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Caring for Ornamental Grasses - Short Version

How to care for perennial ornamental grasses.

Contributors: rick Schoellhorn

The two most common questions we get about Ornamental grasses are "When should I cut my grass back" and "How and when should I divide my ornamental grass?" This article goes through tips and techniques on cutting back and dividing grasses. For the full length article with more info, click here.

Grasses are generally classified as cool season, warm season, or evergreen.

  • Cool-season grasses put on most of their growth in spring and in the fall when temperatures cool down.
  • Warm-season grasses won't start growing until mid to late spring or even early summer.
  • Evergreen sedges and carex are grass-like but not grasses.

Cut back warm season grasses in fall or by mid to late spring.

Warm season grasses turn shades of brown as the weather turns colder. Once your warm season grasses turn brown you can trim them back at almost any time. Not all ornamental grasses look good through the winter, trim back those that don't look good in the fall.

Cut back cool season grasses in very early spring.

Cool season grasses tend to look good even as the weather cools. Leave their foliage in place until spring and then as soon as the snow is gone cut them back. Leave about 1/3 of the plant in place.

Clean up & division.

For many grasses it is easier to tie the grass in a bundle before trimming, this makes clean up a snap.

Dividing grasses will help grasses remain active and growing and can help renew older grasses. All ornamental grasses should be divided when they are actively growing but not while they are flowering.

  • Divide warm season grasses anytime spring through mid-summer.
  • Divide cool season grasses in spring or early fall.
  • Divide evergreen grasses and grass-like plants in spring only


For more in-depth information on this topic, click here.

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