When To Cut Back Ornamental Grass: A Guide For 2023

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Ornamental grasses are a popular addition to any garden, adding texture, movement, and visual interest. However, knowing when to cut back these grasses can be a bit tricky. In this article, we will provide you with a guide on when and how to cut back ornamental grass in the year 2023.

1. Why Should You Cut Back Ornamental Grass?

Before we dive into the specifics of when to cut back ornamental grass, it is important to understand why this task is necessary. Cutting back ornamental grass helps to maintain its overall health and appearance. It prevents the grass from becoming too dense, encourages new growth, and removes dead or damaged foliage.

2. Spring or Fall: Which is the Ideal Time?

One of the most frequently asked questions about cutting back ornamental grass is whether to do it in spring or fall. The answer depends on the type of grass you have in your garden. Cool-season grasses, such as fescue and blue oat grass, are best cut back in early spring before new growth emerges. On the other hand, warm-season grasses like switchgrass and fountain grass should be cut back in late fall or early winter.

3. Signs That Your Grass Needs Cutting Back

It is important to pay attention to your ornamental grasses throughout the year to determine when they need to be cut back. Some signs that indicate it’s time to cut back include the grass becoming too tall and floppy, the foliage turning brown or yellow, or the center of the grass clump dying out.

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4. Tools Needed for Cutting Back

Before you start cutting back your ornamental grass, make sure you have the right tools on hand. These may include a pair of sharp hedge shears, pruning shears, gloves, and protective eyewear. It is essential to use sharp and clean tools to prevent damage to the grass and to minimize the risk of spreading diseases.

5. How to Cut Back Ornamental Grass

To cut back your ornamental grass, follow these steps:

a. Gather the grass:

Tie the grass together with a piece of twine or a bungee cord. This will make it easier to handle and prevent the grass from scattering all over the garden during the cutting process.

b. Position yourself:

Stand or kneel near the base of the grass clump. This will allow you to have better control and visibility while cutting.

c. Cut the grass:

Using your hedge shears or pruning shears, cut the grass about 6-12 inches above the ground. Make sure to cut in a straight line for a clean and uniform look.

d. Remove the debris:

After cutting back the grass, gather the debris and dispose of it in your compost bin or green waste bin. Removing the debris will prevent it from smothering new growth and keep your garden looking tidy.

6. Additional Tips for Cutting Back Ornamental Grass

Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind when cutting back ornamental grass:

a. Wear protective gear:

Protect your hands and eyes by wearing gloves and protective eyewear. Some grasses can have sharp edges that can cause injury.

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b. Consider dividing the clumps:

If your ornamental grass has become too large or overcrowded, consider dividing the clumps after cutting them back. This will help rejuvenate the grass and promote healthier growth.

c. Leave some grass for winter interest:

While cutting back ornamental grass is necessary for its overall health, you can leave a few clumps uncut to provide winter interest in your garden. The dried grass can add texture and movement during the colder months.


Knowing when to cut back ornamental grass is essential for maintaining its health and appearance. By following the guidelines provided in this article, you can ensure that your grass thrives and adds beauty to your garden throughout the year.