March is a great time to remove dead foliage from ornamental grasses in the landscape, before they begin to green up soon. Ornamental grasses can be great additions to home and business landscapes, and are becoming very popular. They are very well-adapted to Carolina weather and soil conditions, very low maintenance, and provide a beautiful contrast to other parts of the landscape and lawns. Some local favorite varieties are Fountain Grass, Pampas Grass, Maiden Grass, Mexican Feather Grass, Zebra Grass, and Japanese Blood Grass. Some stay moderate in size, while some such as Pampas Grass can become quite large, so care must be made in deciding where to plant these. Some ornamental grasses such as Liriope, Feather Reed Grass, and Northern Sea Oats are more shade tolerant than certain turfgrasses such as Fescue, so these may be a good alternative for extremely shady conditions.
In late winter and very early spring, it’s important to cut back brown dormant vegetation to make room for the flush of new spring growth from the base of the plant. Sharp shears or a strong weed-eater will work in some cases, but larger more mature grasses can become large and difficult to prune back. If you live in the country as we do and the ornamental grass is away from your home, you can actually burn back the dead vegetation with fire, but do be careful with that. Right now, it’s pretty dry, so don’t try this unless things improve. And if you live within city limits, that’s not legal nor smart to do. You’ll have to cut back the vegetation in this case.
Either way you do it, cutting back and eliminating the brown, dead leaves and stems from last year’s growth will help the plant look better, while springing back to life better later this spring and develop a better shape without all of the brown stems from last year.