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Cutting back ornamental grass

The one thing that is fairly common in all our landscapes, both traditional and contemporary, is our reliance on ornamental grasses. Most are deer resistant and the range of color, texture and size makes it easy to find a place for them. The one issue that throws both homeowners and professionals alike is:

“When is the best time to cut my grasses back?”

“How far should I cut my grasses back?”

Ornamental grass can be divided into two different categories. Cool season grasses, such as Calamagrotis, Deschampsia and Festuca start to grow earlier in the season and usually flower in early to mid- summer. These grasses should be cut back just as winter is ending. A good standard is to cut the grass down by two-thirds or so. There will be some brown in the remaining third but when the grass starts to grow that will disappear.

Warm season grasses start to push out new growth usually in late spring. These grasses flower in late summer or fall and include Miscacnthus, Panicum, Pennisetum and Schizachyrium. These grasses should be trimmed back in early spring and can tolerate being cut back all the way to the ground.

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