Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day Ornamental grass Pruning

Don’t Cut Back Ornamental Grasses in Fall

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Grasses can create absolutely phenomenal vistas in winter… if you leave them standing! Photo: Max Pixel

Many gardeners like to “clean up” their gardens in the fall (read Are You an Excessive Gardener or a Laid-back One?), but pretty much everyone agrees that ornamental grasses should be an exception to that rule. While most turn different shades of beige and brown as the season advances, they still remain attractive. Their feathery flower heads generally turn an attractive silver color and remain on the plant over the winter. Against a background of snow, they are very attractive indeed.

Even grasses grown as annuals, like purple fountain grass (Pennisetum x advena ‘Rubrum’), which is subtropical (hardy only to zones 9 and above), looks perfectly charming when leaves and feathery flowers have turned beige and can certainly be left standing all winter.

Plus the seeds of ornmental grasses are a major food supply for birds… and you wouldn’t want to be accused of starving our fine feathered friends, would you?

When spring comes around, just cut grasses back to the ground and the perennial ones will soon start to sprout anew.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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