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Tips for cutting back ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses in a yard providing winter interest to the landscape
Ornamental grasses provide winter interest
January 31, 2020
Most gardeners choose to let ornamental grasses such as switchgrass and bluestem stand through the winter for the sake of movement and interest during the drearier months. As the winter wanes, it’s time to cut back the old stalks so you can enjoy the new green stems, according to the Plant Clinic at The Morton Arboretum.
 
It’s best to do this work between mid-February and early March, when the plant is still dormant. If you wait much longer, you may see new green shoots among the dried grass stalks. 
Cut the grass back to 2 to 3 inches above the ground. 
 
An established clump of these tall grasses can get very dense and thick. To cut it back, many gardeners use a pruning saw or electric hedge trimmer. Take it slow and work safely, wearing eye protection. It’s possible to use hand pruners, removing a few stems at a time, but it’s much more arduous and time-consuming. 
 
As you cut back a big clump, you may see that it has died out in the middle, forming a donut shape. You can reduce the size of the clump by digging it up and dividing it in early spring after the soil has thawed.