Ornamental Grass Maintenance

Lifestyle Landscapes often use ornamental grasses in our designs. They are dynamic, bringing movement as well as color and texture to a garden, and, even those that die back in the winter add drama all year long. Grasses generally grow fast, require little maintenance and, once established, do not need a lot of water. Often we are asked how to maintain grasses. Since this week fall has definitely arrived, it is an apt time to discuss ornamental grass maintenance.

What we term ornamental grass, those plants with long leaves, are actually several categories of plants; sedges, true grasses, and reeds or rushes.

“Sedges have Edges…” The stems of sedges are often triangular and have edges or corners. The stems are generally solid and their seed heads are not particularly showy. The Carexs are sedges, and, true to type, do not need trimming. In the spring and/or fall, simply don gloves and comb through the clumps, extracting the dead leaves.

“and Rushes are round..”: Rushes belong to the family Juncaceae, their stems are typically cylindrical like true grasses, but solid, and they lack nodes. Not too much to do to rushes except cut out the dead stalks.

“Grasses are hollow and rush all around.” True grasses are from the family Poaceae and have narrow leaves. They have long veins running parallel to the edge of the leaves. Their stems are hollow except at the nodes or joints. They may form clumps or spread by runners. These can be cut in the fall, or leave the seed heads standing till the end of winter. Again, don gloves as for the edges may be sharp. I always wait for a sunny day in February, and then look for the new green shoots, deep in the clumps, as the first harbingers of spring.