Caring for Your Grasses

Big on drama and low on maintenance, ornamental grasses are a gardening win-win. Tactile and totally glamourous, they add a soft, dream-like haze to beds, borders and pot displays. They’re fiercely independent and don’t need a lot of love: here are a few quick care tips to keep them looking their best in every season.

Autumn

Everything you need to know for the months of September, October, November

Plant up colder climate grasses

As autumn rolls in, get ready to plant out grasses that come from colder parts of the world, such as Festuca and Stipa.

They’ll need a good soak once they’re in the ground, or after repotting.

After that, autumn rain should be all they need to find their feet.

No need for pruning

With grasses, there’s no need for cutting back in autumn.

The seed heads are natural feeders for birds and other wildlife, and the foliage continues looking divine all year round.

Give them a drink occasionally

Most ornamental grasses are pretty hardy so you won’t need to cover them up or protect them over the colder months.

Stick a finger into the soil around your container plants every so often and give them a drink if they feel too dry.

Winter

Everything you need to know for the months of December, January and February

Take in the glory

It may be controversial, but we think grasses might look their best in winter.

Don’t forget to have a walk around the garden on frosty mornings and admire the way it makes your plants shimmer and gleam.

Pre-Spring tidy

If you have deciduous grasses like Festuca, Miscanthus, Panicum or Pennisetum, February is prime time to cut back the foliage and have a pre-spring tidy.

Trim the tops of tatty-looking plants by pulling up clumps between your fingers (as you would with hair) and trimming roughly the same amount off each time.

Lift and divide

Fill your garden with more grasses for free, by dividing large, well-established clumps from winter through to late spring.

You can lift and divide grasses from cool climates (like Festuca) now, and dot them around your garden or share them with a friend.

Spring

Everything you need to know for the months of March, April and May

Trim and tidy

March is the ideal time to trim the tips of evergreen grasses and tidy up brown leaves.

Run your fingers through the length of the grass to pull out any dead material.

Just remember to pull on some gloves beforehand, to avoid a nasty papercut.

Weed and mulch

Clear any perennial weeds (the ones that come back time and time again, and you keep shaking a fist at) and consider applying a mulch, such as peat-free compost or bark chippings.

Spread this in a circle around the plant, a little way out from the base.

Feeding

Grasses don’t need much feeding. Once a year is enough.

And, if you’ve already mulched them, you don’t really need to bother.

Tall, vigorous varieties will enjoy a nitrogen-based fertiliser such as liquid seaweed, which promotes lush green growth.

Grasses in pots tend to need more feed than those in the ground.

Plant up warm climate grasses

As spring warms up, plant out grasses that come from warm climates, like Panicum, Miscanthus and Pennisetum.

This lot are sun-seekers, so find them prime spots in relatively well-draining, moderately fertile soil.

Tap your grass out of its pot and nestle it into a hole where the bottom of the plant can sit flush with the ground.

Backfill the hole with soil and give your grass a generous soak to help it establish strong roots.

Top tip: Grasses are total pros at surviving in dry environments, but it’s a good idea to water new plants a few times over the first few months, just until they’re well established

Summer

Everything you need to know for the months of June, July and August

Watering

Weeding aside, most grasses can be left to their own devices over the summer months.

Just keep container plants well-watered.

Grasses in the ground should be fine without water unless there’s a record-breaking drought.

Lift and Divide

If you have large, well-established grasses from warmer parts of the world and you’re craving more, you can lift them and divide them through to August.

Cut through the middle of a clump with a spade and prize it apart, before finding homes for the new members of your grassy gang.

Flowering

Grasses from cool climates generally flower before midsummer, whereas those from warmer places will flower later in the season.

Get yourself a couple of each to soften your garden with a floating haze of panicles (aka grass flowers) all summer long.

Other Useful Planting & Care

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