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Ornamental grasses fulfill their tasks as backdrop plants and gap fillers with flying colors if they are given the right trimmings. This tutorial provides you with all the instructions for the perfect cut. This is how you cut deciduous and evergreen grasses in an exemplary manner.

Hardy ornamental grass is not cut back in autumn; the culms protect the roots from frost

Table of Contents

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  1. Deciduous or evergreen
  2. cutting time
  3. Cut deciduous grasses
  4. Comb out evergreen grasses
  5. Selective fall pruning
  6. frequently asked Questions
  7. Distinguish between deciduous and evergreen species

    Mistakes in cutting care are excluded if you know the growth of your ornamental grasses. It is important to distinguish between deciduous and evergreen species. This knowledge results in the perfect incision. For this purpose, the following table names popular deciduous and evergreen species:

    Deciduous species botanical name evergreen species botanical name
    Chinese reed miscanthus pampas grass Cortaderia selloana
    Pennisetum grass Pennisetum alopecuroides Snow Marbel Luzula nivea
    Japanese blood grass Imperata cylindrica var. koenigii sedge Carex
    feather bristle grass Pennisetum alopecuroides var. viridescens Bearskin Fescue Festuca gautieri
    Diamond Reed Grass Calamagrostis brachytricha Blue Ray Oats Helictotrichon sempervirens
    American beach grass Ammophila breviligulata Switchgrass Panicum virgatum

    Cut ornamental grasses in spring

    The distinction between deciduous and evergreen fades into the background when it comes to choosing a date. For all popular ornamental grasses is a Cutting taboo in the fall. The reason for the rule of thumb is the risk of massive damage from frost and permanent wetness. You should only make a note of trimming in your schedule for spring, when you no longer have to fear the freezing cold.

    For some grass species, the time window remains open into the summer. With other ornamental grasses, time is of the essence because the first green stalks are sprouting. Please choose the time of the cut so that you do not cut into the fresh green. The resulting brown leaf tips spoil the nest throughout the season.


    If the time for cutting your ornamental grasses is fixed, robust gardening gloves should be ready to hand. A large number of deciduous and evergreen species are getting ready sharp leaf edges against attacks of all kinds. This entails the great danger of painful cuts in the event of unprotected skin contact with the sharp-edged stalks.

    Cut deciduous ornamental grass vigorously

    No garden plant dies more beautifully than a deciduous ornamental grass. In autumn, the green stalks and picturesque spike flowers undergo a transformation process and turn straw-colored to intensely yellow-brown. If you now let the scissors circle, you are depriving yourself of a decorative component in the winter garden picture. Furthermore, the retracted leaves cannot fulfill their important task as natural winter protection. Only in spring do you subject a deciduous grass to a vigorous pruning. How to do it right:

    • Before the onset of winter, loosely tie stalks that have retracted into a tuft
    • Mulch root disc with leaves and needle brushwood
    • Remove winter protection in spring
    • Cut back the stalks and seed stalks to a hand’s breadth above the ground

    The figure below shows how to do it skillfully. Start at the outer edge and work your way inward in bunches. Ideally, a helping hand is ready to take the tufts of grass and dispose of them. A pruning with the hedge trimmer is faster. In return, the dry stalks fly uncontrollably through your garden.

    You can cut deciduous ornamental grass species safely and effortlessly with a perennial sickle. Grasp a dead tuft of grass with one hand and pull it off to ground level.

    Comb out evergreen ornamental grasses

    Regardless of their name, ornamental evergreen grasses have not leased eternal life. In contrast to their deciduous conspecifics, the change of leaves is unobtrusive and almost unnoticed. A different cut is used to ensure that pampas grass, sedge and similar ornamental grasses retain their well-groomed appearance. That is how it goes:

    • Put on sturdy work gloves and long-sleeved clothing
    • Cut off long fronds with dried stems at the base
    • Comb through the eyrie in stages with both hands

    A harsh winter negates the benefit of evergreen ornamental grasses, as they shed all their leaves. At the end of winter there is no discernible difference to deciduous grass species. Such an appearance requires the use of hedge trimmers. Cut off the dried stalks and fronds at ground level. Cut dainty beauties, such as fescue species, in clumps with a perennial sickle or secateurs.


    Special cut on the bamboo

    Regardless of its woody stems, bamboo is an ornamental grass. That's where the similarities end. The unorthodox growth requires special pruning care that is equivalent to pruning shrubs. Flat tube bamboo (Phyllostachys) benefits from an annual pruning in spring. In this way, the way is clear for fresh, colorful stalks. Umbrella bamboo (Fargesia) should only be cut if necessary if storms or heavy snow have damaged the eyrie. Shorten affected stalks by a third or half. Cut off dead stems at ground level.

    Selective autumn pruning prevents self-sowing

    Some of the finest ornamental grasses tend to be invasive in the garden. In autumn, blue fescue, grass hair grass or pampas grass send myriads of seeds on their way for numerous offspring. This tendency causes many hours of extra work in garden maintenance, because cheeky seedlings sprout and have to be plucked at various locations.

    It doesn't have to come to that if you add a selective fall cut to your cut care routine. To prevent unwanted spread of invasive ornamental grasses, cut off all stalks with infructescence in autumn. With a one-hand pruner, the job is done quickly. As a vase decoration, the pretty fronds set decorative accents in the house without becoming a nuisance with legions of seedlings.

    frequently asked Questions

    Now in March most of the leaves and flowers on the pampas grass have dried up. How far should I cut back the ornamental grass?

    Pampas grasses (Cortaderia selloana) are not actually pruned. The ornamental grasses thrive with evergreen foliage that only partially retracts. In spring, dead stems are removed by combing or thinning out without damaging the new, green leaves. An exception applies to the rare case that the entire nest has dried up and no fresh shoots can be seen. With hedge trimmers (77.00€) cut off all stalks at ground level so that the sunlight can attract new leaves.

    I would like to plant Chinese reed 'Aksel Olsen' as a privacy screen along the property line. Does a root barrier make sense? Is year-round privacy from the neighbors guaranteed?

    Chinese reed tends to form runners. A root barrier is certainly advisable to avoid trouble with the neighbors. 'Aksel Olsen' is not suitable for year-round privacy because it is a deciduous ornamental grass. The leaves die off in winter and should be cut back to ground level in early spring. Until fresh stalks develop and gain height, you are not protected from prying eyes. Bamboo, on the other hand, offers a complete privacy screen as an evergreen ornamental grass. Fargesia in particular form clumps and no runners, so that a rhizome barrier is unnecessary.

    In my front yard I would like to plant an ornamental grass that is completely hardy because we live at 400 meters. Which grass is recommended that grows 120 to 200 cm high and is easy to care for?

    Chinese reed is perfect for your design needs. The Miscanthus sinensis 'Aksel Olsen' variety is particularly tough in severe frost. By loosely tying up the ornamental grass before winter and covering the root disk with leaves and brushwood, an altitude of 400 meters is no problem. The risk of frost damage is significantly reduced if you do not cut back the Chinese reed in autumn but only in spring (end of March/beginning of April).

    Our Japanese sedge still wears a lush green dress in spring. Is a cut necessary at all?

    Sedges are among the evergreen ornamental grasses. In contrast to deciduous species, they do not retract their stalks in one go, but partially and almost unnoticed. A cut back close to the ground is not necessary, especially after a mild winter. You should comb through your Japanese sedge in the spring so that dead stalks do not gain the upper hand over time. Run both hands through the clump of grass several times. Dead leaves get caught between the fingers and can be pulled out.

    Where to put the clippings from ornamental grasses?

    The dried stalks and dead fronds only decompose very slowly. For this reason, it is advisable to shred the clippings of ornamental grasses so that they do not impair rotting in the compost heap. Discard stems with seed heads to discourage self-seeding. Other options include using it as an organic mulch in beds or as bedding in horse stalls or animal cages. Pampas grass clippings are useful as a base in the pumpkin or strawberry bed, so that the ripening fruits do not get dirty.

    The 3 most common cutting mistakes

    If you let the proverbial undemanding nature of ornamental grasses tempt you into thoughtless pruning, you will certainly bring down your filigree jewels. So that you can enjoy decorative grasses for many years, this table draws your attention to common cutting mistakes and gives useful tips on how to avoid mishaps:

    cutting error damage picture prevention
    Cut evergreen and deciduous ornamental grass Outage for at least one season comb out evergreen species and do not cut them
    cut in the fall Frost damage to total failure Cut ornamental grasses in spring
    no cutting care premature aging process, unkempt look Thin out or cut back every spring


    In the multifaceted dance of magnificent ornamental grasses, rushes draw attention to themselves as green nonconformists. Primarily the corkscrew rush 'Spiralis' wants a moist to wet location up to 5 cm water depth. The 50 cm small grass with bizarrely twisted blades adorns the edge of the pond. Even when it comes to trimming, this exceptional phenomenon is out of the ordinary, because an autumn pruning is easily possible here.

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