Ornamental Grass – Pruning

Q: I have two four-year old clumps of maiden grass in an island. Every spring I prune the dead growth and they always grow back beautifully. This summer I’ve noticed they have died out in the center. Is this typical because of their age?

A: Your description of a “halo” of green grass around a dead center is common. It is the result of not cutting the grass clump down to 4″ – 6″ tall each February. You probably clipped it higher. Unless most of the clump is removed each winter, the center fills with dying stems and debris and it loses the ability to put up new sprouts. This results in a doughnut of green blades around a brown center. Although this year you won’t get the attractive seed heads you enjoy each fall, I recommend you dig up the entire clump and divide it into quarters. Replant three of them in separate spots and one of them in the original growing place. Thoroughly loosen a wide area of soil around each division before you plant. The clumps should grow robustly for the remainder of the year…just remember to cut them back severely each February.

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