Plants should look great in the backyard, but they must also do good too. Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)is a no-brainer: indigenous, adaptable, wildlife food source and shelter. It is said that the powerful sweep of the welcome western United States native could be credited to Native Americans, who among other things wove its foliage to baskets and storage vessels. While we have only ourselves to blame for the rampant spread of many undesirable plants, deer bud reminds us of people’ great deeds.
The western United States includes numerous varied growing conditions and climates — not all them the friendliest or easiest to handle. Consider this unthirsty, easygoing indigenous your free pass; it may manage situations from irregular frost and intense sun to drought and seasonal flood.
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Botanical name: Muhlenbergia rigens
Common names: Deer bud, deergrass, meadow muhly
USDA zones: 7 to 11 (find your zone); hardy to 15 degrees Fahrenheit
Water requirement: Low once established
Light requirement: Entire sun but tolerates some shade
Mature size: 4 to 5 ft tall and wide
Benefits and tolerances: Drought tolerant; provides shelter for birds; birds eat seeds; tolerates urban conditions; mature plants are deer resistant
Seasonal attention: Evergreen; darkened plumes project 2-3 feet above foliage in summer and autumn
When to plant: Plant from toddlers in autumn
Distinguishing traits. Tired of waiting for your nursery purchases to fill in? Grass grows to full size in a couple of seasons.
Deer bud is a big, bunching, warm-season bud. It may be confused for pampas grass, with its own green strappy leaves and silvery floral tufts. But unlike the rampantly invasive pampas grass, we can welcome indigenous deer bud into our gardens with open arms. Some restoration projects throughout the western United States have deer grass as a substitute for invasive grasses like pampas grass.
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Grass requires next to no grooming. Leave this up for wildlife throughout autumn and winter and allow its gold color light an otherwise dormant backyard.
Edger Landscape Design
The best way to utilize it. You’d be hard pressed to find means not to utilize deer grass in the backyard. It thrives in full sun and well-drained soil, but is nice with some shade and seasonal flood. Mass deer bud with other flowering natives, especially pollinator attractors, such as a gentle and meadowy wildlife sanctuary. You will want to leave lots of room, a few feet between plants, to love deer bud’ soft, mounding form once it fills in.
Should you prefer something simpler, use deer bud as a specimen. Its breezy texture may also be used to soften architectural succulents and Southwest natives, without even making the look overly cluttered.
Deer bud is also a garden problem solver. Unstable stream banks and hillsides may benefit from the root system.
Planting notes. Western U.S. natives, though drought tolerant and low maintenance, may be finicky about growing conditions — the right drainage, sun exposure and soil are crucial. This isn’t the case for deer marijuana, a tolerant and fairly fuss-free bud. Described as very elastic, deer grass thrives in full sun, even reflected warmth, but tolerates some shade.
Located along riparian zones, it tolerates times of dry soil and times of seasonal flood — just be sure it does not stay too wet for too long. To start, water it regularly. Afterward deer bud can go literally all summer without watering, but additionally, it will do just fine with a summer water. Browning leaves in summer might mean that your deer grass is a little thirsty.
Deer grass could be cut back in late winter, just before new growth pushes out, but many indicate that a very simple rake-through for dead foliage is everything you need. Should you decide to trim and tidy up your bud, wait as much as you can, as many indigenous and beneficial critters overwinter in its own foliage.