Question of the Week – Number One: June 4, 2020
“I’m removing 30-year-old Japanese boxwoods from the front of my house. Would pink Muhly grass be a good replacement?”
People who ask me questions are going to get answers based on my personal experiences and opinions.
I told this caller that, although I love this grass while it’s blooming, I thought Gulf Muhly was not a good choice as a replacement for boxwood at all. I listed these reasons:
• It is dormant for 4 or 5 months every winter. All you would see from late fall until spring would brown blades. I honestly worry about the fire hazard up close to houses.
• That dead growth has to be pruned off. That’s true for almost all the ornamental grasses, and it’s not always an easy job.
• Life expectancy of Gulf Muhly in the heavy clay soils where I live, when it’s used in massed plantings, is only a few years. There is a large highway planting that my wife and I pass several times every week. Initially it had several hundred plants. It now has one lone plant remaining.
If you’re trying to replace tired, old shrubs, get some healthy, vigorous new shrubs. Get the old plants out of the way. Rototill the bed and work in fresh organic matter. Some of the better alternatives of comparatively small stature: Carissa holly, dwarf yaupon holly or Flirt or Harbour Dwarf nandina. In South Texas dwarf pittosporum would be nice, and in the acidic soils of East Texas, dwarf loropetalums.
Save the ornamental grasses for perennial beds where they can stand out with their handsome variations in texture and growth forms.
That’s one guy’s personal opinion.