By Carolyn Plank, Master Gardener
Interest in Ornamental Grasses has exploded. They can fit into any garden theme. They provide height, movement, and long season color to your landscape. Most questions about ornamental grasses consist of when to plant them, trimming, and how and when to divide them.
Grasses are classified as cool season, warm season, or evergreen. Below is the difference between all the various types of grasses.
Most growth occurs in spring before temperatures exceed 75 degrees, and in the fall when temperatures cool down. You can cut back cool season grasses in the very early spring as soon as the snow is gone.
Most growth starts mid to late spring and flowers when it is hot. The grasses usually turn shades of brown from winter. The warm season grasses can be cut back in fall or mid to late spring.
These ornamental grasses look like grasses but are not classified as grasses. Examples are sedge and carex. Evergreen grasses don’t ever go dormant. Do not divide these grasses as it will wound them and their ability to live through winter.
DIVIDING ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
You don’t necessarily have to divide grasses unless you want more plants, the plant has an obvious dead center, or they just haven’t done very well or have been declining in growth.
CUTTING BACK ORNAMENTAL GRASSES
Resist the urge to cut back younger grasses as it may result in winter injury. Trim plants to 1-2 feet if you want to maintain a tidy appearance but still hold leaves and snow for winter protection.
There are so many ornamental grasses to choose from. You can click on the following link to find out some of the various types available. https://www.naturehills.com/grasses/ornamental-grasses.
Here are some suggestions for shade tolerant grasses from the University of Minnesota Extension. For native grasses with great fall color, try these varieties: Little Bluestem, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, River Oats, and Prairie Dropseed. Professor Mary Meyer, grass expert at the University of Minnesota recently named some of her favorite ornamental grasses: Hakone Grass, ‘Goldtau’ Tufted Hairgrass, Bowles Golden Sedge, Palm Sedge, ‘Blackhawks’ Big Bluestem.
Remember, not all ornamental grasses are perennials, some are only available as annuals. They all make a great addition to your garden and add a ton of picturesque scenes in the winter and all year long.
- Ornamental Grasses Care – A Guide to Cutting & Dividing – Proven Winners – Kerry Meyer
- UM Extension – Ornamental Grasses