Molinia caerulea subsp. caerulea 'Variegata'
Common Name: purple moor grass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 4 to 9
Height: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 2.50 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Purple tinged
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Colorful, Good Fall
Tolerate: Erosion, Wet Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

Culture

Easily grown in average, medium to wet, well-drained soil in full sun. Prefers acidic soils with consistent moisture. Tolerates light shade, particularly in the South, but is generally less vigorous with decreased flowering in too much shade. Decreased flowering may also occur in hot summer climates. Best performance of this grass generally occurs in cool summer climates. Unlike many of the ornamental grasses, the foliage and flower stalks of purple moor grass typically break down and fall over in late fall, providing little winter interest. Cut any surviving foliage back to the ground in early spring (late February-March) just before the new leaf blades appear. This is a slow-growing grass, hence small starter divisions should be avoided unless one has the patience to wait several years for the plant to mature.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Molina caerulea, commonly known as purple moor grass, is a dense, upright, warm season perennial grass featuring flat narrow leaf blades (to 18” long by 1/4” wide) which grow in a dense clump from 1-2’ tall. Erect to arching slender flower stalks topped by narrow flower panicles rise above the foliage clump to 3’ tall in mid-summer. Slender flowers are green and white with purplish tones, but somewhat rapidly fade to beige and brown. Leaf blades emerge green in spring. As the seed sets after flowering, the inflorescences, flower stalks and foliage turn an attractive golden yellow to orange yellow, eventually fading to a light tan. Species plants are native to moist places, including moors, fens, heaths, bogs and lake shores, in Europe and Asia. Plants have escaped gardens and naturalized in fields and along roadsides in parts of Quebec, Ontario, New England, New York, Pennsylvania and Oregon.

Molina caerulea is separated into two subspecies, namely, subsp. caerulea (moor grass with grass clump to 18” and flower stalks to 2-3’ tall) and subsp. arundinacea (tall moor grass with mounded basal grass clump to 3’ tall but with flower stalks exploding upward to 6-8’ tall).

Genus name honors Juan Ignacio Molina (1740-1829), Jesuit historian, writer on the civil and natural history of Chile.

Specific epithet from Latin means dark blue.

'Variegata’ is a compact, clump-forming purple moor grass cultivar that, as the cultivar name suggests, features variegated leaf blades (to 3/8” wide and to 18” long) with creamy yellow and green longitudinal stripes. Mature plants produce profuse numbers of erect to slightly arching mid-summer flowering stalks which rise above the foliage to 24-30” tall in mid-summer, each stalk being topped by a panicle (to 5-10” long) of yellow-tan-purple flowers. Flower stalks have a certain transparent see-through quality. As seed sets, the flower panicles turn an attractive yellow-tan. Variegated foliage also turns yellow in fall.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Slow growth.

Garden Uses

Versatile ornamental grass. Accent, specimen, grouping or mass. Borders, meadows, wild gardens, cottage gardens and around ponds. See-through quality of this grass enables placement in border fronts. Excellent golden fall color.