Plant This: Bamboo muhly for Foliage Follow-Up

A feathery, chartreuse cloud in the garden, bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) is my favorite ornamental grass for hot, dry, sunny spots, where it grows vase-like to 4 to 5 feet tall and wide, tall enough to make a pretty border along the driveway, perhaps, hiding the neighbor’s car. Positioned to catch the morning or evening light, it incandesces into a glowing scrim of foliage. In full sun it shrugs off heat and drought and makes a perfect foil for the bold forms of agave or yucca. In part sun or even bright shade, it grows floppier and less full, but it still looks nice. You can’t help running your fingers through its “hair” as you pass by. Deer totally ignore it.

Native to northern New Mexico and Arizona, bamboo muhly does not spread aggressively like its namesake. Rather it grows slowly outward from a central clump. Its only downside for use in central Texas is that sustained deep freezes can injure it, turning it the color of straw and possibly even killing it. Despite that risk, it’s considered hardy to around 10 F, a low temperature that’s rare for us. My safety precaution is to plant it in spring rather than fall. Then just stand back and enjoy.

Please join me in posting about your lovely leaves of November for Foliage Follow-Up, a way to remind ourselves of the importance of foliage in the garden on the day after Bloom Day. Leave your link to your Foliage Follow-Up post in a comment. I really appreciate it if you’ll also include a link to this post in your own post (sharing link love!). If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it.

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

18 Responses

  1. Pam, that is a gorgeous native grass that I have always loved when I visited AZ and NM. Foliage is gone but I have some sparkling memories in my post:

    Thanks for hosting!

  2. Peter/Outlaw says:

    Howdy Pam, I admire Bamboo Muhly that lots of you folks in the hot dry areas grow so beautifully. It reminds me of some of the restios. Gorgeous. Alas, it doesn’t do so well here with our wet winters so we must be content to drool over your pictures.

    My Foliage Follow Up post is here:

  3. Helen says:

    That is a very strange looking bamboo but a wonderful green. here is my foliage post lots of autumn colour

    It’s not a bamboo, Helen, but an ornamental grass. The name comes from its resemblance to bamboo. —Pam

  4. Melanie says:

    You’ve shown a cute little gomphrena in the past called ‘little grapes’ Would you happen to know where I could purchase seed?
    Melanie from Ohio
    p.s. your gardens are lovely.

  5. Kris P says:

    All the texture of bamboo without the creeping worry – a great choice. Thanks for hosting Foliage follow-up, Pam! Here’s my contribution:

  6. Love the bamboo muhly! Such frothiness. I like foliage more than blooms lately and this plant really has wonderful texture. I am always drawn to the pink muhly, too but it is not hardy enough for my zone 4. But the Pin Oak is and mine is putting on a beautiful foliage foil:

  7. I am in love with this plant too – I will post mine as well. Happy Foliage, Pam!

  8. The Muhlys are great plants! I’m not much of a grass person, but I do love the Muhlys grasses! I also recently discovered Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), which is native to much of the U.S. and hardy in zones 5-8. We have some up at our cottage and it’s just…dreamy. Thanks for hosting, Pam!

    Thanks for joining in, PP! —Pam

  9. Les says:

    We used this plant in our annual beds in front of the visitor’s center at work. They were paired with some large variegated Furcraeas, and they were a nice contrast with each other. We are storing them in a coldhouse for the winter to plant out next spring. We will see how they do for us.

    I bet that was a nice contrast, working just as the agave-and-bamboo muhly combo works here. —Pam

  10. Pam,
    One day I will make the time to figure out if I can have bamboo in zone 3, because it is so beautiful!
    Here is my post on the positives that foiage bring to the garden:

  11. Hannah says:

    Your Muhly bamboo grass looks very interesting, in size and texture. I’m going to try to grow Pink Muhly grass next year, so I’ll see how I like the Muhlys. I posted some foliage photos on my blog-

    Thanks for joining in with your foliage picks, Hannah! —Pam

  12. Shirley says:

    I am enjoying the texture bamboo muhly adds to the foliage in the front yard. Planted two years ago, it’s beginning to grow more but not nearly the size of that one. Very nice color on it too.

  13. Angie says:

    That’s some statement! It’s beautiful Pam. I can see why you want to run your fingers through it’s hair. You’d be hard pressed not to be tempted!
    Thanks for hosting – here’s my effort!

  14. Jean says:

    That is one of my favorite grasses. Mine usually turn whitish each year, so they never look as good as they do in Austin, but they still have such a nice and unusual presence that they are worth it.

    I’m glad to know it survives your slightly colder winters, Jean. It’s such a beautiful and unusual grass. —Pam

  15. Anna K says:

    Wow – I just want to throw myself into it, like a kid jumping in a hay barn! What a great grass! Well, my contribution from a more water-logged part of the world isn’t half as exciting, but here goes:

  16. Christina says:

    That looks a great plant, such a great fresh green, I’ll have to look for it as if it grows for you in Texus it might grow well for me in Lazio. my post is

  17. james s bryan says:

    Is it considered evergreen in zone 8 ?

    • Pam/Digging says:

      It’s generally evergreen here in zone 8b, James. If we have an especially cold winter they may turn straw-colored, in which case they can be cut back in spring, and new growth will quickly fill in again. If you’re in zone 8a, that may be more of an issue. —Pam