Can ornamental grasses be cut back in the fall? Or, should they be cut back in the spring?
That seems to be the question homeowners ask each year as their grasses begin to die off as the chill of late autumn arrives.
After all, fall is the perfect time to cut back and divide most perennial plants. And ornamental grasses are certainly a perennial.
So what is the correct answer? Let’s take a look below, along with a few additional ornamental grass tips for fall and spring care.
Can Ornamental Grasses Be Cut Back In The Fall – The Answer
For starters, you can indeed cut back ornamental grasses in the fall once they have died off.
It will not harm them. Nor will it stunt next year’s growth. And they certainly won’t freeze out from having their stems and foliage removed.
There are actually some pretty compelling reasons to cut back ornamental grasses in late autumn.
For one, when left in place, they can cause quite a mess to the landscape through the long winter months. It isn’t long before the dead wispy blades and plumes find their way all over the landscape.
And the clumps of decaying grasses also seem to be the catching point of every piece of blowing debris and trash in the neighborhood.
But Hold On Just A Minute…
Before you grab those hedge shears, even though cutting back ornamental grasses may not harm the plant, there are still a whole host of great reasons to leave them standing until spring. And here are 3 of the best:
#1 Ornamental Grasses Provide Protection For Winter Wildlife
Ornamental grasses, when left in place, provide much needed protection for all kinds of wildlife.
With the majority of trees, shrubs and bushes missing their canopy of leaves, ornamental grasses are one of the few remaining areas of refuge for wildlife.
Birds not only use the grasses for cover, but to help line their nest’s for warmth. The same can be said for many other animals as well.
#2 Grasses Add Interest & Color To The Winter Landscape
Let’s face it, wintertime landscapes can be bleak! The leaves are gone, and the grass is either brown or covered in snow.
But ornamental grasses, with the stoic plumes and foliage can definitely become a focal point for an otherwise barren landscape.
And they can look especially spectacular when covered in snow or ice too!
#3 Ornamental Grasses Can Be An Excellent Wind / Snow Break
Last but not least, grasses can serve as a great wind break for driveways, sidewalks, and even your home.
Grasses left in place help block both wind and snow, especially when planted in large clumps or sections.
It’s just one more reason to keep those ornamental plumes in place!
One last note on fall ornamental care. If you do decide to cut them back, do not attempt to divide or transplant clumps until spring.
Once split apart, the new divisions simply do not have time to establish their root systems. The exposed roots are an easy target to freeze out.
You can however successfully transplant potted grasses with their entire root systems in place.
In fact, late autumn is a great opportunity to pick up a few new varieties that might be on clearance at your local greenhouse! See : 4 Great Ornamental Grasses To Add To Your Landscape
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