Cutting back ornamental grasses in the spring helps to stimulate new growth, and it cleans up your landscape. Spring is also a good time to divide plants that have suffered die-out in the center.

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Pruning Ornamental Grasses

You should cut your grasses back early in the springtime. Now is the time – around mid-March. Most of the ornamental grasses we plant in Kansas are warm season grasses, and they won’t start to green up for another couple weeks. So, it’s safe to cut them back.

However, this blue fescue is a cool season grass. You can see it’s already started to get some green color in mid March. If we were to burn this grass right now, we would cause some damage to this grass. We can prune this grass back a little bit. Or, you can just leave this short, the way it is, and it will fill in and look nice.

You can use a variety of tools to prune your grasses. I have some pruning loppers and pruning shears here. You can also use electronic hedge trimmers, gas powered hedge trimmers, a thick pair of scissors, and other tools. You’ll also want to use a pair of gloves. Many of the ornamental grasses have serrated edges on their leaves. So, having gloves and a long-sleeved shirt can provide protection while cutting down the grasses.

With a big bundle like this, you may want to take some string or twine and wrap it tightly around the bundle to hold everything together and to make clean up easier. Then, to cut the grasses, simply take your hedge shears or pruning loppers and cut the grasses. I’m just holding off sections, and cutting them. You should cut your grasses about six to ten inches off the ground. Then you can take the stems of the grass to a compost pile to recycle and use in your yard.

Now that we’ve got the grass cut down, you can see the form of the grass. Sometimes, the center of the grass will die back, and you’ll end up with a ring of grass growing around the outside edge. When you get farther along in the season, past the last hard frost, it will be time to bring in a spade and dig up the clump. Simply cut the grass into sections and reposition the clumps.

This feature story prepared with Rodney St.John, former Kansas State University Research and Extension Turfgrass Specialist. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at


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