Learn which plants thrive in your Hardiness Zone with our new interactive map!

How to Cut Back Ornamental Grass in the Spring

By S.F. Heron ; Updated September 21, 2017

Ornamental grass adds incredible interest to the landscape with long flowing foliage grown in clumps in the landscape. Grasses tend to be low-maintenance compared to traditional annual or perennial flowering plants. Many ornamental grasses function as mainstay perennials in the garden. These grasses require amended soil at initial planting and mulch to help cool the soil and maintain moisture. Learning how to cut back ornamental grass in the spring involves knowing the growing pattern of your time of grass to perform this once-yearly task.

Schedule the pruning session in the late spring. Cutting back ornamental grass after the winter allows the leaves to completely dry during the winter months while still providing some color to the landscape as well as seeds and shelter for the local birds.

Dress appropriately in long-sleeved shirt and pants. Wear protective gloves to prevent sharp grass blades for cutting your hands.

Reach down into the base of the plant and look for emerging growth. Target pruning for immediately after new shoots begin growing. Shoots usually appear in late spring and you need to make sure that any pruning doesn't chop the top off these new shoots.

Tie a piece of twine around the entire plant for taller variety ornamental grasses. Move the twine to 2 to 3 feet above the soil surface to contain the foliage but still allow plenty of room to cut back the grass. Twine keeps the grass blades together to allow for a more even cut during pruning.

Cut back ornamental grass to a level 4 to 8 inches from the soil surface. Using pruning loppers for smaller clumps of low-lying grass. Hedge clippers can be used for larger masses of grass as well as taller varieties. Use a chain saw for large or exceptionally thick bunches of ornamental grass. Wear protective eyewear during the use of hedge clippers or chain saws.

Lop off the bunch straight across for best results. The leftover dry foliage will disappear in the spread of new, green growth in the growing season.

Rake or remove every piece of foliage possible. Strands of dead grass can smother new growth, especially in the center of the ornamental grass clump. Discard dead foliage on the compost pile or as yard waste during recycling collection.


Things You Will Need

  • Heavy gloves
  • Long sleeved shirt and pants
  • Twine
  • Pruning loppers
  • Hedge clippers
  • Chainsaw
  • Rake