Ornamental grasses are a great asset to the flower garden, whether grown on their own or in a mixed border. Many can provide structure during the winter months as well as food and overwintering places for birds and other wildlife.

Ornamental grasses are grouped into two categories; deciduous and evergreen.  

Evergreen grasses, such as Festuca glauca, need very little attention other than tidying up at this time of year, whereas deciduous grasses, such as Miscanthus, should be cut back each year.  

Festucca glauca evergreen grasses

February is a great time of year to do this for most deciduous grasses. However, grasses such as Pennisetum which put on fresh growth in late spring, should be cut back later, in April. This is so the old stems can protect the plant from excessive cold and wet.

As the season moves from late winter into early spring the bleached bronze stems of many ornamental grasses will start to collapse around the plant.

And a few weeks later, fresh new leaves will start to be produced.

Removing the previous year’s stems now means you’ll have a vibrant-looking plant when its new-season leaves appear.

How to cut back ornamental grasses

Cut back all stems on the plant low to the ground using sharp secateurs placing them in the compost or green waste recycling bin.  You can also cut up the stems and place them on the flower border as a mulch.  Avoid removing new leaf growth where possible.  

Run hands through the base of the plant to loosen and remove any remaining stems from last year.  It’s best to wear gloves when doing this as some grass stems have sharp edges.

Thinner, arching leaf grasses, such as Stipa tenuissima, can be combed through using hands to remove last season’s growth.  This is also a wonderful way of relaxing as well as being a practical job!

stipa tenuissima ornamental grass

Cutting back your ornamental grasses allows them a good chance of growing back strong in the spring and summer.

Grasses are a staple of prairie gardens. Find out more about this garden design choice here:

Prairie gardens

Or check out my Pinterest board for more ideas: