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Caring for Ornamental Grasses

The two most common questions we get about Ornamental grasses are "When should I cut my grass back" and "How and when should I divide my ornamental grass?" This article goes through tips and techniques on cutting back and dividing grasses.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

The two most common questions we get about Ornamental grasses are "When should I cut my grass back" and "How and when should I divide my ornamental grass?" This article goes through tips and techniques on cutting back and dividing grasses.

In recent years interest and use of ornamental grasses has exploded. Ornamental grasses can fit into almost any garden theme. Ornamental grasses lend height, movement, and long season color to the landscape. Along with the proliferation of ornamental grasses have come a host of questions on how to care for them properly. Our two most common questions are "Do I need to trim my grass back and if so when?" and "How and when should I divide my ornamental grass?" We will give you some general rules to follow when cutting back and dividing ornamental grasses.

Grasses are generally classified as cool season, warm season, or evergreen. The rules change just slightly depending on which type of grass you have. Cool-season grasses put on most of their growth in spring before temperatures begin exceeding 75 degrees Fahrenheit and in the fall when temperatures cool down. They generally maintain good color through the summer but won't grow much when it is hot. Warm-season grasses won't start growing until mid to late spring or even early summer. Their major growth and flowering happens when the weather is hot. They will usually turn shades of brown for the winter. Evergreen grasses are usually plants that look like grasses but aren't actually classified as grasses. Plants like the sedges and carex are grass-like but not grasses.

I love rules of thumb, they make life much simpler than it would otherwise be. They help make sense out of the clutter of specific information. I found ornamental grasses rather confusing until I realized that there are a few rules of thumb that pertain to most of the grasses.

First Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb: Cut back warm season grasses in fall or by mid to late spring.

Warm season grasses turn shades of brown as the weather turns colder. Once your warm season grasses turn brown you can trim them back at almost any time. If you like to tidy your garden in fall or if you live in an area where fire can be problematic trim warm season grasses so they are just a few inches tall. If you live in an area where fire generally isn't a problem you can leave the dried grasses and seed heads in your garden for winter interest. Snow or ice encrusted ornamental grasses can be quite beautiful. If you leave the trimming until spring try to make sure to cut them back to the ground (you can leave a couple of inches) by late spring, before new growth begins. Not all ornamental grasses look good through the winter, trim back those that don't look good in the fall.

Second Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb: Cut back cool season grasses in very early spring.

Cool season grasses tend to look good even as the weather cools. Leave their foliage in place until spring and then as soon as the snow is gone cut them back. Leave about 1/3 of the plant in place. Trimming cool season grasses too harshly can irreparably harm the plant.

Now you know when, in general, to cut back ornamental grasses. However, how are you supposed to accomplish this? First find a good pair of gloves, thick leather gloves are probably best. Some ornamental grasses can have very sharp edges. For smaller grasses a pair of pruning shears will probably be sufficient. Trim about 2/3 of the plant for cool season grasses. For many grasses it is easier to tie the grass in a bundle before trimming, this makes clean up a snap. For short grasses this might not be possible.

If you have a large, established clump of grass, pruning shears probably aren't going to be enough and gloves become essential. You may need to use a weed eater (use one with a blade rather than string), electric or gas powered hedge trimmers, or even a chain saw. Once again, tie the tops together for easier clean up, just toss the bundles in to your compost pile. If you have only one of these large grasses you can cut them back with pruning shears but it isn't easy. I know. I've done it!

Dividing grasses is one way to increase the number of plants without spending additional money. Occasional division will help grasses remain active and growing and can help renew older grasses. Some grasses, over time, will die out in the center and dividing will rejuvenate the clump.

Third Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb: Divide warm season grasses anytime spring through mid-summer.

All ornamental grasses should be divided when they are actively growing but not while they are flowering. If the plants are dormant when they are transplanted they won't establish a good root system. Warm season grasses generally start growing in late spring or early summer and have their active growth period during the heat of the summer. Warm season grasses will tend to bloom in mid to late summer.

Fourth Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb: Divide cool season grasses in spring or early fall.

Cool season grasses are actively growing in spring and fall. These grasses can be transplanted at either time of the year but early spring is probably the best time to divide. If you do divide them in the fall, be careful that the freeze/thaw cycles of winter don't heave the plants out of the ground, this happened to a couple of my coral bells last winter.

Fifth Ornamental Grass Rule of Thumb: Divide evergreen grasses and grass-like plants in spring only

Evergreen grasses don't ever go dormant. Dividing plants wounds them to some degree. For evergreen grasses this wounding will really affect their ability to live through the winter.

How exactly do you divide a grass? For smaller grasses it is very similar to dividing a perennial. You dig up the grass clump and then use your hands, a pair of pruning shears, a knife, or a sharp shovel or trowel to cut or pull the clump into several pieces. Make sure that each piece has some roots. Replant them before the roots dry out, you may need to cover the exposed roots to protect them on sunny days. Just a reminder that grass leaves can be very sharp, wear gloves to protect your hands. I can tell you from personal experience grass cuts can really hurt.

Larger grasses use the same basic principles but due to shear size and toughness can be harder to deal with. It can take a strong back, or three, to get some of these very large grasses out of the ground. Dig and/or pry the clump out of the ground (don't be afraid of using a crow or pry bar) and then divide it into pieces, making sure each piece has some roots. An old hand or hack saw, an axe or hatchet (it may be easier to place the axe blade in one spot and then pound it through the grass clump using a large hammer or maul, I know I can never hit the same spot twice when swinging an axe), a very sharp shovel, a reciprocating or concrete saw, or a chain saw (this won't be gentle on your grass and will tear it up a bit, a chain saw should be your last resort) can all be used to divide the plant into pieces. These big grasses are quite tough.

An alternate method would be to cut the grass to the ground then use an axe or other tool to cut it into wedges. Pry or dig the pieces out of the ground. Once these larger pieces are removed from the ground you can cut them into smaller pieces using sharp pruning shears.

If your main clump is still looking quite healthy and hasn't outgrown its space, you can replicate the plant by removing small chunks of the grass from around the outer edge. This may be easier than dividing the entire plant.

Once you have the pieces removed from the main clump, trim off any dead material, replant the pieces, and water thoroughly. Newly divided grasses will need frequent watering while they become established. Once they are well rooted you should be able to decrease or quit watering.

Now that you've pried a monster from the ground, chopped it up into little pieces and planted the pieces all over the yard. Sit down with a cool glass of lemonade and bribe your spouse or a friend into rubbing those aching muscles!

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Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 11/21/2018 - 2:42pm

I have a large clump of purple fountain grass that is just beautiful. I live in the Portland Oregon area. Should I prune it for winter? in the spring? I notice that it is now more green than purple. It's one of my favorite plants and I would hate to do the wrong thing. I'm a beginner gardener.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 11/30/2018 - 11:05am

Depending on where you are in Portland you are either in zone 8 or 9, so Purple Fountain Grass is probably marginally hardy for you.  Once the plant has turned brown you can cut it back at any time - fall through early spring.  It will best to trim it back prior to new growth beginning in the spring.  Although, you can still trim it back after you see the beginnings of new growth.  Whether or not it survives the witner will be dependent on four thigns.  Those factors are where specifically you are located in Portland (zone 8 or zone 9), what kind of winter you have, if the plant is in an area of your garden that offers some protection and lastly if where it is planted has good drainage.  Wet winter soils is quite often the deciding factor on whether or not a marginal or semi-marginal plant survives the winter or not.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 10/28/2018 - 10:59am

Our soil is river bed (river rock with hard soil). We have dry hot summers (all day sun), and snow/below freezing Winter's. What kind of ornamental grass would you recommend?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/30/2018 - 10:44am

Can you tell me what zone you are in or your zip code?  With that info I can make suggestions that will be hardy in your garden.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 10/18/2018 - 5:30pm

I just bought a house in Massachusetts and it has some beautiful ormental grasses. I just read the article on care/cutting but I don’t know if what I have are warm or cold season grasses. Is there a resource out there that would show me photos of the different types so I can figure out what I have? Thank you.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 03/11/2019 - 11:39am

There is an app called Plant Snap. Take a close up picture and most of the time it will give you the name. If you want more info just Google the name of the plant. I love ornamental grasses! Good luck!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 10/19/2018 - 2:03pm

So I did some looking around for good Ornamentl Grass ID options on line.  When that failed me, I looked to see if there was an Ornamental Grass Society.  Groups of this type are usually quite engaged and knowledgeable and often a great resorce.  The Daylily Society, for instance, has a great photo catalog of thousands of different daylilies.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to locate a society dedicated to ornamental grasses. I did find this website:  It is a company that sells ornamental grasses, but it also seems to have a pretty extensive collection of photos and might be helpful.  This is the link to the Massachusettes Cooperative Extension area ofices:

However, I think your best bet might be to locate your local Cooperative Extension office.  Call them and ask for help with IDing some grasses.  Have photos available to use when you call them.  I am guessing they can likely help.  If you need help locating your local extension office, this website should help:

One last suggestion.  Take photos of your plants and stop by your local independent garden center.  Independent Garden Centers are in the business because they love plants and more than likely they will be able to help you as well.  They will also know which grasses are most commonly grown in your area and thus most likely to be found in your new garden. Massachusetts has some great garden centers.

Good luck IDing your plants!



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 10/15/2018 - 9:14pm

I had six Miscanthus Sinesis grasses planted in a 3 foot high stone wall retaining wall planter two years ago and they grew and looked great. They died this past winter, as many did in our area according to a nursery owner, along with many shrubs, due, he said to warm temperatures turning very cold in two days during the winter. I replanted six more and am wondering if should add extra mulch for the winter for insulation, and if they are getting good drainage growing in a 3 foot high stone wall retaining wall planter. Any suggestions are welcomed.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 10/19/2018 - 1:30pm

Hmm, that is a good question. I would think that with the retaining wall (essentially turning at least part of the bed into a raised bed, that drainage should be ok. If you take a watering can and sprinkle all of the water in one spot, does it quickly soak into the soil or does some of the water pool on the top and take time to soak in?  If the water tends to stand on top of the soil for a while before soaking in, then drainage might be an issue.  Incorporating compost throughout the bed to improve the soil as a whole is the best way to tackle poor drainage (other than raised beds).  Regular compost additions are great for your soil.

However, warm temperatures that turn suddenly and sharply cold (especially if it is damp and cold) is really tough on plants - especially if those plants are at all marginally hardy for you. It sounds to me like Mother Nature just dealt you a bad hand last year.

Winter mulch can help. This article has more info on that subject:


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 10/15/2018 - 8:34am

My landscaping is just now being installed and we just had our first snow here in Utah! It’s supposed to warm back up to 50s-60s. I bought three 5-gallon prairie switch grass that I’d like to divide into 3 plants each to spread out across my yard as a sort of switch grass hedge. The plants are very dense and vigorous. Is it ok to divide them now? The advantage is that my landscape crew can divide and plant them all now... if I have to wait til spring I’ll have to divide them and plant them by myself!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 10/15/2018 - 2:16pm

Prairie Switch Grass is considered to be a warm-season grass.  This means the best time to dig and divide it is spring through summer when it is in an active growth period.  Going into winter is not a good time to divide the plant. Will they survive is you do go ahead and divide and plant them now?  Maybe.  I think the best thing you could do would be to dig a hole for each of them and "plant" them for the winter. Then in spring when you see new growth starting, remove them from their temporary home, divide them and plant them in their true home.  Be sure that the plants are actively growing before you divide and replant them. I would expect that they will do little to no root development this fall and winter, so they should be easy to remove and replant them in the spring.  The reason I say to go ahead and pltn them now is to give the plants the benefits of having the surrrounding soil to amelioriate any fluctuaitons in temperature.  A plant in a pot will need to be watered at least some through the winter and a pot sitting out will freeze much harder than one that is in the ground (where the pure mass of the surrounding soil helps to insulate it).  There is a term - heeling in - that would be the more technical term for what you are doing.  This article has a great description of heeling in and why it is helpful:

All of that said, you can go ahead and divide and plant now, your liklihood of successfully transplanting the grasses is just much loswer at this time than it woiuld than if you can wait until next spring to divide and plant your grasses.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 10/09/2018 - 5:45pm

Some of the tall grasses are so big and heavy that they are falling over, especially after a hard rain. I want to have them for the winter and cut down to the ground in the spring for next summer's growth. Can I trim them and cut the grasses down a foot or two, but not down to the ground now in the fall. I can imagine with a heavy snow they will be completely weighed down so a trim might be better if I won't harm them by doing that. Please let me know and Thank you....I love my tall grasses

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 10/15/2018 - 2:06pm

You can absolutely trim as much of the grass now as you want and then do the final trimming in the spring before new growth begins.  It shouldn't hurt your plants at all.


jonscoll's picture
jonscoll Sun, 09/30/2018 - 4:03pm


I am interested in starting Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) from seed, e.g. in a potting mixture of potting soil, sand and spaghnum, in 4 inch pots. My plan is to pot it in mid-October, leave the pots outside over the winter (I live in USDA Zone 4) and transplant the plugs — assuming the seeds germinate! — into my prairie next year. Your thoughts?

Jonathan Scoll
Edina, MN

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 2:46pm



I am not familiar with that specific grass and it's germination requirements.  To research it I wouild google something along these lines:


germination of Sorghastrum nutans or maybe growing soghastrum nutans from seed and see what resources that turns up.  Any results from University Extension (from any state) should have good solid information. Since that is a Native grass (google turned up info from The Missouri Botanic Garden) so native plants societies would be another potential source for good info on germinating/producing the grass.

Good luck.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 09/16/2018 - 11:42am


I'm not happy with the location of three of these grasses put in by a landscaper three years ago. Is it ok to transplant them in the early fall?


Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 2:52pm

I did a bit of research and it looks like Arkansas Blue Star is the Amsonia.  I did a bit of looking around and i see nothing that indicates tha t moving the plants would be problematic.  it is spring blooming pernenial, so moving it in the Fall would be best.  Depending wher eyou are located transplanting now, the beginning of October, would probably still be Ok - for southern and lower Midwest type climates.  More Northern climates I would worry that it will get too cold for root growth before the plants are well-established.  Digging out a relatively large amount of soil to preserve as much of the root system as possible when you move it would be your best insurance for helping the plant surive the winter.  If you do decide to wait until spring to transplant, wait until after it has bloomed and then be prepared to baby it a bit with water as it gets hotter.  A spring transplant would mean some extra care would be needed to help ensure that the newsly tranplanted plants get established and survive.  Or wait and move them early next Fall.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 09/15/2018 - 4:19pm

I live in PA, it is mid September. I have some grasses & a hydrangea that my husband & I planted a few years ago when we moved into our new home. They have gotten huge & are too overcrowded for the area. We are going to transplant them but have read that the hydrangea should be done in fall & the grasses in spring. Is it really bad to do the warm season grasses in fall? It would be nice to do the whole new bed at once. Thank you for any advice you can give me.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 2:56pm

The issue with transplanting warm season grasses in fall is that they aren't actively growing as Fall progresses so they aren't growing roots like they would if they were transplanted in spring.  Basically this means the liklihood that the grasses don't make it after a Fall transplant are higher than if you transplanted them in the Spring. That said, sometimes you have to do, what you have to do.  I once had to transplant a Lilac in the middle of winter. I wasn't all that hopeful, but it made it through with flying colors. So best practices are what we recommend to do if possible. That does not mean certain death if you transplant at the wrong time of the year.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 09/09/2018 - 9:40am

First year growing ornamental grasses in lg containers, aprox., a dozen of them. Have done quite well, held up to 100+ temps, wind. Zone five here in N.E. Washington. Going to pull these large potted grasses into a 18 X 36 greenhouse, plan to keep at 40 degrees, until February, when I start my seedlings, and the heat is kicked up to mid sixties. Can these grasses continue to thrive as is, placed towards the back of my GH, watered monthly, to then put back them out next late spring. OR do I need to bundle grass, cut back to 3-4 inches, keep in cold greenhouse, water infrequently, and let them start their growth cycle all over again in the late spring. Please give me a heads up. I consider myself a freckle past novice stage, and can take all the guidance I can get. Also plan to winter over a dozen elephant ears, in smaller greenhouse, keeping its temp at 55, adding small bowls of water to help with humidity. Any suggestions there. Elephant ears are new to me, as well.
Thank you, greatly for your expertise.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 3:01pm

I think for the ornametnal grasses, keeping them in a cold greenhouse with monthly-ish watering and getting thema  good vernaliztion period would be your best bet.  You can leave the tops or cut them down to 3 to 6 inches, whichever you prefer. You will need to cut them back come Spring, if you don't do it in Fall, so if I were you I'd cut them back when you pull them inside. 

Overwintering Elephant Ears, I've actually had some relelvant experience.  I for several years overintered Elephant Ears by puling the outdoor container into my house and putting them in a sunny window.  I watered a bit and basically kept them alive, but not necessarily looking good.  They survived doing that for several years. The other option is to remove the the bulbs/tiubers from the soil and store them in a cool, dry spot nestled in some shedded paper or dry spagnum moss.  Then replant in the spring.  Overwintering them in your warmer greenhouse should work well too.  There are lots of ways you can do with the Elephan Ears and be successful.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 08/19/2018 - 4:35pm

Hello, great article. I had a quick question: i have some blue dune lyme grass that i purchased this season and have not had the time to plant it yet. I wanted to know up to what point can i plant them and be safe? I heard grasses prefer not to be planted in the fall. I live in NY.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 3:10pm

Blue Dune Lime Grass is a cool season grass, so i wouild plant it as soon as possible.  You want it to grow as many roots as possible before the ground freezes.  Depending on where you are in New York (Buffalo is a whole different thing from NYC, climate-wise) it should have enough time to get established before it gets too cold.  Waiting until the ground is frozen and then applying a winter mulch to help keep any freeze/thaw cycles from causing issues would be another good thing to do since this is a later planting.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 08/15/2018 - 3:46pm

We planted a couple of Gracillimus grasses and after a winter, half of the grass seems to be growing while the other half isn't. Any ideas on how to prevent this from happening? And what should I do now?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Tue, 10/02/2018 - 3:18pm

Your Maiden Grass is a warm season grass, so you can trim it back now or in the Spring, but it is best not to disturb the root system since the plants is going into its dormant period.  After you see new growth in the spring, you can start digging and dividing.  You ahve all summer to dig and divide it, although spring would be the ideal time. partial die back in grasses isn't uncommon and there are several options.

1.  Wait for sping and then dig and divide it.

2. Wait for spring, dig out the dead part, and let the grass naturally fill back in.

3. Wait for spring, dig out the dead part.  Dig up some nice green shoots from the edges of the established plant or plants, transplant them into the area that died.  That should help balance the plant more quidkly than option 2.

Those are the three options that I see for  you.



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 07/12/2018 - 12:59pm

I meant to buy Princess. By mistake I bought Prince. I have them in pots with Supertunia Fuschia Vista & they are already approx. 3 feet tall. Stunning, till the wind came up - now the grass is twisted, broken & sad looking. Should I be cutting it back? I have in the past cut back a few broken stems and they come back blunt edged. I am in Zone 3. I planted in containers the end of June & generally bedding plants are done (frost damaged) by early Oct.
Help me bring my deck back to it's pre-wind glory!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:15am

Unfortunately the best you can do is trim back the broken stems.  There just isn't much more you can do. You could try a wholesale cut back to a few inches tall, but it would be weeks before it really did much in the way of regrowth, which is going to be longer then you want to wait.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 07/08/2018 - 2:09pm

I just bought a house and there's a huge miscanthus variegatus in one of the flower beds. It's about 6 feet tall and there's a lot of dead brown sections throughout it. Is they're anything I can do with it now or do I have to wait till next spring?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:13am

You can do some trimming and clean up the look of the plant now.  But the major overhaul should wait until next spring or early summer.  The plant should be actively growing (you want to see green shoots) when you are digging and dividing it.




Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 07/02/2018 - 5:30pm

Hello! Can I trim down my Fountain and Tiger grasses during early summer? They have gotten taller than the sprinkler system, although the sprinklers have a tall extension and blocking the water from getting to other plants. Will I damage the plant to cut it's height down by 1-2 ft?
Thank you!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:08am

It won't be great for the plant, but if you need to cut it back you can. It is unilikely that doing this once will kill the plant, but you don't want to do it every yeear. This is going to be an ongoing problem for future years, so you might to dig and move the plants next spring to spots where they won't block your sprinklers.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/30/2018 - 3:04pm

What kind of fertilizer is best for ornamental grasses

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:18am

I would look for a  controlled or slow release fertilizer (Osmocote is often used as shorthand for this type of fertilizer in much the same way we use Kleenex to refer to all facial tissues). If it is formulated for garden plants or flowring plants you should be good. This artricle has an in-depth discussion of fertilizer:



Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 06/20/2018 - 6:19pm

I have Japanese Silver Leaf and last year they looked great. This year they appear to be dead in the middle with growth around the outside. They have only been in the ground 2 years. Is it possible we trimmed them back too far? We cut them to about 5-6 inches this spring. thank you.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:21am

Dead in the center is something that does happen to many ornamental grasses as they age and can be taken as a sign that the plant needs to be dug and divided although you can also just try to transplant some good growing shoots into the middle area without digging up the whole clump. However, I would not expect this to happen after just two years. I'm not sure why it happenede so quickly, although my first thought would be to check and make sure the area in which it is planted is draining properly.  Trimming back to 5 or 6 inches shoudl be perfectly fine. 

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 06/09/2018 - 8:34pm

My blue dune Lyme glass is starting to get out of control. It is growing into the grass from the flower bed. The stalks are now up and I am wondering if I should I cut all the stalks? Will this help prevent the spread? At this point I am just pulling the Lyme grass out of the grass. Do you have other suggestions on how to control this?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:26am

I wasn't familiar with this grass, so I did some googling.  I thought this info from the Morton Arboretum was good:

This is a grass that speads from underground runners and it can be at least somewhat aggressive.  While cutting down the stalks, will help a bit wih control, you really need to stop the spread of the runners. If you intend to keep this plant in your garden and you want to contain it to the space in which is was planted, I would install a bed edge that extends at least several inches into the soil to help decrease the number of runners that are getting out into your lawn.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 05/24/2018 - 8:53am

We bought several Bouteloue gracilis at a nursery sale at the end of july. They were already in flower. Planted them in the perennial border. So far this spring (it is May 24) I see no growth. Was it a mistake to plant these when they are already in flower?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:31am

If you bought them in contaieners and then planted them in the landscape that was perfectly fine, in fact it was better than leaving them in the nursery pots you bought them in.  They are a warm season grass so it is possible, depending on where you are, that they just haven't come up yet.  If they didn't make it more than likely it was because the soil was too wet in winter.  While the plant will tolerate drought conditions pretty well (once established) it does NOT like wet or poorly drained soils and that is the most likely reason they would not have survived the winter.  So many of us don't have well-drained soils, it is certainly a common issue.


Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 05/17/2018 - 9:26am

Hi Kerry

I need help :( I think I am in my third year of two ornamental grass one doing better then the other. It has been slow
going I live in Massachusetts and the winters can be bad. I cut back in the fall..maybe not enough leaving the stock about 10 inches above the ground. I read in a few places to help healthy growth is to dig out the center and add top soil. How far down do you dig to add this top soil...I think my best year was the following year after I had planted it. I have a neighbor a few streets away that has beautiful ornamental grass and each year they get better and bigger. What am I doing wrong or what am I not doing to help a healthy growth.
from Massachusetts

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:38am

Without knowing more about what grass you have it is a bit hard to know what the issue is. There are a lot of reasons why one grass might be doing better than another, even if they are the same variety, bought from the same place and planted at the same time.  Maybe one gets more sun than the other or one has better soil then the other (gardens do vary from spot to spot when it comes to soil quality) or subterranean critters (moles and voles are the two that immediately come to my mind) and nibbling on the roots of one but not that other - to name a few possible things that might be impacting the plants.

When to trim back, again, is specific to each grass and 2 to 3 inches tall is usually a better final height than 5 to 6 (it looks neater..). 

Unless the middle of your grass is dead, there is not reason to dig it out and replant the middle, although if the center is dead then that is a good thing to try.  Some grasses to just naturally die out in the center over time.

If you are watering as needed and fertilizing with a controlled or slow release fertilizer once a year and cutting them back at the correct time then that is what  you should be doing to keep them happy.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 05/04/2018 - 8:07am

A neighbor gave me some of his grass to plant . We are still deciding where to plant it. It has been sitting in a wagon for a week. I a have watered it regularly. Will it still grow
Dan Pittsburgh

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Fri, 06/22/2018 - 9:21am

You should get the grass in the ground as soon as possible. It needs to bee in the ground so it can establish itself.
Sarah Geoghegan

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 04/29/2018 - 3:40pm

I planted 10 Shenandoah Switch Grasses' last summer and they were thriving! I cut them back about a week ago, (end of April) but unlike all the other plants in my yard, I am yet to see any signs of life from them. We live in CO. When should I expect to see them start to regrow, or are they gonners? What can I do to stimulate growth, considering they're not dead?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:44am

Just be patient.  They are a warm season grass so they likely just need time to start growing.  If they aren't showing signs of green in another month, then start to worry that they might not have made it.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 04/26/2018 - 3:07pm

I live in central PA and have several different varieties of ornamental grass,,,none of them are sending out new growth?
This is about a hundred plants and they are in their third year?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Fri, 08/03/2018 - 7:44am

It is a late spring this year.  I think it is just too early. Be patient.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 04/12/2018 - 10:28am

Will one 6" pot of Little Bluestem fill out and spread or should they be planted in clumps of 3?

Sarah Geoghegan's picture
Sarah Geoghegan Fri, 06/22/2018 - 9:11am

Hi there,
The Prairie Winds 'Blue Paradise' has a spread of 20 - 24 Inches
Hope this helps!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Fri, 01/26/2018 - 1:31pm

We are putting in a pool. It is January in Indiana and they have begun excavating and dug up some of my ornamental grasses. They did dig them up in one big clump for me. Can I save them? If so, do I try to plant them now or wait for spring? If I don't plant them, what should I do with them? Thank you!

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