Ornamental grasses are one of the first plants to greet us come spring. You’ll see little green shoots coming up from the cut-off crowns and know that spring is finally really here. Decorative grasses can be warm season, cool season, or evergreen grasses. Warm season and cool season grasses are sometimes called “deciduous grasses”, meaning that the foliage of these types of grasses turn brown in the fall but tend to remain standing. These grasses when left as they are can provide winter interest to a landscape, particularly when they are in the background.
While you can leave these grasses without care all year, they will tend to look more attractive if you cut back ornamental grasses in the forefront either in late fall or early spring.
Cutting these grasses may seem like a difficult task, especially the kind with razor-edged leaves, but it doesn’t have to be. To cut back the grass, first, take twine or string and wrap it around the grass creating a sheaf. This will be easier to manage and cut through. Then, take your hedge shears—or for an easier job, a hedge trimmer or power hedger—and cut the grass about 4–6 inches above the crown of the plant. You want to protect the crown because it helps to insulate the roots through the winter, so don’t cut the grass at ground level.
Once you’ve cut your grass plants down you’ll want to take the dead material and place it on the compost pile. Dead grass is a great way to get nitrogen into the soil, so it’ll help your compost pile do its job. If you happen to have a shredder you can also run the grass through it and make a great mulch for your other plants!
Remember, ornamental grasses grow not only tall but wide as well. Eventually, in addition to cutting them down, you may also need to split them so they stay manageable in your landscape layout. We’ll cover how to split grasses in a future post! In the meantime, find that string and get going on your trimming!