ft. spikes of brownish purple flowers in late summer and fall. Blossoms of 'Nashville' are an attractive true purple.