Are Ornamental Grasses Deer Resistant?

Author Teresa Odle Updated 1-25-2022

Most ornamental grasses are deer resistant, falling into the rarely damaged category. Others fall into the Seldom Severely Damaged category, so ornamental grasses are good choices for landscapes near deer habitats. Even better, birds often eat ornamental grass seeds in fall and winter.


Rabbits might munch on grasses, but tend to avoid older and tougher blades, so they seldom damage the plants. Ground dwellers like moles or gophers might eat a new ornamental grass from below, but this is not a common occurrence. A few grasses are toxic to cattle and pets, so anyone concerned about toxicity should research the grass to be sure.

According to Rutgers University this plant is rated A (rarely damaged) or B (seldom severely damaged) on their rating scale from Rarely Damaged to Frequently Severely Damaged.

Examples of ornamental grasses deer might eat include bamboo, bottlebrush grass, drooping sedge, dwarf mondo grass, ribbon grass, and sedge. Other popular grasses, such as big bluestem, blue fescue, and feather reed grass are rarely eaten by deer.

Keeping Deer Away From Ornamental Grass

Deer rarely eat ornamental grasses, but their choices are unpredictable. Protect newly planted grasses with a small fence made from chicken wire or a similar material so deer cannot reach the blades, but sun and water can. If concerned, you can spray the foliage with Deer Out or a similar repellant.


Will Ornamental Grass Plants Come Back After Deer Eat Them?

Deer seldom damage ornamental grass when browsing. If they chew some blades, gardeners can prune the plant down for a tidier effect or let the plant recover on its own. If a deer pulls a grass up, it might recover. This depends on the age of the plant and the season or weather conditions when the damage occurs.

Sources: Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station ‘Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance’ 2018

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 Author Teresa Odle - Published 11-14-2020