Ornamental Grasses

By Karen Frazier

The end of October, beginning of November is the perfect time to focus on putting your landscape beds to sleep for the winter. This should include deciding on what to do with your ornamental grasses. Should I or should I not cut them back. Is it bad for them, good for them, or does it even matter. Whether your grasses are big (Arundo donax, Giant Cane) or small (Pennisetum orientale, Oriental Fountain Grass) there are a few things you should consider to help make the decision easier.



A few simple questions are:

  • Are the grasses sturdy and upright still?
  • Do you like a clean and tidy landscape?
  • Would you like some winter interest in your garden?
  • Do you enjoy watching wildlife? Birds and rodents use the seeds and grass blades in the winter.
  • Do you have the time to clean the grasses up in early spring if you do leave them?
  • Are you willing to go out during the winter and pick up grass blowing across your yard?
Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’  Knocked down by the wind.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Gracillimus’ Knocked down by the wind.

In my opinion, it is really a personal aesthetic decision. It will not harm the plant to cut them back now, and the benefits it provides are strictly for the wildlife. To me if the grass has been knocked down due to rain, wind, or if its natural habit is weak, it would be best to cut it to the ground now. Get rid of the mess sooner rather than later.


This is a picture of one of the grasses at Kingwood. The wind had knocked it down, and it was lying on the sidewalks. Notice it was cut leaving only a few inches above the ground.

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