Trimming Ornamental Grasses in Spring

Trimming Ornamental Grasses = A Bungee Cord = Happiness!

Cutting and Trimming Your Ornamental Grasses

Yes, I know. It always is a chore to do this in the spring.  I am one of those gardeners who leaves the ornamental grasses up all winter because they are so pretty in the winter landscape. The snow settled on the grass stems can be so pretty. And it is food for the birds, not to mention shelter . So we’ve usually cut ours in the spring.

This year I am taking care of this now so that I will not be picking up the strands of grass all spring blown around my garden.

trimming ornamental grasses

And that brings me to my “helper” , my husband, who just loves to have me find another garden project where I want to make photos. And write a post. I love making videos and photos for my YouTube channel, Kim’s Gardens. 

He is beside himself with joy when I tell him he is to be my Eye Candy for my Pins on trimming ornamental grasses. He just exudes enthusiasm, don’t you think?

My post was featured on Good Housekeeping here at this link:

Starring Jerry as Gardener Jerry (1)

My Method for Trimming Ornamental Grasses

First of all, I leave the trimming for late winter or springtime, but try and get it done well before the new grass starts to sprout. I don’t believe it hurts anything if a few little sprouts have started. My grass is a Miscanthus sinensis “Morning Light.”  Both of my grasses are planted on the eastern edge of the lawn and garden so that I can take advantage of the way the morning sun glows on the grass.

Miscanthus sinensis is a very thick growing grass and does grow to about 6 feet for a younger grass, and then can get to 8-10 feet when it is older. Those winter seed blooms are beautiful. The plumes last all winter but do get somewhat messy in the spring. Why would anyone not want to keep that beauty as long as possible?

And there is something so restful and soothing watching the grasses bend with the wind. It just undulates and ripples so soothingly, if that is a word. Love my grasses.

image of dried Ornamental Grass in Springtime

This photo above is my older specimen of Miscanthus. The blades of grass curl and can be used in arrangements. It creates a thicket which does eventually die out in the middle. But you can prolong the life for years and years by cleaning it out well and adding from compost in the middle. I think it helps a bit. 

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When we have had to move or get rid of an old grass, it takes a machine. We once rented a Dingo to move one. Those bases are usually 3-5 feet wide bases eventually. My specimen in front is only two years old now but it getting a healthy girth.

image of Bungee cord in the Top of dried ornamental grass ready to cut down

Our method to trim makes the least mess and is the simplest, I think. We use one of our  Efficere 24 piece Premium Bungee Cords  long enough to fit around the grass bundle.  For this front one, a short 18″ one will do and may overlap. Then we bring out our  Black & Decker Cordless Hedge Trimmer and it takes 15 seconds to cut through the base at about 3-5 inches above ground level.  The bungee holds a bundle tightly and you can pick it up in your arms and take it to the compost pile.Perfect!

image of dried ornamental grass tied like a ponytail of grass

I use an cordless hedgetrimmer and some may think that a corded is better. I have had cordless and battery powered, but I prefer the cordless one. It is always ready when I need it. If you have an Retractable electric cord on a reel for  winding it out and winding it back in, it’s just a few minutes time.

Otherwise, if you get your husband motivated and he reaches for the battery-powered one, well, shucks!  “The charge is down. We’ll do it tomorrow…or next weekend.”  Can you identify? When I am ready, I must get it done!

So mine are finished and tools put away, clippings composted, and some of the grasses spread on some damp areas in the woods.  I took all these photos this weekend as we did it. I took some video but, alas, my editing talents are lacking and time is running short. Maybe another time!




  1. Paul M Miller says:

    I have a question that maybe you can help me with. When we bought our home going on 9 years ago, it already had a large group of ornamental grass in the back yard, our dog at that time used to like to hide behind it, and it used to come up straight and then bend slightly at the top. Now when it comes up it bends about 1/3 – 1/2 the way up. Last year I planted some other smaller plants about 1 foot or so in front of the grass, but with it bending like it does it smothered out the new plants. How can I fix this and get it back to bending like it originally did? I know these grasses do bend near the top, but I have never seen anyone else’s bend this much. Thank you.

    1. The only thing I can think of would be less sunlight now? Maybe you have some maturing trees that give the grass more shade now than before. These grasses do best in lots of sunshine. Are they getting less sunshine than before?

  2. I’ve also seen suggestions to use an electric knife. I don’t have any grasses yet but when I do I think I’ll try both. I don’t have either in cordless form.

  3. I’ve just moved to a new house and the grasses were not cut. It’s now May 7th, is it ok to cut still? I live on the coast in Connecticut. Thanks!

    1. Have they already started growing much? If the new green is not too high, like more than 15 inches, I don’t think it would hurt them at all. If it worries you, just cut the brown down to the level of the green new growth. Hope that helps.

  4. What a great idea! Thanks! And then do you just leave that 3 to 5 inch base? Love reading your posts.

    1. Thanks, and yes, just leave that base. If you have a huge clump, it can even be 10-12 inches, not a problem. New grass will grow up through. Thanks so much for the visit!

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