By G. Bosley a.k.a. “groundhog”

Ornamental Grasses are a very low maintenance plant.  Once a year in the spring they need the dead stems and foliage cut back.  Then sit back and enjoy their beauty until this time next year.

Depending on the variety of grass, as some have heavier stems, you will need a sharp set of  hand pruners or hedging shears.  If you have a very large patch of grass you may want to use the weed trimmer.

The main idea is to remove as much dead material as possible.  Do not cut any of the stocks shorter than 2″ from the ground.   Some varieties begin to show signs of green growth earlier than others, be careful not to cut away the new green growth.  Some varieties remain evergreen year round and do not require cutting back.

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Calamagrostis  (Reed Grass) and Deschampsia  (Hair Grass) begin to grow early in the season.  These should be cut back as early as possible to prevent cutting away new growth.  If they have started to grow, cut away as much as you can of the top growth and then work yourfingers through the lower dead foliage to remove as much as possible.

These grasses grow quickly early in the season and the remaining brown foliage is quickly hidden by new foliage.

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Carex  (Sedge Grass), Festuca  (Fescue Grass) and Helictotrichon (Oat Grass) all remain evergreen or semi-evergreen.  Usually they just require a gentle cleaning with your fingers to dislodge the dead foliage. 

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Pennisetum – Fountain Grass are usually much later before they begin to grow.  It is best to wait until they show some signs of new growth and then trim back the dead foliage.  These are a little tender in Zone 5 and if cut back too early they can be killed by frost.

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Miscanthus – Maiden Grasses and most other types of ornamental grasses should have the dead foliage and stems cut back to 2″ – 4″ from the ground. It is best to cut these back before they show any sign of new growth.  If you wait to late cut them back you will notice the green leaf beginning to grow within the stalk when you it, you may need to cut the stems higher to avoid cutting the green growth.

It is my experience not to cut back the ornamental grasses on a windy day, the dead leaves get blown all over the yard and make the job twice as hard.

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