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How to Prune Ornamental Grasses

How to Prune Ornamental Grasses

One of the most common questions people have about ornamental grasses is “How do I cut them back?.” But the answer to this question is not as simple as it seems. As it turns out, there are two different answers to this question. The answer depends on whether the grass you have is a warm or cool season grass. So in this article, we will explain the difference between the two and tell you how to care best for each. Of course, we will be only covering perennial grasses. Annual grasses should be removed at the season’s end after they no longer look good or the frost kills them.

Two Types of Grasses:

  1. The Warm-Season Grasses

    The first type of grasses is the warm-season grasses. These are the grasses that do best during the warm seasons of the year when temperatures are 75 to 90 degrees. This includes a lot of the more common grasses like Maiden Grasses, Fountain Grass, Hardy Pampas Grass, and Switch Grass. Warm-season grasses turn brown in the fall.
  2. The Cool-Season Grasses

    The second type of grasses is the cool-season grasses. These are the grasses that do best during the cooler seasons of the year when temperatures are 60 to 75 degrees. Cool-season grasses are generally less common than warm-season grasses and tend to be semi-evergreen. They include Fescues, Feather Reed Grasses, and Blue Oat Grasses.

One important thing to note is beside warm, cool season, and annual grasses, there are also Sedges. Sedges are technically not grasses. Unlike ornamental grasses, Sedges are evergreen.

Cutting Back Grasses (General Practices):

  1. Make sure that you wear gloves

    This is one tip that likely will save your hands. If you have any Ornamental grasses, you will know that the leaves can be not only sharp but grabby. The results of this can be a papercut like cut. In fact, there are some including my Great-Grandfather that called ornamental grasses “cut grasses” for this reason. Your best option is probably some good leather gloves.

  2. Choose your cutting weapon

    Chances are your best bet is some sort of shear whether power hedge shears or hand shears, but if your grass is small enough, you might be able to get away with scissors or hand pruners. Some use knives, weed wackers with a metal blade, and/or even chainsaws.
  3. Consider bundling the grass before you cut it

    This is a bit of a helpful tip. Before you cut your grass, you can bundle it before you cut your grasses. This can prevent a lot of the messy cleanup and prevent the grass from blowing everywhere while you cut it.

  4. Cut the Grass

    Now that you have picked your weapon, have your gloves on, and your grasses bundled, you are ready to actually cut the grass. Try not to cut too much at once as it might clog up your cutting tool. (As far as how far to cut down your grass, read below.)


  5. Dispose of the clippings

    Once you have your grass cut, it is now time to dispose of your clippings. You have several options on how to do this. You can compost or chop it up and use it for mulch. Some even use it for animal bedding.

Cutting Back Warm-Season Grasses:

Warm-season grasses are the easiest grasses to cut back. They can be cut back anytime from fall to spring and can be cut down to the ground. Fall is when we often try to cut back ours. We do this so that our garden stays clean. We don’t have to worry about pieces breaking off and blowing all over the garden all winter. Some, however, prefer to leave their warm-season grasses standing through the winter as they like the look.

Cutting Back Cool Season Grasses:

Cool-season grasses are a little fussier than warm-season grasses. They do not like to be cut all the way to the ground. Instead, cut down 1/3 of original height. Also, this is best done in the early spring with cool-season grasses.

Cutting Back Sedges:

As we said, although they look like grasses, aren’t actually truly a grass. It is also evergreen. For this reason, it does not “need” to be pruned. If you want to control the size, you can cut it back. Generally, you only want to cut it back the top 1/3. You may also occasionally want to remove the dead blades from time to time. Just use your hands and grab the dead blades out.

Do you have grasses? How have you cut them back? Any tips you would add? Comment below!

Sources and Further Reading:

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