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Mr. Smarty Plants - Replacing hawthorn bush with muhly grass from Plano TX

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Thursday - April 10, 2014

From: Plano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Soils, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Replacing hawthorn bush with muhly grass from Plano TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am thinking of replacing a hawthorn bush with a muhly grass plant or two in an edged area with river rock cover in Plano, texas. It is the black soil and not a sandy loam. We have a sprinkler system for the area but due to the drought we can only use them twice a month. I can hand water. After seeing these growing in areas of Possum Kingdom, I fell in love with their fall color. My concern is that they would not do well in the soil here. I was surprised to read that they require high water...do they go dormant in drought? Will I be able to get them to grow in my area? Anything I should do special to plant? Should I plant from seed or find a plant at the nursery? Anything else to know about growing in a small area? Thank you!

ANSWER:

There are 26 members of the Muhlenbergia genus native to North America and 20 of them are native to Texas. We believe you are probably thinking of Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly), see the pictures of this grass from our Image Gallery below. A clue to this is that on this USDA Plant Profile Map of the counties in Texas (counties in green) where Gulf Muhly grows, the closest one to Collin County is Palo Pinto County, where the Possum Kingdom Lake and State Park are located. The rest of the counties in Texas where that grass has been reported are south and east of your area. There is even the possibility that the grass was introduced there when the Park was being developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression more than 80 years ago. Of course, that was also during the Dust Bowl and there wasn't much rain then, either, so where the stipulation that this grass had a high water use came from is a little puzzling.

That is pure speculation on our part, we were just interested in why this somewhat isolated habitat of this grass came to be. It is a beautiful grass, and probably grows in a lot of other areas in Texas and just hasn't been reported as doing so. If you follow this link, Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly) to our webpage on it, you will see these Growing Conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Sandy soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam
Conditions Comments: In the fall, gulf muhly creates a stunning pink to lavender floral display. It functions well in meadow gardens and as a general garden plant."

From the Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences we found this article on Pink Muhly, including this paragraph on its culture:

"Care: Plant in suitable site with adequate soil organic matter so that the crown of the plant is at the soil surface. Ensure the soil is adequately moist immediately after planting. Keep soil moist but not soggy until plant is established. Once plant is established water deeply but infrequently whenever the soil surface is dry or almost dry 2” below the soil surface."

From our webpage, here is the information we have on the propagation of  Muhlenbergia capillaris (Gulf muhly):

"Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Germinates well and grows easily.
Seed Collection: Collect seed in November when they start to lose the pink color. Use a comb so as to not damage the appearance of plants."

 

From the Image Gallery


Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

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