Now Reading
How to Cut Back Ornamental Grasses: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Cut Back Ornamental Grasses: A Step-by-Step Guide

cut back ornamental grasses

Ornamental grasses can add beauty and texture to your garden throughout the year. However, to keep them looking their best and maintain their health, it’s essential to know when and how to cut them back. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process to cut back ornamental grasses and more. Let’s get started on keeping your garden in top shape.

Why Cut Back Ornamental Grasses?

Cutting back ornamental grasses serves several important purposes:

  1. Aesthetic Appeal: Trimming helps remove dead or unsightly growth, making your garden look neater and more attractive.
  2. New Growth: Cutting back encourages new growth, leading to healthier and more vigorous plants in the coming season.
  3. Pest and Disease Control: Removing old, decaying growth can help prevent pests and diseases from taking hold.
  4. Safety: Overgrown grasses can become fire hazards in dry climates, so cutting them back is essential for safety.

Now, let’s proceed with the step-by-step guide.

Tools You’ll Need

Before you begin, gather the necessary tools:

  • Pruning shears or hedge trimmers: For cutting back the grasses.
  • Gloves: To protect your hands from sharp grass blades.
  • Eye protection: To shield your eyes from debris.
  • Tarp or sheet: To collect and dispose of the cuttings.

When to Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

The timing of cutting back ornamental grasses depends on the type of grass you have. There are two main categories: cool-season and warm-season grasses.

Cool-Season Grasses

Cool-season grasses, such as fescue and bluegrass, should be cut back in late winter or early spring, before new growth begins. This allows the new shoots to emerge without competition from the old growth.

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses, such as switchgrass and fountain grass, should be cut back in late winter or early spring, but you can delay this until early spring if you prefer to enjoy the winter interest provided by their seed heads.

Step-by-Step Guide to Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses

  1. Put on Protective Gear: Before you start, wear gloves and eye protection to keep yourself safe from sharp grass blades.
  2. Assess the Grass: Take a close look at the grass clump. Identify the dead or brown growth that needs to be removed.
  3. Gather the Grass: Carefully gather the grass blades together, either by hand or by using a piece of twine or rope to tie them into a bundle. This makes it easier to cut and collect the trimmings.
  4. Cut Back the Grass: Using sharp pruning shears or hedge trimmers, make the cuts about 2 to 4 inches above the ground for most ornamental grasses. Leave a small amount of the old growth to protect the crown of the plant.
  5. Collect the Trimmings: As you cut, the old growth will fall to the ground. To keep your garden tidy, place a tarp or sheet underneath to collect the trimmings for disposal.
  6. Dispose of the Cuttings: Once you’ve finished cutting back all your grasses, gather the trimmings from the tarp or sheet and dispose of them in your compost pile or yard waste bin. Do not leave the cuttings around the base of the grass, as they can promote rot.
  7. Mulch and Fertilize (Optional): After cutting back the grasses, you can apply a layer of mulch around the base of each plant to help retain moisture and suppress weeds. You may also consider applying a balanced slow-release fertilizer to encourage healthy growth.


Cutting back ornamental grasses is a simple yet essential task to maintain the beauty and health of your garden. By following the guidelines provided in this step-by-step guide, you’ll ensure that your grasses continue to thrive and enhance your outdoor space season after season.