Water deficit and salinity stresses are often experienced by plants concurrently; however, knowledge is limited about the effects of combined salinity and water deficit stress in plants, and especially in C4 bioenergy crops. Here we aim to understand how diverse drought tolerance traits may deliver tolerance to combinations of drought and salinity in C4 crops, and identify key traits that influence the productivity and biomass composition of novel Miscanthus genotypes under such conditions. Novel genotypes used included M. sinensis and M. floridulus species, pre-screened for different drought responses, plus the commercial accession Miscanthus × giganteus (M×g.). Plants were grown under control treatments, single stress or combinations of water deficit and moderate salinity stress. Morphophysiological responses, including growth, yield, gas exchange and leaf water relations and contents of proline, soluble sugars, ash and lignin were tested for significant genotypic and treatment effects. The results indicated that plants subjected to combined stresses showed more severe responses compared with single stresses. All novel drought-tolerant genotypes and M×g. were tolerant to moderate salinity stress. Biomass production in M. sinensis genotypes was more resilient to co-occurring stresses than that in M×g. and M. floridulus, which, despite the yield penalty produced more biomass overall. A stay-green M. sinensis genotype adopted a conservative growth strategy with few significant treatment effects. Proline biosynthesis was species-specific and was triggered by salinity and co-occurring stress treatments, mainly in M. floridulus. The ash content was compartmentalized differently in leaves and stems in the novel genotypes, indicating different mechanisms of ion accumulation. This study highlights the potential to select novel drought-tolerant Miscanthus genotypes that are resilient to combinations of stress and is expected to contribute to a deeper fundamental knowledge of different mechanistic responses identified for further exploitation in developing resilient Miscanthus crops. © The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Annals of Botany Company.