Can You Trim Ornamental Grasses in the Summer?

Ornamental grasses are a great way to spruce up your landscaping a bit without adding plants with high maintenance needs. With that said, they’re still live plants and they require some maintenance in order to keep their ornamental value. Trimming is key in keeping up with your ornamental grasses, but is it okay to do so in the summer?

Summer isn’t a good time to trim your ornamental grasses. In fact, it’s best to do so at the end of the summer after your warm-season ornamental grass has completely browned. You can certainly trim in the summer, but it’ll only speed up the browning process and cause your landscape to look unsightly.

In this article, we’ll discuss the best time of year to trim ornamental grass, what happens when you leave them alone, how long ornamental grass should be, and how to properly trim them when it’s time. We’ll also explain whether or not ornamental grasses can be cut too short.

When is the Best Time of Year to Trim Ornamental Grass?

The best time of year to trim your ornamental grass is in the fall or mid/late spring. It’s also important to wait on trimming until your warm-season ornamentals are completely browned. Cutting them too early can cause the grasses to look unsightly and your landscape may become an eyesore.

Your cool-season ornamental grasses should get a good trim no later than early spring. These ornamental grasses thrive in the cold and maintain their appearance even during the coldest months. It’s best to wait to trim these until right after the final snow melts.

When it comes to dividing your ornamental grasses, follow this general schedule:

  • Warm-Season Grasses: Spring-Midsummer
  • Cool-Season Grasses: Spring or Early Fall
  • Evergreen Grasses and Grassy Plants: No preference. These can be divided throughout the year.

What Happens if You Don’t Cut Back Ornamental Grasses?

dying ornamental grass

When you leave your ornamental grasses to their own devices, they’ll start to grow green through the brown. While this may not seem like a big deal, this surprising growth leads to the brown sprouting seeds and growing seeds is an indicator of your grass dying.

Failing to trim your ornamental grass can also cause your landscaping to look unsightly as all of the blades become entangled with one another. If you like having an eye-catching landscape, maintaining your grass will ensure it’s eye-catching in a positive sense.

With that said, if you’re looking to harvest seeds from your ornamental grass to grow more in another area, you can certainly let it grow out a bit. After harvesting the seeds, trim the ornamental grass back a bit and you may still see growth.

How Long Should Ornamental Grasses Be?

The overall ideal height of your ornamental grass depends on the species. While some grasses, like mounding grass, will only grow to around a foot tall, others can grow to be seven feet or taller.

With that said, most ornamental grasses range from 1-6 feet tall in full growth. When figuring out how long your ornamental grass should be, make sure you’re knowledgeable about each species you have planted in your landscaping.

When trimming your ornamental grasses, you should do so at around 6-10 inches from the base or ground. This will ensure you leave enough of the plant to encourage growth while also keeping it neat and tidy.

How Do You Trim Ornamental Grasses?

To properly trim your ornamental grasses, follow these steps:

1. Tie the Grass Into Bundles

This will keep the mess down and make an even cut easier to achieve.

2. Cut Each Grass Bundle

Cut your bundles 6-10 inches from the ground with pruning shears. For thicker grasses, a power hedge trimmer may be more practical.

3. Clean Up the Space

Properly dispose of all cuttings and do a final run-through to take care of any straggler blades.

Can You Trim Ornamental Grass Too Short?

Although it’s important to cut back your ornamental grasses, it’s also possible to do it too short. Cutting the grass too short can stunt growth, make your landscaping look unsightly, and also kill off the plant in some cases.

For all perennial ornamental grasses, it’s important to measure 6-10 inches from the base of the grass plant (or where the mulch stops). Any height after that mark is okay to trim.

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