Maintaining Ornamental Grasses

Provided the ornamental grasses are chosen as well as planted appropriately, they actually require very less attention and preservation. Nevertheless, there are a number of grass species that have optimal growth when you provide some additional care during different periods of the year.

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When the new plants have established their roots properly, you need to regulate watering them keeping their individual requirement in mind. When the climate is hot and arid, it is likely that the newly grown ornamental grasses will need watering many times daily with a view to keep them as well as the soil adequately damp. In addition, you also need to reduce the foliage to about 1/4 to 1/3 of the original with a view to lessen loss of water. Initiating these measures will help to allow the growth of new and dynamic foliage. In case the grasses planted newly are seared or endure desiccated foliage, just cut them down to enable renewed growth.

It is important to note that you are able to regulate the growth of ornamental grasses either by watering them or by denying water supply, particularly in the arid climatic conditions prevailing in the south and the west. It is important to water the newly planted grasses on a regular basis to enable them to grow verdantly as well as profusely. When you restrict the supply of water, the grasses will become firm and their growth will be inhibited. In fact, you can exactly use water in the form of a growth controller for the plants in arid climatic conditions. For instance, when grown on any parched slope, the shrubbery of the dwarf pampas grass (botanical name Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila') may grow to a height of about three to four feet and four feet in width producing flowers about two to three feet higher than the leaves. On the other hand, when the same species is grown on a dampened golf course having fertile soil, the foliage of the plant may attain the height of about six feet and it may have a width of seven feet producing flowers three to four feet higher than the foliage - and can hardly be called a dwarf plant.

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Keep away from any excessive watering schedule. In effect, grasses that are accustomed to grow with plenty of watering will burn without doubt provided water is denied to them. In case this happens, cut back the plant to its crown and continue watering the plants with a view to assist fresh foliage growth. If you are growing cool season ornamental grasses you may cut them back to 1/3 of their original size, while majority of the warm season ornamental grasses will require a hard cut. Warm season grasses that have endured the stress of drought are likely to require cutting quite a few inches close to the ground with a view to ensure that all the new foliage comes back. You will be really surprised to notice the rapid manner in which the new foliage growth emerges. In effect, several varieties of ornamental grasses have the aptitude to grow as rapidly as half-an-inch in a day.

As far as the watering of ornamental grasses is concerned, the landowner may face a motivating task. Watering will be considered effective provided the water directly reaches the roots. Hence, compared to drip irrigation, overhead spray irrigation is not as effectual. In addition, in a number of instances, watering the plants from above may also result in the fast falling-off of the flowers. Moreover, some ornamental grasses rapidly grow in tallness and they may actually not benefit from overhead irrigation. This may make you wonder regarding the manner in which grasses growing to heights of six feet are to be sprayed. It may be noted that the most excellent method to irrigate these plants is to water them at their base. In the case of such plants, you will find using bubblers or drip hoses an efficient method of irrigation. However, here is a word of caution: in case you have set up sprinkler heads, bear in mind the location of their placing. Otherwise, you are likely to cut them unintentionally while you are cutting the foliage.

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Cutting back the foliage

Barring some instances, downsizing the foliage no less than once every year is considered to be the most vital rule to sustain the vigorous as well as striking growth of ornamental grasses. However, the new cool season ornamental grass planting might not require cutting back till the growing season comes to an end. When you are growing grasses in mild climatic conditions, a number of cool season grass species also may not need annual downsizing provided the foliage do not appear attractive any more or has turned out to be dense owing to the presence of the old leaves from the previous season. In fact, there are a number of gardeners who never clip their grasses by any means. Hence, the mishmash of older growth as well as the new growth makes the grasses appear chaotic. However, not cutting back the grasses does not have any affect on the healthiness of the plants.

In effect, clipping or downsizing the foliage is an alternative for the normal developments of sporadic grazing and burning of the grasses that occurs in the ecosystem of the natural grassland. For instance, the burning that takes place during spring actually helps to get rid of the previous season's growth and allows the soil to come in contact with the warm sun rays - an enhancement for the grasses that are emerging newly. Although numerous varieties of ornamental grasses have a preference for being burnt, it is often risky and also not feasible for the home gardener to burn the plants in his/ her garden. Nevertheless, in several prairie plantings, yearly burning of grasses is an accepted means of range management.

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It is advisable that you cut down ornamental grasses immediately prior to or when the growth for the new season starts emerging. In fact, it would do a great deal of good if you cut down the ornamental grasses during the later part of winter - later in February or during early March, conditional on the prevailing climate. When you clip your plants during this period, it enables you to take delight in the magnificence of the foliage during the winter months.

With the intensification of winter, the warm season ornamental grasses assume their winter appearance. Several types of ornamental grasses possess a light sheath or flushed winter foliage that comes into view as temperate and brilliant under gloomy skies. These grasses maintain this hue very much throughout the season, and appear exquisite when compared with a white cover of snow below the dark skies. Therefore, if you cut out the foliage of ornamental grasses during the fall, you will be missing all these magnificent effects of winter.

Latent grasses that are allowed to remain standing make the garden look lively during winter in company with movement and sound. The elegant looking leaves as well as the seed heads bow and crackle in the wind, enhancing one's attention even when the sight and sound are appreciated through a window. Even various species of birds and wildlife visit the gardens during winter with a view to look for shelter and also seeds for their feed. As a matter-of-fact, the inactive foliage on top of the plants assists in shielding the plants from rain and cold. Precisely speaking, the dormant grasses or the old foliage turns the rainwater away from the clump and, thereby, avoids the plant from perishing.

In places having mild climatic conditions, cutting down the foliage of the ornamental grasses during the fall can result in early regeneration of the plants. In this case, the growth for the new season starts appearing early in winter and, at times, even earlier, during the later part of fall. In such cases, early cutting down of the foliage denotes having a further nice-looking plant quite early in the season. In the parched south-western climatic conditions, latent foliage may create a risk of catching fire and, hence, according to the local law, it may be mandatory to get rid of the old foliage.

It is best to cut down majority of the ornamental grass varieties to about a few inches close to the ground. However, a number of ornamental grasses, especially the cool season grasses, loathe being cut down very close to the ground. Several feather grasses, for instance, Stipa spp., dislike such shearing. It has often been found that plants that have been given a very close cut fail to regenerate. Therefore, in order to be on the safer side, never cut down the cool season ornamental grasses in excess of just 2/3 of their entire size, unless you have been successful with close cuts on earlier occasions. Moreover, you need to keep in mind that removing old foliage prior to the emergence of the new growth is much easier in comparison to working around the growth of the new shoots. Always be careful not to harm the new growth; however, do not be dejected in case you have accidently done so. Even if you have inadvertently cut down any emerging shoot, be sure that it will be replaced with a new growth soon.

If you have a small garden, it will be best to use a pair of sharp hand pruners to undertake majority of the clippings of the ornamental grasses. In fact, ornamental grasses having supple foliage may also be cut back using a string trimmer; however, this often makes the leaves of the plants look ragged. The best as well as easy way to cut back high and strong perennially growing grasses is to use a weed trimmer having a saw-blade attachment. Remember to always use sharp blades, for the foliage of a number of grasses has broad canes covered with plenty of silica (naturally occurring silicon dioxide) and they may blunt the blades quite soon. Again, there are a number of ornamental grasses, especially those that bloom during the spring, which have withered flowers by the time it is the middle of the summer and these may have a tattered appearance making the plant look unappealing. Therefore, it is important to cut down these grasses from the garden when their flowering season ends. It is advisable that you cut the stems of these grasses just below the crown of their foliage to ensure that the older stalks are no longer noticeable.

In case of some ornamental grasses, particularly the wild ryes (botanical name Elymus spp.), you are able to clip them many times in one season with a view to compel new growth every time. Trimming this particular grass species during the middle of the summer encourages the plant to have new shiny blue hued foliage during the later part of the season.

A number of warm season ornamental grasses, such as the kangaroo grass (botanical name Themeda spp.), grown in places having mild climatic conditions are trimmed in September to encourage new growth during the fall. Even though the blossoms are forced to go, shearing the plants at this time of the year is worth it, for the new foliage in the fall is especially attractive. It is worth mentioning here that currently gardeners as well as botanists are conducting further researches with this technique to facilitate in honing as well as developing superior fall hues on warm season ornamental grasses grown in mild climates. While too many flowers are not produced by the new growth, generally some flowers still blossom. The benefit of this technique is to have more superior fall hue during the later part of the season.


Generally, when there is inadequate sunlight, excessive supply of fertilizers or too much of nitrogen, the foliage of the ornamental grasses tend to be droopy. In case you have a big, flaccid ornamental grass in your garden, you should use tough metal pipes within or close to the clump to provide them with support. It is best if you sink the metal pipes to the level of the ground. While the grass maintains its growth, slot tubes with smaller diameter in the pipes and cover the supports tactfully using the plant's foliage. When it is time to cut down the grasses, first take the pipes away. Smaller grasses may be supported using wire loops, any type of holder or slender brushes like you would do to provide support to vegetables or other perennially growing plants.

Dividing and transplanting

Grasses are generally propagated by the division method. In effect, they are divided as well as transplanted with a view to multiply their numbers, to regenerate the plants already existing in the garden as well as to reposition the present grasses. Several varieties of ornamental grasses need dispersal or division in order to maintain their attractive look. Fully grown clumps are likely to become droopy or grow extremely outsized for the space occupied by them. In addition, such old plants may also become expired in the center, requiring renewal.

Furthermore, it may be noted that growing shrubs and trees may be responsible for giving excessive shadow to the older ornamental grasses and this may necessitate taking them out of their current place and substitute them with plants that can endure more shade. Big ornamental grasses that have been planted unsuitably are also likely to require transplantation to a more appropriate location. Division as well as transplantation of grasses is undertaken at separate times, conditional on the variety of the plant as well as the condition of the plant.

Ideally, warm season ornamental grasses should be divided during the end of the winter or at the onset of spring, while cool season ornamental grasses ought to be divided in winter, fall or during the onset of spring. In fact, keeping an eye on the indications of the most robust growth of the plants is an excellent means to decide on the time of the year when they need to be divided. In addition to the time of their active growth, ornamental grasses also have the aptitude to endure division during other seasons. Nevertheless, generally the perfect occasion to divide them is when the new growth starts. Grasses that are native to the tropical as well as sub-tropical climatic conditions may also be divided when their growth is robust.

Excavating as well as dividing big clusters of ornamental grasses is not an easy task. They need a well-built back, a saw, a sharp axe and plenty of work to be done. While several varieties of grasses have the aptitude to endure being totally bare root, it is advisable to always retain some amount of soil on the roots of the grasses that are being dug out. In the initial stage, segregate the clumps into divisions that are of reasonably good size. Remember, provided you so desire plenty of divisions, majority of the grasses may be further segregated into smaller shoots. However, in this instance it will take these plants longer periods to attain full size compared to the larger grass divisions.

When you are undertaking the task of dividing the plants, it is advisable that you reduce the foliage to 1/3 of its original size with a view to lessen them giving up moisture by means of transpiration. Also, ensure that the newly divided grasses are kept damp all the times. In addition, they also ought to be placed in shade till they are growing in the garden.

Ornamental grasses
The families of grasses
How grasses grow
The life of grasses
Growing ornamental grasses
Growing grasses in containers
Propagating ornamental grasses
Grasses' pests and diseases


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