Molinia caerulea subsp. arundinacea 'Skyracer'

Tried and Trouble-free Recommended by 2 Professionals
Common Name: purple moor grass
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Zone: 5 to 8
Height: 6.00 to 8.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 4.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to September
Bloom Description: Purple
Sun: Full sun
Water: Medium to wet
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Naturalize, Rain Garden
Flower: Showy
Leaf: 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.

Common name of purple moor grass is in reference to the relatively small tinges of purple coloring seen on plant flowers.

‘Skyracer’ is a narrow upright cultivar that produces a foliage clump to 2 1/2’ tall from which rise tall flower stalks in mid-summer to 7-8’ tall. Flower stalks quiver in the slightest breeze. Flower panicles and foliage turn a rich buttery yellow (some say golden orange) in fall.

Problems

No serious insect or disease problems. Slow growth.

Garden Uses

Versatile ornamental grass. Strong sculptural form. 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.