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Everything You Wanted to Know About Caring for Ornamental Grasses (8 photos)

How to Care for Ornamental Grasses

The two main maintenance tasks that come with ornamental grasses are cutting back and dividing, or size control.

Cutting back grasses. Ornamental grasses should be cut back annually. After plants go dormant in the fall, prior to the start of growth for the new season, cut them down to between 3 and 12 inches tall. For cool-season grasses, cut back by late winter or in late summer, as plants are coming out of dormancy. For warm-season grasses, cut back by early to mid-spring. Leaving several inches of stubble helps protect the crown of the plant from winter weather and provides a visual placeholder in the garden.

For many years the standard practice was to cut back grasses as they began to die back in the fall. In recent years, however, more and more people are leaving their ornamental grasses up through winter. This adds winter interest to the garden and provides valuable habitat for birds and other overwintering wildlife, including butterfly larvae, birds and bees. In areas that are fire-prone, however, ornamental grasses should be cut back as they dry out in order to reduce fire risk, particularly near structures.

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