Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses
Last year's growth on the cool-season grasses should
be cut down as soon as the snow is gone. These plants
literally "leap" out of the ground in the spring. Many
a year I have had lush plants with chopped off leaf
tips due to not taking care of this task early enough!
How best to cut back the grasses you ask? Here at Bluestem
Nursery we use a sickle (that's Jim cutting
back Pennisetum alopecuroides in the picture). One year,
we went against our principles and burned the nursery
grasses down. However, one must check to see if there
are any restrictions in your area before burning. DO
NOT burn the dead foliage off of cool season grasses.
The growing tips can be damaged.
back ornamental grasses in the spring
Heavier grasses can be cut back with a hedge trimmer
or a weed eater-type machine, using a blade rather than
the nylon line. Be careful not to cut cool season grasses
back too far, as they can be damaged beyond repair.
Leave approximately 1/3 of last year's growth in place.
It will quickly be hidden by the new growth.
We have recently seen a novel approach to warm season
grasses. Rather than cut them back first thing in the
spring, leave them standing as long as possible. The
buff-colored foliage contrasts wonderfully with the
new growth of the Spring bulbs.
Whenever you choose to cut back warm-season grasses,
they can be cut right down to the ground without any
problem. If you leave it real late, just try not to
cut off the new leaf tips by leaving 6 - 8" of old growth
so as not to damage the new leaves.
Some grasses have very sharp edges. The wearing of
gloves is highly recommended. Around Miscanthus it is
should be mandatory.
TIP: When I cut my ornamental
grasses off in late winter or spring, they create
straw-like mess in the lawn. I've found that
if I take a large bungie cord, stretch it around
the grass about 2 feet up and then cut the grass,
it works very well. It keeps the mess to a minimum
and I can carry it away in one bunch. I have
50 grasses in my yard, so I need to make the
chore as easy as I possibly can.
Julie Thompson in Northeast Iowa
UPDATE: A better method of cutting
Check out our blog.
All this talk of warm and cool season grasses has probably
got you asking, "Just which ones are warm and which
ones are cool season?" Below is a chart of grasses that
Bluestem Nursery carries. Note however that in some
climates, Koeleria, Festuca
are virtually evergreen and therefore will not need
to be cut back. Rather than a haircut, just give them
Grasses page of our website
Have you even visited a forum on the Internet? GardenWeb
has one of the most popular ones and I believe they
have the only one devoted entirely to ornamental grasses.