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Deer Grass

Deer Grass or Deer Muhly is a perennial bunchgrass that grows best in warm areas. This grass forms large, dense clumps but it can spread to cover an entire area.

The leaves are extremely narrow and the flower stalks are sometimes used in basketweaving.

It does best in sandy, well-drained soils below 7000 feet in elevation.

Named after Henry Muhlenberg, a minister from Pennsylvania, deer grass can become drought tolerant once it is firmly established. Flower stalks can grow to 5 feet tall. The plant resembles a smaller version of pampas grass. They grow fast. This plant is native to California.

Planting Ideas

Deer grass is the perfect choice in warm areas for grassy or meadow gardens. It does well alongside streams and ponds. This bunchgrass can easily take over a field if left to its own devices.

The flower stalks are traditionally harvested for basketweaving by the native peoples of California and craftspeople. Since they mature in only one or two seasons, they can be used in landscaping where you want a mature look quickly.

This grass can provide wildlife habitat and feed for deer, horses and cattle. Seeds attract songbirds and butterflies. It is often used to stabilize stream banks to protect them from erosion.

In a mixed garden, plant with lavender, sage, germander, lupines and other bunchgrasses. Plant where backlighting will highlight the form of the grass for a spectacular effect. The grass dries in fall, remaining attractive all winter long.

Planting and Care

Deer grass is very low maintenance. Plant it in full sun in sandy soil for the best results. When planting, dig holes that are the same depth as the pot but twice as wide. Water it regularly until it gets established.

Once it is established, it becomes extremely drought tolerant. To invigorate older plants, plan to mow it every few years in the fall after the seed has ripened. Leaves fade to tan in the fall.

This plant is slow to germinate from seed. Fertilization is not needed.

Plants can be divided in winter or early spring. If you want to harvest flower stalks, mow or burn the plants every few years to encourage new growth. In hot weather, this plant appreciates the occasional deep watering.

Grass Information

  • Scientific Name: Muhlenbergia rigens

  • Best Soil: Sandy

  • Light Needs: Full sun to light shade

  • Growth Rate: Fast

  • Foliage Color: Green

  • Flower Color: Yellow or purple

  • Bloom Time: Late spring

  • Mature Size: Grows up to 4.5 feet tall in a clump

  • Watering: Moderate to little water

  • Hardiness Zone: 9 - 11

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