Best Shrubs and Tall Growing Grass for Deer Cover
Photo by USFWS Mountain-Prairie via CC BY 2.0

Best Shrubs and Tall Growing Grass for Deer Cover

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Having quality deer cover is important for maintaining good hunting on your property. When it comes to growing shrubs and tall grass for deer cover, you should know these types of cover are needed all year long. Many hunters have mistaken that deer cover is only needed for the wintertime, but truth is, it’s just as important during the warmer months.

Deer tend to feed less during the warmer times of day, as well as the dry times of the year. Even in locations where it stays relatively cool, studies have shown that excessive heat can reduce antler quality. Deer cover takes many forms, but generally, there are three main types:

  • Screening
  • Summer thermal
  • Winter thermal

Benefits of Shrubs and Tall Grasses for Deer

The entire purpose behind growing tall grasses and shrubs on your land is to make deer feel more secure and comfortable. You want them to feel as if they can roam your land without having to live in fear. When shrubs and tall grasses are grown in the right locations the habitat is improved, the cover is created, and bedding areas provided.

Where to Plant Shrubs and Grasses

First and foremost, you want your food plots to be well-covered. And as far as tall grasses, you want them grown between tall trees and shrubs. If all you have are tall grasses, you don’t have adequate coverage. You want the grasses covered in the air by shrubs and trees. Consider growing switchgrass, which when combined with other forms of deer cover will help create year-round coverage. Not only will this attract wildlife, but it will help hold and expand it as well.

Whitetail hunters should mix grasses with shrubs, remember that quality is of the utmost importance. You want coverage that will last for years and hold its structure all year long. Which is why switchgrass makes for such a good option when it comes to providing cover. In addition to grass and shrubs, though, it should be your goal to create a monoculture, which will include using a combination of any of the following:

  • Hardwood regeneration
  • Grasses
  • Shrubs
  • Conifer

You want at least three, preferably all four, of these to be included in your habitat, and you will need all of them growing in the same locations to ensure optimal deer bedding cover.

Best Shrubs for Deer Cover

Witch Alder

This shrub is native to the southeastern part of the United States and known for being extremely slow-growing. It has a delightful fragrance and grows anywhere from six to 10 feet tall and provides a coverage spread of about five to nine feet.

Fothergilla major (Mountain Witch Alder)

Oldfield Aster

This plant tends to thrive well in old clover fields, alongside roadways, open woodlands, and in areas that are dry. Depending on the exact location of the plants, they can grow anywhere from two to five feet in height.

Symphyotrichum pilosum, Old Field Aster, Hairy Aster

Black Haw

This is a tall shrub that grows up to 10 to 25 feet in height. It provides maximum deer cover and is often categorized as a small, bushy tree. It has spreading branches and tends to grow in moist to dry areas as well as spots in rocky upland forests.



Native to America, ninebark can take on heavy deer cover. If you are going to plant only one type of shrub for deer cover, then Ninebark is probably going to be your best option. Most Ninebark shrubs reach close to nine feet in height.

April 2012

Prairie Willow

This shrub will grow anywhere from two to eight feet in height. Because it has such as varying height aspect, it should be planted with other types of shrubs or tall grass to provide optimal deer cover. The leaves on this shrub tend to be very narrow and short.

Willow Patch

American Plum

Boasting a broad crown, the American Plum grows up to 15 feet in height and is excellent for providing great deer cover. It has fruits growing on it that range from red to yellow in color and about one inch in diameter.


Chickasaw Plum

This is another shrub that varies in height, usually growing anywhere from three to ten feet tall. Some Chickasaw Plum shrubs are known to grow up to 25 feet in height. It was first cultivated back in 1874 and is popular for providing deer cover.

Smooth Sumac

Smooth Sumac shrubs are extremely easy to identify and are a year-round shrub. They are an open-growing shrub that usually reaches a height of close to 10 feet. In some parts of the country, they will grow as tall as 16 feet, but this is quite rare.

Smooth Sumac

Climbing Prairie Rose

This shrub will grow anywhere from six to 15 feet in height. It has scattered prickles along its stem and features pink flowers that are about two inches in diameter. This shrub provides beautiful deer cover.

Rosa setigera ILLINOIS ROSE

American Beautyberry

The American Beautyberry will grow not only four to six feet tall but also provide four to six feet of coverage in terms of width. Under favorable growing conditions, it may even reach eight to ten feet in height and provide even more width coverage. Most times, the American Beautyberry will have a round shape and arching branches.


Highbush Blueberry

This shrub is exactly as its name implies; it’s a high-growing bush. In fact, it will often reach a height of six to eight feet. If you are considering planting a highbush blueberry or lowbush blueberry, you should know that the highbush will provide better deer cover, yet both types are excellent for deer bedding.

Vaccinium corymbosum (Highbush Blueberry)

American Winterberry

The American Winterberry is native to the eastern part of North America and is a deciduous shrub that will grow anywhere from three to 12 feet tall. Because it has such a varying growth height, you will want to mix it with other types of shrubs and tall grasses to ensure it provides optimum deer cover.

Ilex verticillata

Virginia Sweetspire

Reaching about four feet in height at their maturity, Virginia Sweetspires tend to bloom in the late spring or early summer. The flowers growing on this shrub provide good deer cover and are usually about three to six inches in length. This is a low-sitting bush, so you will want to plant it along with tall grasses.

Itea virginica 'Henry's Garnet'

Best Tall Growing Grasses for Deer Cover


Native to North America, Switchgrass grows great in prairies, along roadsides, and in native grass pastures. It can grow up to nearly nine feet in height and is perfect as a tall growing grass for deer cover.

switchgrass_lapeer 002

Prairie Cordgrass

This robust grass grows up to eight feet tall, with some even exceeding ten feet in height. This grass is native to warm seasons and easily identified by its serrated edges found on the leaf blades.

Spartina pectinata

Sugarcane Plumegrass

Growing up to 10 feet tall, Sugarcane Plumegrass is very large and stands straight up. It is known for its large and fluffy seed heads that tend to be reddish-peach in color. This type of grass is native to moist areas.

Lindheimer’s Muhly Grass

The plant itself will only grow to about three feet in height and is about three feet wide. Once the plant blooms, though, the flowers will usually extend in height another two to three feet, providing excellent deer cover. This type of plant is especially ideal for cover when it is planted in a hedgerow.

Little Bluestem

Exhibiting ecotypic variations, the Little Bluestem has a broad distribution and will vary in height and color depending on where you plant it. This is a small plant that tends to only grow about one to three feet in height.

Little Bluestem 'The Blues' {schizachyrium scoparium}

Purpletop Grass

Known for being a perennial grass, Purpletop Grass grows to about five tall and can grow in bunches or individually. The vegetation growth that takes place with this type of grass will occur from late spring to mid-summer.

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