Do ornamental grasses need to be cut back?

Answered by Jason Smith

Ornamental grasses do need to be cut back. However, the frequency and timing of the cutting back may vary depending on the specific type of grass and your aesthetic preferences. Generally, it is recommended to cut back ornamental grasses once a year, typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

The purpose of cutting back ornamental grasses is mainly to remove the dead or dried foliage from the previous season. This not only helps to maintain a tidy appearance but also promotes new growth and rejuvenation. By cutting back the grasses, you allow sunlight and air to reach the base of the plant, which can stimulate healthy regrowth.

To cut back ornamental grasses, you can use pruning shears or hedge trimmers. Start by gathering the foliage into a bunch or bundle and then cut it down to a few inches above the ground. It’s important to wear gloves and protective clothing while cutting back grasses to avoid getting cut by any sharp blades or grasses with serrated edges.

In addition to regular annual cutting back, ornamental grasses may also benefit from occasional division. Dividing grasses every four or five years helps to maintain their vigor and prevent overcrowding. Over time, grasses can become clumpy and develop a thick thatch at the center, which can affect their overall health and appearance. Dividing the grasses involves digging up the clump, separating it into smaller sections, and replanting them in different areas of the garden. This process not only rejuvenates the plants but also allows you to propagate more grasses for other parts of your garden or to share with fellow gardeners.

While some gardeners choose to remove the cut foliage from ornamental grasses, many prefer to leave it in place throughout the winter. The dried grasses can provide visual interest in the garden during the colder months and also serve as a food source for birds. The seeds of ornamental grasses can attract various bird species, adding a lively touch to your winter landscape.

Cutting back ornamental grasses once a year and dividing them every four or five years are the main maintenance tasks associated with these plants. By following these practices, you can ensure the health and longevity of your ornamental grasses while enjoying their beauty throughout the seasons.