Lifestyle Snapshot

How and When to Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

Winter is ending, and Spring is almost here.

Winter is ending, and spring is just around the corner!  Many of us are beginning to get “spring cleaning” on our minds, and part of that is getting our landscaping and flowerbeds clean, tidy, and ready for warm weather to debut.  

One of the questions we are most often asked is, what to do with the dead and dry ornamental grasses.  Like the grass in the above picture, the plant goes dormant in the winter and dies back to the ground.  In the spring, new green growth will emerge from the base.  If the dead is not trimmed back, the new, green growth will mix into the brown, leaving you with a plant that looks half dead. To have a nice, clean, full clump of green grass, you must trim the grass back to allow the fresh sprigs to emerge.  February is the best time to do this.  You want to prune the grass BEFORE new growth begins to flush from dormancy.  Trimming too late will result in a raggedy, unnatural appearance with trim marks on the ends.  

Depending on the size of your grass, there are various tools for trimming.  You could even use hedgers or a chainsaw for tougher grasses.

1.  Wear gloves and preferably a long sleeve shirt. Some varieties of ornamental grasses have sharp blades and can cut your hands and arms while making contact. 

2.  If your grass is large, tie the clump about two feet from the ground with twine or tape.  This will keep you from holding the grass in place and will also make clean-up easy.  

3.  Warm-season grasses that are taller than three feet should be cut back to four to six inches above ground level. Shorter mature plants can be cut back to about three inches. 

This method can be used with any type of ornamental grass, including pampas grass!  

Evergreen grass that may have been damaged by hard freezes, including liriope or carex grasses, can also be trimmed back, but you should only cut it back by 1/3 of the grass height. This will allow fresh blades to flush for a nice healthy looking plant. 

Ornamental Grasses add a beautiful and soft texture to the landscape.  Whatever your style choice may be, they can easily be incorporated with various colors, sizes, and growing habits to choose from.  Ornamental Grasses are very drought tolerant and, once established, are typically maintenance-free. My favorite part is the lovely plumes that emerge throughout the summer into fall!  

If you have questions or want to try ornamental grasses in your landscape, come see us!  We have many varieties that we stock and use in our landscape installs!  We would love to help you choose the perfect variety for your space. 

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