It’s almost fall — the season when many ornamental grasses bloom, adding soft texture, movement and distinctive color to the garden.  Muhlenbergia species are some of my favorites.  Their beautiful mounding form and low water needs make them a valued addition to the waterwise garden.

There are a number of varieties to choose from; some are even native to California.  All are drought tolerant once established, but appreciate some supplemental water.  Though they are warm season grasses, Muhlenbergia remain evergreen in Southern California’s mild winters.  Use them in masses as a tall meadow/lawn alternative or in a border as a transition between lawn and other areas of the garden.

Here are just a few:

Muhlenbergia rigens, Deer Grass, is native to California and has bright green leaves growing to a height and width of 3-4 feet. The flower spikes are yellow and sometimes purple and extend 2 feet above the plant. It is very dramatic planted in groups or masses.

Muhlenbergia capillaris, Pink Muhly, is an adaptable species, native to the southeastern United States and eastern Mexico.  It forms feathery bright pink plumes on top of a 3-foot tall clumping plant. Varieties include ‘White Cloud,’ which sends up a delicate cloud of ivory-white flowers and blooms a little later than Pink Muhly.

Muhlenbergia dumosa, Bamboo Muhly, features arching stems and bright green leaves. If you want the look of bamboo in a drought tolerant plant, this is for you.  Growing 3-6 feet tall and wide, it is well-mannered and won’t take over the garden.

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2 Responses
  1. hugh

    I have deer grass (M. rigens) in both front and back yards, a couple under manzanita in front and under ceanothus tree in back. Love those natives! The grass makes a spectacular display.

  2. Hi Hugh: Thanks for your comment. I love them too! Am also giving Muhlenbergia dubia a try. It’s not native to CA, but it is smaller than Muhlenbergia rigens, so can fit would M. rigens might not.

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