South Texas Growers
GARDENING WITH DEER-RESISTANT ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
Updated: Sep 19, 2020
When we have an extremely dry summer season, and the deer seem to be eating
“everything” on the deer-resistant lists; ornamental grasses are deer resistant plants that
many people are unfamiliar with. Ornamental grasses are fabulous, under-utilized plants
in any landscape throughout the year, yet it seems the majority of them show their
majestic beauty during the autumn in our area. There are many magnificent grasses,
especially native grasses, which can be utilized to compliment and add drama and depth
to the garden that are drought-tolerant and can thrive in the central Texas environment. I
highly recommend reading “Gardening with Grasses”, Michael King-Piet Oudolf/Timber
Press, Inc. for more information.
Fountain grasses (Pennisetum) are wonderful in the fall garden. These grasses appear
dramatic when used to define a corner site, as well as being positioned to rise out of
an area of lower growing plants. Purple Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum,
‘Rubrum’) is extremely drought-tolerant and adds terrific contrast to the garden with
broad purple leaves and arching feathery pink-colored flower spikes that bloom
throughout the growing season. Purple Fountain Grass is cold tolerant to 20 degrees.
Black Flowering Fountain Grass is a smaller grass clump producing black furry
caterpillar-like plumes. Two dwarf varieties are used often in the area: ‘Little Bunny’
and ‘Dwarf Hamelin’. ‘Little Bunny’ growing to 16 inches in height is the smallest
of the pennisetums. ‘Dwarf Hamelin’ grows to 24 inches and is slightly more compact.
Chinese Silver Grasses (Miscanthus sinensis) are elegant upright grasses. These
ornamental grasses range in height from 4 ft. to over 10 ft; from plants with fine needle-
like leaves to specimens with wide arching blades. Maiden Grass (M.s. ‘gracillimus’/
‘graziella’) varieties produce large, free hanging, silver-white plumes protruding out high
above the foliage. This drought-tolerant plant is quick to establish itself and grows to
approximately 5.5 ft. Undine Miscanthus grows to 6.5 ft. and is known as the bigger
sister of ‘Graziella’, but with a remarkably light and elegant inflorescence. Silver
Feather Miscanthus produces pinkish blooms that develop to silver, reaching 6.5 ft. in
height. Two dwarf varieties, ‘Adagio’ and ‘Yakushima”, are attractive tufted erect
clumps, which show delightful pinkish-brown flower plumes.
The following native grasses are used often in landscape applications through the
Texas hill country. Mexican Feather Grass (Stipa) is a wonderful smaller native
ornamental grass that adds drama to any garden, especially when the blooming flower
heads attractively move in the wind. This plant forms tufts of pale green leaves, which
can roll up during drought conditions. The different Stipa varieties produce long, fine,
golden hue flower heads, which bloom in the spring and fall, however are more dramatic
in the spring. Gulf Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) also adds rose-colored,
feathery blooms to the garden. These native evergreen grasses grow to approximately
3ft. in height and are spectacular when used in native landscape themes. Big Muhly
(Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) is another glorious native grass which adds interest to any
landscape. This clumping blue-green grass producing a wheat-like feather bloom.
Information courtesy of: Gardening with Grasses-Michael King & Piet Oudolf
Timber Press, Inc.; Portland, Oregon-1998
Article submitted by: Joanne Thompson-Hall, M.A./South Texas Growers, Inc.
South Texas Growers Nursery is located at 22201 Hwy 46 W. in Bulverde. The nursery specializes in Texas native and adaptive plants. Hours are seasonal; call 830-989-9179 for more information.
REMEMBER TO ‘GO NATIVE’ & “SHOP LOCAL’