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Ornamental Grass Care – Why And How To Cut Back In The Winter

Believe it or not, wintertime is a perfect time for ornamental grass care!

Not only is it easy to do, cutting back in the winter lets you get a head start before the onslaught of spring landscaping and garden chores hit hard.

By mid-winter, ornamental grasses have gone completely dormant.

And with the snow, wind, and winter weather, many start to look quite bleak.

It makes it the perfect time to trim them back for the new year!

Ornamental Grass Care – Cutting Back In The Winter

One of the many advantages of ornamental grasses are they extremely hardy and tolerant.

Nearly all ornamental grasses can be cut back anytime from early fall to late Spring.

Even if a grass becomes too large during the growing season, they can be pruned for shape. Simple shear off a bit of top growth as needed.

ornamental grass care
Ornamental Grass Care Tips -Grasses can be cut back nearly anytime from fall to spring.

Even better, they require little to no fertilization.

One word of caution. If you live a colder climate, be sure to grow varieties that can handle your winter.

Some varieties of red and purple grasses are marketed as perennials. Unfortunately, that is only true for warmer winter climates. See : 4 Great Ornamental Grass Varieties For Your Landscape

Just always be sure to read the labels to be sure they are good for your growing zone.

Pruning Grasses In The Winter

So that leads us to winter pruning.

Although many choose cut back their grasses in the fall, ornamental grasses are a wonderful plant to leave up through at least the early winter months.

There are hundreds of varieties of ornamental grass. They make for wonderful accent or focal points.

First, they provide a lot of cover for birds and small animals. This is true especially in extremely cold climates.

Second, they add a tremendous amount of texture to an often barren winter landscape. They can also serve as a bit of a wind and snow break.

But as mentioned, by mid to late winter, they begin to fade and can become quite unsightly.

At this point, it’s time for a little winter pruning!

The Ins and Outs of Cutting Back Ornamental Grass

Grasses can be cut back to ground level. However, it is better to leave a bit of the old growth in place.

Cut grasses back during winter to about 6″to 12″ height.

ornamental grass care

It helps keep a bit of interest in the landscape. In addition, it provides protection for roots, and helps anchor new shoots in the spring.

The Tools Of The Trade

There are several great options for tools when cutting back ornamental grass.

The choice really depends on the size of the plant.

For small or young plants, a good pair of shears will easily do the trick.

ornamental grass care
Hedge trimmers work great for cutting back grasses. Cordless trimmers are a great choice for mobility and ease!

For mid-size to larger ornamental grass plants, a pair of electric or gas hedge trimmers work amazingly well. Cordless trimmers make the chore a simple breeze! Product Link : 40 Volt Cordless Hedge Trimmers

And for over-sized plants – nothing works like a well sharpened chain saw!

As an alternative method, ornamental grasses can also be burnt back.

Although it does harm the plant, this is rarely an option in neighborhoods and communities.

As with any fire, extreme caution should be used if this method is implemented. Winter is helpful for this because the risk of fire spread is minimized.

Ornamental Grass Care – Dividing Ornamental Grass Clumps

Mature plants sometimes require a bit of extra maintenance to keep them looking good. Dividing large clumps will keep plants healthy for years.

Dividing ornamental grasses should not be done until the ground has thawed. Pruning them in winter however is a great way to be prepared for when the soil warms enough for dividing.

ornamental grass care
This over-sized clump can easily be divided.

Ornamental grass clumps grow from the inside out. That means new growth is always be on the outside ring of the plant.

After a few years, you may notice the middle area beginning to die off.  When this happens, it is time to dig your plant up to prune the dead portions out.

Ornamental Grass Care – Creating New Plants

This is also a great time to create new starts of your ornamental grass!

When digging up to trim out dead growth, or to create new transplants, start by digging up the entire ball of grass.

Remove and discard the “dead” center portion to the compost pile. Only utilize sections of the newer, outer growth area for replanting.

ornamental grass care
Ornamental Grass Care Tips. Ornamental grasses can make for great potted plants too!

Using a shovel, slice off portions of the outer rings and replant.

The larger the slice, the larger the first year plant will be. Simple replant wherever needed, and as spring warms, the plants will shoot up new growth.

You will be surprised how many “new” plants you can start from an old clump.

Why Ornamental Grasses Are A Great Choice

Ornamental grasses have become extremely popular in the home landscape.

They are a great way to add instant texture, contrast and lasting beauty. And they fit into nearly any landscape.

ornamental grass care
The beauty of fountain grass. The ease of ornamental grass care has helped to make them quite attractive for landscaping use.

Ornamental grasses are also an excellent choice for filling in large expanses of open space.

The varieties come in a near endless selection of sizes, shapes and colors that can complement almost any outdoor situation. From purple to red and green, to tall, small, and in between, there is something to satisfy any taste.

Many varieties can grow upwards of 5 to 7 feet tall in just their first season.

Its easy to see why they have become so popular!

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