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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!

360 Readers Rated This: 12345 (3.3)
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.

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?

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.

Kerry

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.

 

Kerry

 

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:  https://www.provenwinners.com/learn/feed-me-seymour.

 

Kerry

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:  http://www.mortonarb.org/trees-plants/tree-plant-descriptions/blue-lyme-grass.

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.

Kerry

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.
Michelle
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

Dan,
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
PW

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 to 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!
Sarah
PW

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!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 01/29/2018 - 12:01pm

That is a good question.  We are sometimes forced to dig plants in less than ideal times.  Do not divide it and replant it now, that would add a great deal of stress to an aready stressful situation (for the plant - and yourselves, since construction projects are never stress free!).  The ideal situation would be if you could temporarily stash the whole clump somewhere in your garden.  If you have a spot where you plant annuals that is currently just hanging out for the winter, dig a hole, drop your grass into it.  Fill in soil around it and then spread a nice thick layer of straw over the area to help your grass retain moisture. Then in the spring when you start to see that the grass is growing, pop it back out of the ground, divide it and replant it.

Now, ideal is not always possible.  Other options, woiuld be to put it in a large container, place it in a sheltered location and overwinter it in a pot.  You could also try wrapping it in burlap, again putting it in a sheltered spot and then insulate around it a bit with straw or something of that sort.  If you can keep it basically frozen so it doesn't break dormancy until spring, it'll have the best chance for survival.

Good luck.

Kerry

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:36am

Hello, we just moved into a new house and I’m not sure what kind of grass they had here, so I don’t know how to care for it. It is y'all and willowy - perhaps 5 ft tall that runs along our fence to separate the neighbors yard. There are some seeds that spread from the leaves and now as it is winter it has turned a golden brown. I did not cut it back, as I wasn’t aware that I needed to, but now we have just had a big snow and many of the stalks have broken. Will this grow back and replenish in the spring?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:38pm

I'm not sure which specific grass you have, but it should be fine.  In late winter or early spring, go out and trim the grass back leaving a few inches of old stock. The grass should sprout back up from the base.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Wed, 11/29/2017 - 11:59am

What happens to the grass if I do not cut it back. I recently had shoulder surgery and there's no way I'm going to be able to get through this before winter sets in

Cindy Meyers's picture
Cindy Meyers Wed, 11/29/2017 - 12:28pm

You do not need to worry! It will add winter interest to your yard and also be a haven for wildlife. Just cut it back in late winter/early spring.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sun, 11/12/2017 - 3:01pm

Hi. I live in 9-10 zone. Delaware. I have potted purple fountain on my deck. I know I should plan to cut back in spring but do I water them throughout the winter? If so, weekly or monthly? Ty.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 11/20/2017 - 5:53pm

While you don't want to keep them wet, you will want to regularly check the soil and water when the soil is dry.  It's basically the same as in the summer, except you'll water way less often.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Mon, 10/23/2017 - 1:04pm

I just bought two Miscanthus sinensis 'Gold Bar' at my local nursery's end-of-season-sale. Since they're warm season grasses, should I plant them now or overwinter them in their pots? I live in zone 6a in south-western Ontario, Canada.

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 11/20/2017 - 5:52pm

You can go either way with that.  If your ground has not yet frozen and the grasses are solidly hardy (rather than marginally hardy), then I would go ahead and plant it now.  Until the ground freezes it will be putting down roots, which is a good thing. Once the ground freezes, I wouild put a good layer of winter mulch, at least 3 inches thick, for both plants.  Winter mulch helps to insulate the ground from the freeze/thaw cycles that can be really hard on plants.  If you are in an area where there is a consistent blanket of snow through the winter, the mulch is likely unnecessary.  If you ground is already frozen or if you just prefer not to plant right now, depending on the zone you live in versus the zone the plant is hardy to, you can overwinter it either outdoors or in something like an unheated garage.  This article has more info on overwintering perennials/shrubs in pots.  https://www.provenwinners.com/overwintering-perennials-shrubs.  Good luck!

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 10/12/2017 - 2:58pm

hello,

can you please provide a list of warm season and cool season plants?

Cindy Meyers's picture
Cindy Meyers Fri, 10/13/2017 - 12:09pm

The following is a link to plants by region (climate) that you may find helpful.
https://www.beauty.provenwinners.com/plants-by-region-splash

You will find many helpful articles on both the Proven Winners website; https://www.provenwinners.com
and our Proven Beauty website; https://www.beauty.provenwinners.com
Just use the search area on both sites.

Cindy
Marketing
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Sat, 09/23/2017 - 6:34am

I have a large 5 ft tall zebra grass that is now starting to fall over. I live in northeast Ohio can i cut this back to a foot tall now without hurting the plant?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/14/2018 - 6:55pm

You may want to try cutting the grass back in the spring and leaving a foot or more of old stalks. They will act as supports for the new spring grass, and will you won't see the old stems as the new fills in.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 10/31/2017 - 1:14pm

I live 2hours north of NYC. I have zebra grass and many others on my new to me property. So it was established. I cut mine down last fall leaving about 8" . It returned with no trouble in the spring 2017. It seems to be quite hardy. I enjoy watching it blowing in the wind but once it dies and all the stems are blowing all over the yard it makes a mess everywhere it blows. This is why I cut it all back in the fall of 2016. Happy gardening

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Wed, 09/27/2017 - 12:11pm

You can certainly trim it back to help neaten the appearance of the plant.  However, cutting back to just a few inches can potentially harm the plant. So don't cut it back too hard.  I just trimmed on of my grasses back to about 18 inches tall for the very reason you state.  it wasn't zebra grass, but I think if you leave at least a foot of foliage you should be ok as far as winter hardiness goes.  Then in early spring/late winter, cut it back to just a couple inches back.

 

Kerry


Kerry Meyer
Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 07/11/2017 - 7:51pm

We have a new home and had the landscapers plant 3 clumps of ornamental grass next to our porch. We watered the plants well and for the first several says they looked great. Then suddenly they started to dry out and brown, nothing helped, they just kept drying out. We left the plants all summer and cut them back in late fall. This past spring, almost no growth, just a few shorter leaves. The landscaper was clueless so ge dug them out and planted new ones. And to our surprise, the same pronblem. We watered, fertilized and within a few days the plants browned and look almost completely dead. Any ideas?

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 05/17/2018 - 9:04am

I have learned from having a few dozen ornamental grasses, from cold to warm grasses, that if I water them, they rot...even if it's occasional. So I don't water them at all and they're on their third year of growing to 7 feet with gorgeous plumes. I trim them back about 8 inches from the ground after they've browned and just before winter hits. Don't fall for the myth that ornamentals need regular watering. In my experience, they hate it!

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Thu, 07/20/2017 - 9:50am

I highly suggest that you get a soil test done.  If you live in the US, Cooperative Extension for your state likely gives access to soil testing.  Try googling:  the name of your state and cooperative extension - to find contact information and info on programs offered.  I checked in with one of my coworkers and he thought that based on how quicky things are happening that it might be a salt issue. The soil test can tell you if that is an issue or not, plus point you in the right direction if salt isn't the culprit.

Kerry Meyer

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/20/2017 - 7:31pm

My ornament grass is browning in the middle while the outer part of the plant is green.. What could the problem be?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 06/26/2017 - 12:33pm

This is common for older, larger ornametnal grasses.  The best thing to do is to dig and divide the grass and replant.  This article has information on when the different kinds of grasses should be divided.

Kerry Meyer, Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:29am

We had 10+ year old ornamental grasses that had gotten HUGE. We dug all out and put a bit back. What we dug out we divided into pieces and stacked behind the house until we did a new bed which we are now in the process of doing. Thought I would try to get these to take instead of spending tons of money for new stuff. I am watering the heck out of it and adding some root stim fertilizer. Anything else to suggest? Do you think they will come back? Or having the roots out of the ground that long are they dead?

Kerry Meyer's picture
Kerry Meyer Mon, 06/26/2017 - 12:23pm

If they don't have green shoots growing, I think you are probably out of luck.  However, I have been wrong before.  If you really want to give them a try go ahead and plant the grasses and then maybe plant annuals nearby that can provide color while you wait to see if the grasses decide to come back to life.  If, they do come back - awesome.  If they don't, the anniuals are going to die in the fall anyway, so you can start planting perennials and shrubs in the fall (really the best time for planting many annuals and shrubs).  Going that route gives your grasses a fair chance to show they made it and if they haven't you'll have time to consider your plan B for fall planting.

 

Kerry Meyer, Proven Winners

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous Thu, 06/08/2017 - 4:51pm

Two summers ago we planted three 1 gallon sized grasses - I think they were a Maiden grass of some sort. We placed them in the ground, and set a 4 inch tall, 12-14 inch diameter, plastic ring around each of them, to help keep the decorative rocks from getting into the plant clump. The first summer, they grew well, but never flowered. I didn't expect them to, since they were new plants. We cut the dead grass back to about 2 inches in the late fall. The 2nd year (last year), they came back very well. They filled in the plastic rings, grew about 3 1/2 - 4 feet tall, put out many flowers/plumes in the late summer, and looked gorgeous. We again cut them back in late fall, early winter, but about 4 -5 inches tall. This year, they've barely come back at all. Each of the clumps is still mostly the dead, 4-5 inch stubble from last year. They have varying amounts of new growth, mostly toward the outside of the clump, and seem to be way behind other, similar grasses I've seen in the local area of Fort Collins, Colorado. We had a fairly dry and unusually cold winter... Did I kill them by cutting them back in the fall instead of summer? Should I have cut them shorter, as we did the first winter? Are the plastic rings a bad idea? Should I have separated/thinned the clumps prior to the start of this years growth? Would it help to cut out part of the clumps now, or wait until fall? Please help me!!

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