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Garden Q&A: Trim ornamental grass in March

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Ornamental grasses Credit: Jessica Walliser

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Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012, 9:17 p.m.

Q: With fall coming, I have been told to cut down ornamental grasses after they turn brown, but it seems that other people wait until spring to cut them. What would you recommend? Also, we'd like to add more of them to our landscape. Do you have any favorites?

A: Most ornamental grasses should be cut down to 8 to 10 inches in height in mid to late March. Some people choose to do it in fall instead because they don't like the grass to blow around the yard in winter. I much prefer to hold off until spring since I think the foliage adds a lot of texture and interest to the winter landscape.

You can cut the grasses down with a pair of hand pruners or long-bladed loppers. If there are too many to cut by hand, you can use an electric hedge trimmer. The trimmings make a great addition to the compost pile.

I have a long list of favorite ornamental grasses, and I have written about them many times over the years. Here are some of my favorites listed by height. Most should be available at local garden centers.

Tallest (over 4 feet)

“Karl Foerster” Feather reed grass

“Gracillimus” Maiden grass

“Heavy Metal” Blue switch grass

“Prairie Sky” Blue switch grass

“Eldorado” Feather reed grass

Middle height (2-4 feet):

“Hameln” Fountain grass

“Little White Spider” Maiden grass

“Morning Light” Maiden grass

“Northwind” Blue switch grass

“Red Head” Purple fountain grass

Short (under 2 feet):

“Evergold” Carex

“Avalanche” Variegated reed grass

“Goldstaub” Tufted hair grass

Purple moor grass

Autumn sedge

Horticulturist Jessica Walliser co-hosts “The Organic Gardeners” at 7 a.m. Sundays on KDKA Radio. She is the author of several gardening books, including “Grow Organic” and “Good Bug, Bad Bug.” Her website is

Send your gardening or landscaping questions to or The Good Earth, 503 Martindale St., 3rd Floor, D.L. Clark Building, Pittsburgh, PA 15212.

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