Ornamental Grass Maintenance
Ornamental grasses make wonderful choices in the landscape. Speaking in generalities, grasses are an easy group of plants to grow and maintain. They thrive in a variety of conditions and offer more interest with fewer maintenance complications than most other perennials. Of course, as with all plants, some good guidelines for general care will make the job that much easier and rewarding. Selecting a proper grass for the growing site will reduce the amount of gardening maintenance needed. The following is a list of some general maintenance tasks and growing conditions that many grasses, need:
Winter Protection and Spring Clean up
Ornamental Grasses do not need to be cut down before winter. In fact, they are attractive when left standing and the foliage helps to insulate the crown of the plant. Cut back the foliage to about 4-6 inches in the spring before growth resumes. When foliage is removed, spring growth will begin earlier. Old foliage left on the plant can delay the crown's warming and subsequent growth by as much as 3 weeks.
Tip for Cutting Back Ornamental Grasses
Lassoing a large ornamental grass makes it easier to handle. In the spring when the grasses start showing signs of growth, get a rope, a friend, and some shears. By tying up the grass in a bundle one person can hold the plant out of the way while the other one cuts. No loose mess either; it comes out of the garden in one neat package.
Ornamental grasses require relatively low levels of fertility. Leaf color and vigor are good guides to nitrogen requirements. Application of fertilizer at the time of planting can help to establish the plant. Apply additional fertilizer just as growth resumes in the spring. An application of a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote (10-10-10) in the spring is enough to take care of the plant's needs throughout the summer. Fertilizer should be watered in thoroughly.
Plants should be well watered the first season after planting so they can develop a good root system. Established plants do not need regular watering, but may need supplemental watering during drought periods. The amount of water will depend on the grass species, the site, and on the quality, size and growth rate desired.
Cultivate around ornamental grass plants to control weeds. Application of mulch will greatly reduce the need for cultivation as well as watering. It also tends to keep grasses in check that have a tendency to be heavy reseeding types.
Dividing Older Clumps
Division depends on the spacing and visual appearance of the plants as well as the overall health. Plants suffering from die-out in the center should be divided to improve appearances. Division is done in the spring before growth resumes or in the late summer or fall after the growing season. Plants that bloom late could be divided in the spring.