Cutting Back or Burning
Your Grasses

Cutting back your grasses will add years of beauty to your gardens.

Most natives contribute beauty and with little maintenance on your part other than being cut back once a year.

As a rule, late winter or early spring is the best time to cut them back.

Cool weather ornamentals should be trimmed back earlier then warm weather ornamentals as they start the new years growth much earlier.

Old garden traditions point to fall clean up and cutting everything back before the on set of winter.

Gardening for Wildlife and natural gardens are changing this perception.

Especially when it come to native ornamentals.

Whether your garden is in the Deep South or the Far North, natives add value in the winter months.

Grasses offer food, winter protection for birds and small mammals.

From an aesthetic view, native ornamentals add depth and beauty to the landscape in the winter. Especially if you live in a snow covered location. Native grasses do much to keep the garden alive.

Grasses blow in the winter wind and if you watch, you will notice wildlife activity around your clumps.

From a purely practical standpoint, the stems and foliage from the past season often provide the crown of the plant with some protection from the cold and ice.

Cutting back smaller clumps may be as easy as a pair of hand help pruners and a few minutes of your time.

Be sure to wear gloves as many ornamentals, even when dead can cut like a razor blade.

Be sure to cut as low to the ground as you can get. Within an inch if possible. by pruning back low, it allows for healthy new growth and allows for the sun to reach it.

When you leave stumps several inches up, sun is blocked and in time your plants will thin out. Not to mention these dead stumps will last for years.

For larger clumps, Manual hedge shears and even electric pruners come into play.

When using this type of equipment, always wear protective eye wear.

A bow saw will work as an efficient alternative to electric trimmers.

Some people will use bungee cords to tie up last year's growth and take a chain saw to it. Be careful and cut low.

Depending where you live, there are some evergreens and sedges that grow attractively for several years with only minor grooming

Though native grow perfectly well without anyone to cut them back, they have often had the benefit of naturally occurring fires as a renewing agent. If lightening fires aren't getting the trick done, often man made controlled fires are used to help restore prairies and meadows.

Small controlled fires can be done in country gardens with the proper permits. Use caution when attempting controlled burns.

Keep a water hose nearby and make sure you do this early in the season so you aren't burning small animal and bird nests.

Look for beneficial egg casing like mantids.

Do not attempt to burn if they are near shrubs and trees. Cutting is your only option here.

Return to Grasses Main Page


Transplanting and Dividing

Water Needs

Soil Requirements

Sun or Shade

Fertilizer Needs?

Sign up for your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter.

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Gardening For Wildlife.
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.