When Should I Cut Back My Ornamental Grasses?

“I have lots of ornamental grasses in my garden. When is the best time to cut them back?” Question from Mary of Raleigh, North Carolina

Answer: Tall ornamental grasses, like Chinese silver grass (Miscanthis sinensis) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) provide food and cover for many birds and other wildlife. Their dry blades and seedheads also tend to look pretty through the winter months. So, the best time to cut them back is in spring when your bulbs just begin to peak up from the soil. Take some sharp shears, wear protective gloves, and cut them back to about 8-12 inches from the ground. I suggest composting them. The tops quickly break down in the compost heap, especially if you cut them up into smaller pieces and keep them moist.

Many smaller bunch grasses, like blue fescue (Festuca glauca) and prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), do not require cutting back, while mid-sized bunch grasses, like fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) do.

Make sure you rake away all remnant grassy blades to keep your beds looking tidy!

Happy gardening!

Jessie Keith

Black Gold Horticulturist

Cool Grasses for Container Garden Simplicity

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Dynamic pots of Mexican hair grass had a simple yet striking accent to this patio garden.

“In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.”  Longfellow penned this well over a century ago, yet it’s more relevant than ever today.  If the stark white room with its Spartan decor and tactile organic accents seems like heaven to you, then perhaps its time to take it all outside.  Blend the new look of minimal organic contemporary or country with just the right plants to create the ultimate experience – not of color – but of texture.  Eschew big and bold for fine-textured foliage that is not only carefree but incredibly dramatic.  Explore the animated character of the grasses and reeds that come alive in a breeze and speak in the language of spiky shadow when lighted after dark. Continue reading “Cool Grasses for Container Garden Simplicity”