Top 10 Questions About Ornamental Grasses

By Bonnie Grant | December 29, 2019
Image by typo-graphics
by Bonnie Grant
December 29, 2019

Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our ability. Ornamental grass plants are popular in the garden as well as our list of inquiries. These easy-to-grow plants fit into many types of landscapes from xeriscape to riparian. The following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about ornamental grasses.

1. Is it possible to propagate offshoots from grasses?

There are various methods of propagating ornamental grass. Some ornamental grasses are divided, others come true from seed and still others make babies or offsets. These offshoots are tied to the mother plant lightly by small roots and once large enough can be cut away from the parent. Take care that each offshoot has some nice, healthy roots before planting them. Use clean, sharp instruments to make the cuts to prevent disease and damage.

2. What is the best ornamental grass for shade?

Some of the prettiest ornamental grasses perform well in shade. Try Korean feather reed grass for an impactful statement or some sweet little liriope for groundcover excellence. Others that do well in shade might include Japanese forest grass, northern sea oats, sweet flag, sedge, and mondo grass.

3. Can you grow ornamental grass in containers?

Ornamental grasses are stars of the landscape because they come in a range of sizes, colors, light requirements and soil preferences. You absolutely can grow them in containers with ease. Success depends on using the correct soil, providing the right light and moisture levels and a container size that can accommodate their growth. The little ones are the easiest but even a giant pampas can be grown in a large pot.

4. Can you overwinter fountain grasses?

Most varieties of fountain grass are hardy to USDA zones 8 to 11, although a few can survive into zone 4. In northern climates, it is best to use them in containers and bring them indoors for winter. Cut back the foliage in late winter to early spring to allow for new blades and overall best appearance.

5. When should you prune or cut back ornamental grass?

Ornamental grasses are classed as cool or warm season, or evergreen. Warm season grasses turn brown as weather gets colder and can be trimmed back at any time. Cool season grasses may spend winter looking just beautiful but benefit from trimming in early spring. Evergreen grasses need no trimming but comb through the blades with your fingers to remove dead leaves and improve plant appearance.

6. When can I divide my grasses?

Divide warm season grasses in spring to mid-summer, cool season plants in spring or early fall and evergreen types in spring. Always use good tools and sanitation practices to prevent damage and disease transfer.

7. Why has the center of my pampas grass died?

This is a common condition in grasses and perennial plants. It is an indicator that it is time to divide the grass. Usually, the center stems die and fail to produce new shoots every 4 to 5 years, and the clump needs to be dug up and cut into at least half. It could also be due to moisture retention at the center of the clump. Plant the grass a bit high on a bed of soil mixed with sand for extra drainage.

8. What should you fertilize fountain grass with?

One of the many wonderful things about ornamental grasses is that they rarely need fertilizing. Fountain grass may benefit from a 10-10-10 food in spring. Alternatively, use organic amendments like leaf mold, compost, or mushroom manure. These will break down naturally and gradually, gently feeding the roots of the grass. Container plants will need feeding more frequently than those in the ground.

9. Ornamental grass will not bloom. Why?

Not all ornamental grasses have an obvious inflorescence. However, if your species is one that gets those brilliant plumes and fails to produce, it may be the site conditions. Too much or too little sun is often the culprit. Additionally, if you cut back the grass at the wrong time of the year, you may have lopped off the developing plumes. The plant may also be too young to flower or receive too much nitrogen. Ensure optimal growing conditions and care for beautiful plumes.

10. How to keep ornamental grass from flopping over?

Excess nitrogen might be the cause of flopping grass blades. It might also be due to the plant needing division. If the plant is too large, divide it every 3 to 4 years. Make sure the plant has enough sunlight and cut it back at the appropriate time annually unless it is an evergreen variety.

We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.

This article was last updated on
Read more about Top 10 Plant Q&A
Did you find this helpful? Share it with your friends!

Browse Dozens of Our FREE Gardening Guides Today

Whether your dream garden is a houseplant sanctuary, a bountiful vegetable garden, a pollinator paradise, a bright and bold flower bed, or a backyard oasis – Gardening Know How has the perfect gardening guide just for you.

Click the button below to access more than 3 dozen of our completely free and completely comprehensive guides to growing your dream garden.

Join Us - Sign up to get all the latest gardening tips!