By David Salman, Chief Horticulturalist and Founder of High Country Gardens
The Spring garden usually consists of smaller growing plants; those that wake up early, grow and bloom with the cool conditions of the start of the growing season. The fall is the time for the big plants to take center stage, having had the whole summer to reach flowering size. Many of the most dramatic plants in the late season garden would have to be the ornamental grasses. With their large size and interesting flowering spikes, these grasses have no equal when it comes to reflecting the glow of sunlight late in the day. And the grace of their swaying stems in the slightest breeze brings movement to the landscape.
Fall Care Of Ornamental Grasses
Don't cut them back in the fall! The most common mistake I see with ornamental grasses happens when they're cut back in fall as part of fall garden clean-up. This robs you of their beauty over the fall and winter months which is a big part of their usefulness, especially in climates with long, dreary winters.
- For warm season growers, wait until mid-spring and cut them back HARD (leaving only 2-4" inches above ground).
- For cool season growers, trim off the faded seed heads and comb out the foliage to rid it of brown foliage. But whenever possible avoid cutting them back near ground level like their warm season cousins.
- Fertilize in mid-fall with a top dressing of Yum Yum Mix and compost around the base of the grass. Scratch it in, re-apply some mulch and water thoroughly.