Deer-Resistant Ornamental Grasses

Examples of Short, Tall and in-Between Types

Purple Fountain Grass Closeup
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Deer-resistant ornamental grasses offer several advantages in addition to allowing you to sleep at night instead of worrying you'll awake the next morning to find your whole yard ravaged by Bambi. Grasses have a texture that contrast with most other landscape plants, many are drought-tolerant, and they can offer surprising variation in color.

  • 01 of 07

    Golden Hakone Grass

    Hakonechloa macra alboaurea grass

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    Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) presents a "golden opportunity" to many homeowners who may be faced with one or more of the following challenges:

    • Shade
    • Intolerance for aggressive plants
    • Deer pests

    Hakone grass will grow in partially shaded conditions, is not invasive, and is a deer-resistant ornamental grass. The 'Aureola' cultivar affords a bonus: golden leaves striped with green (often with some red, for good measure).

  • 02 of 07

    Blue Fescue

    festuca glauca with viola, gravel mulch cfs 95
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    Blue fescue (Festuca glauca) is a deer-resistant, sun-loving ornamental grass with icy blue foliage and pale yellow flowers. And with a name like "blue fescue," you know the color (really a bluish-gray, which is what glauca means in Latin) is a major selling point. Some growers like to grow it next to plants that display silvery foliage. The 'Elijah Blue' cultivar looks like a bluish, spiky hairdo sticking up out of the earth.

  • 03 of 07

    Maiden Grass

    Maiden grass.

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    Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus') towers over the shorter deer-resistant grasses, such as blue fescue. It is one of the most graceful plants you can grow in the landscape. In fact, the name of this cultivar means "very graceful."

    While maiden grass is at its most colorful in fall, many gardeners appreciate it even more in winter, when its puffy, silvery-white plumes and straw-colored blades stand out against a barren landscape to provide visual interest.

  • 04 of 07

    Zebra Grass

    Zebra Grass

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    Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus', as indicated by its botanical name, is a relative of maiden grass, but the common and cultivar names make it easy to distinguish from its popular cousin. Zebra grass does indeed have stripes, which start out creamy gold against the deep green leaves. As summer wears on and fall arrives, the golden coloration begins to spread and continues until the leaves are more or less beige in late fall. This is a great selling point for many gardeners, hungry as they are for plants with variegated leaves.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Purple Fountain Grass

    Purple Fountain Grass - Pennisetum Setaceum 'rubrum'
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    Purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum') is an example of a plant that is in-between, height-wise, for this category. Like blue fescue, this deer-resistant ornamental grass is practically defined by its color (Rubrum means "red" in Latin). And like ​Miscanthus, it bears attractive seed heads.

    The one problem with this plant (for those who garden in cold regions) is that it hails from the tropics, so it won't survive a cold winter if left outside. Still, for many gardeners in cooler climates, its beauty alone makes it worth growing, even if it can be enjoyed only during the summer and fall.

  • 06 of 07


    hyejin kang/Getty Images

    Lilyturf (Liriope spicata) is a member of the Lily family, not Poaceae, the family of grasses. Nonetheless, for practical purposes, this short plant is often treated in the same manner as the other deer-resistant ornamental grasses.

    One nice feature of lilyturf, as compared with some of the true grasses, is that its flowers look like perennial flowers, in contrast to the the puffy blooms produced by blue fescue, maiden grass, or purple fountain grass.

  • 07 of 07

    Black Mondo Grass

    Nigrescens - black mondo grass or black lilyturf
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    Many plants are advertised in garden catalogs as being "black," but few of them truly are. Most bear leaves that are just a deep purple. Not black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'), though. This black plant lives up to the hype.

    Black mondo grass may be truly black, but it is not a true grass: Like lilyturf, this 6-inch-tall plant does not belong to the grass family, but it looks like a grass, acts like a grass, and is, therefore, treated as a grass by gardeners.

    You can take advantage of black mondo grass' unusual foliage by planting it next to another ground cover that provides color contrast; Angelina stonecrop (Sedum rupestre 'Angelina') is a good choice here because it bears golden leaves that are deer-resistant.