March is a great time to remove dead foliage from ornamental grasses, before they begin to green up soon. Ornamental grasses are great additions to home and business landscapes, and are becoming more popular every year. They are very well-adapted to Oklahoma weather and soil conditions, very low maintenance, and provide a beautiful contrast to other shrubs, trees, and lawns. Some local favorite varieties are Pampas Grass, Fountain Grass, Maiden Grass, Mexican Feather Grass, Zebra Grass, and Japanese Blood Grass. Some stay smaller to 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 extreme shaded conditions.
In late winter and very early spring, it’s important to cut back brown dormant vegetation to make room for 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, we are under a burn ban in Oklahoma, 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. But if you are a country boy, and with a water hose handy just in case things get out of hand, you can burn back the dead vegetation, after the burn ban is lifted.
Either way you do it, cutting back and eliminating the brown, dead leaves and stems from last year’s growth will help the plant spring back to life better later this spring and develop a better shape without all of the brown stems from last year.