All winter long, your ornamental grasses have endured the wind, ice, snow and cold weather of winter. Spring is the time to reward these hardy plants with their annual hair cuts. This ritual isn’t just to make them look nice. It’s also necessary for their health.
Other colorful plants may bloom around the trimmed ornamental grasses and hide them while they begin to grow new leaves. Soon the grass leaves will overshadow the companion plants and you’ll be ready to watch the fall and winter ritual of plants dying and going dormant for the winter while the ornamental grass begins to assert itself and tower over the planting bed.
This annual ritual of cutting ornamental grasses back nearly to the ground each spring lets light get into the area where seeds are germinating to grow into new ornamental grass plants that will provide you with nice color this winter.
The brown sheaths of grass you see above the snow each winter are actually dead, or more accurately, spent. Last spring, those sheaths were nice and green as they grew to their extended height. Seedheads then formed on the tips and the mature seeds dropped to the ground. So, you are actually making way for new plants when you cut the old ones back.
Grasses should be cut back to just inches from the ground. The tool you use is up to you. I’ve used manual hedge clippers, power hedge clippers and even pruning shears. If the snow pack has caused the grasses to flop over, tie them back upright with rope or twine before cutting them.
Don’t wait too long to cut your ornamental grasses back or you may cut off some new growth. You may not be able to see new growth through the old growth, but small green leaves are starting to push up among the old sheaths. Once trimmed, you’ll be able to see the new growth in the remaining stubble.