Muhlenbergia rigens

Common Name: deergrass 
Type: Ornamental grass
Family: Poaceae
Native Range: Western-central US and Mexico
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 3.00 to 6.00 feet
Spread: 2.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: September to November
Bloom Description: Purple to yellow
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Good Fall
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Drought, Black Walnut, Air Pollution


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Also grows well in light shade. Good drought tolerance. Wide range of soil tolerance except for consistently wet conditions. Many nurseries rate this grass as only winter hardy to USDA Zones 7-10 which is consistent with where it grows in nature. However, it may be able to withstand the colder winter condition of USDA Zones 5 and 6. In the St. Louis area, it may be best to grow this grass in a protected area due to the current uncertainty regarding the limits of its winter hardiness.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Muhlenbergia rigens, commonly called deer grass, is a clump-forming, cool season perennial grass which is native to the southwestern U.S. (California to Texas) and Mexico. Features slender gray-green leaves typically growing in a dense clump to 2-4' tall. Stems are initially erect, but begin to arch outward as the summer progresses producing an attractive weeping effect. Narrow purple to yellow flower spikes (color comes from the anthers) rise above the foliage clump in September-October to a height of 5-6'. Foliage turns the color of light straw in fall and clump may retain good color and form in milder winters. Dried leaves may be used in basketry.

Genus name honors Gotthilf Henry Ernest Muhlenberg (1753-1815), Lutheran pastor in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., distinguished amateur botanist.

Specific epithet means stiff or rigid.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Naturalized areas, native plant gardens or dry slopes. Can also be an effective rear border accent.