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How to Prune Grass Plants

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017
Pruning shears feature long blades for easy cutting of ornamental grass.
rusty garden shears image by hazel proudlove from Fotolia.com

Gardeners use grass plants in the landscape as accent plants for flowers, shrubs and trees. Grasses serve as focal points or as protective ground covers around tree trunks. These versatile plants require minimal care other than a yearly haircut to keep foliage looking beautiful. Learning how to prune a grass plant depends on the size of the clump. Choosing the correct tool for the task makes the job easier.

Plan grass-pruning sessions for the early spring. Grass foliage from the previous season has died and provided winter-long interest in the landscape. This foliage needs to be removed to allow new shoots room to grow and to limit dead spots in the grass clump. Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp grass blades.

Tackle small grass clumps with hand-held pruning shears. Hold a section of the grass clump in your hand and snip the old blades straight across to the point of new growth. Grab another bunch and continue. Perform a final trimming to even the remaining dead blades of the grass. Gather all cut blades inside and around the plant for the compost pile.

Gather the foliage of mid-sized ornamental grasses using twine and secure tightly to keep blades out of your working area. Use lopping shears with a long blade to make a single cut straight across the dead foliage positioned slightly higher than the new shoots. The twine will hold the blades in place for the first cut. Tidy up the plant with a quick trim using pruning shears for close-in work. Remove old foliage from the garden.

Secure large bunches of grass using twine spaced every 1 to 2 feet up the grass clump to hold blades securely for cutting. Use motor driven hedge clippers to slice straight across the grass plant at a height of about 4 to 6 inches. Make sure not to nick new shoots when making the cut. Neaten up the plant using hand-held or lopping shears and remove old foliage to allow light to enter the center of the grass plant.

Apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer to the grass plants after foliage removal to stimulate new growth. Grass plants lose excess amounts of nutrients when foliage is cut. Apply fertilizer in recommended amounts immediately after pruning to provide adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Hedge clippers
  • Gloves
  • Twine
  • 10-10-10 fertilizer


  • Always remove dead foliage from the garden bed to limit potential disease and animal burrowing. Wear garden gloves and run your fingers through the grass blades to capture dead foliage.