Ornamental Grasses: Hard-working and Low Maintenance


The beauty of ornamental grasses extends to all seasons. A great feature of this hard-working plant is its beauty and year-round low maintenance. Landscape designers like the fact that after grasses are established they are drought resistant, seldom bothered by pests and rarely need fertilizer. In fact, over-fertilizing will lead grasses to grow too fast and flop-over.

Ornamental grasses offer homeowners many benefits:

  • Screen unsightly items in the landscape.
  • Add privacy to your to patio by adding tall ornamental grasses.
  • Soften the appearance of a structure, fence or corner.
  • Creates a backdrop for plants to pop.
  • Creates an atmosphere with plants that have beauty, movement and purpose after the growing season has ended.

Low maintenance, however, does not mean “no maintenance.” In our changing climate conditions, it is necessary to keep an eye on grasses’ watering needs, especially while the plant is getting established. Mulch will also help maintain moisture levels and feed the plant as it breaks down.

Once ornamental grasses are established, little attention is needed. It is important to cut the grasses back once a year and divide them every four or five years.The majority of gardeners leave grasses up for winter interest and to provide habitat and food for the birds.

The time to cut grasses back is late winter or early in the spring before new shoots appear. You will know when it’s time to divide the grasses when a ring of living grass surrounds a dead center. Dividing grasses when they are short from a post-winter cut is easier and the best time to divide grasses that flower in late summer and fall. Use a sharp spade or a root saw tool to separate the live plant and create smaller sections that are slightly larger than a softball to replant. Plant and water well.