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How to Prune Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses add texture, color and interest to the garden landscape. The sweeping plumes or arching fronds of ornamental grasses provide year round beauty, with delicate green shoots in spring, mature foliage and flowers or seed heads in summer, muted colors in the fall and frosted spikes in the winter. Many varieties of ornamental grasses are drought resistant. Grasses are easy to care for, requiring little maintenance beyond annual pruning to look their best.

Trim ornamental grass in the late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. This may be as early as January or February in Southern States, while the far North can wait until April or May. To check for growth, pull back the dead grass and check the center of the clump at ground level. If you see any green shoots, be careful not to cut them when you’re pruning away the old growth.

Wrap twine around the clump of dead grass and tie it into a nice bundle. This will make pruning the grass and disposing of the cuttings much easier.

Select the right tool to cut your grass. Choose a tool that will make a sharp, clean cut. You can cut slender grasses with garden shears or a string trimmer. Thicker grasses and canes may require loppers or a hacksaw.

Prune the grass back all the way to the ground. Leave about an inch or grass above the soil. This drastic pruning allows light to reach new shoots and encourages fast, vigorous new growth.

Flowering Ornamental Grasses

Consider the mature size of the plant before choosing a flowering ornamental grass. Flower color varies depending on the cultivar. Switchgrass grows to heights of 2 to 8 feet, with a spread of 2 to 4 feet. Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) also prefers sunny areas of the garden. The flowing foliage adds contrast to brightly colored flowers and a sense of softness to the landscape as it sways in the breeze. Many types of ornamental grasses develop deep root systems that make them fairly drought tolerant once they are established, the National Gardening Association notes. Divide grasses every three to four years in early fall or early spring, depending on the grass.

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