Muhlenbergia, also known as muhly grass, is a genus of ornamental grasses that can add texture and movement to an Arizona pollinator garden. These plants produce feathery, pink or purple inflorescences that sway in the breeze, attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Muhlenbergia is also drought-tolerant and can handle the hot, dry conditions of Arizona.
In addition to its ornamental value, Muhlenbergia can provide habitat and food for pollinators, helping to support local ecosystems. It is also relatively low-maintenance and can be used as a border or massed for dramatic effect, making it a great choice for adding interest and movement to a pollinator garden.
Overall, Muhlenbergia is a versatile and valuable plant that can enhance the beauty and biodiversity of an Arizona pollinator garden. Here are some of the species that do well in the low desert garden:
Muhlenbergia capillaris or Pink Muhly grows to 3′ tall and produces stunning feathery pink flowers in the fall. Goes semi-dormant in winter, but don’t cut back until birds and pollinators have had a chance to use the dried flowers for nesting material.
Muhlenbergia rigens or Deer Grass grows to 4′ tall and wide and is native to the chaparral in the Southwest and Mexico. Blooms in fall with slender tan flower stalks to 6′ tall. Provide part shade and moderate water.
Muhlenbergia fragilis or Delicate Muhly grows to about 15″ tall, 2′ tall when in bloom. Seedheads are often purple. This annual grass is found in desert scrub zones.
Muhlenbergia arizonica or Arizona Muhly grows to about 20″ tall and has green, purple and brown flowers. Bloom time is August through October.
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri or Big Muhly is a bunch grass that grows to 5′ tall and has fine textured leaves. Flower spikes can tower 6′ above the foliage, and start off pinkish then mature to tan and gray. Flowers in late summer through autumn.
Muhlenbergia dumosa or Bamboo Muhly can grow in full sun to part shade and is hardy down to 10 F. This clumping grass grows to 4′ tall and has a clumping habit.
Watering: Drought tolerant once established; water once a week during the first year to establish a deep root system
Growth Rate: Moderate
Soil: Well-draining soil, sandy or loamy
Temperature: Tolerates heat well; some species are cold hardy down to USDA zone 5
Disease and Pests: Can be susceptible to rust, leaf spot, and spider mites; practicing good garden hygiene and avoiding overhead watering can help prevent these issues
Uses: Some species can host skipper butterfly larvae. Attracts a variety of pollinators, including bees and butterflies, as well as birds that feed on the seeds. Old flowers provide nesting material in spring.
- Water Use It Wisely
- U of A Campus Arboretum
- Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants
- The Arizona Native Plant Society
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
- Public ASU
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