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Southern California Regional Reports

The Right Way to Cut Back Grasses

Proper trimming highlights arcing habits and hides old growth

Pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris, Zones 6–9), with its stunningly pink flowers, is one of the most colorful grasses for the garden. Like many other grasses, it requires proper trimming to bloom at its best. Photo: Francesca Corra

Wispy, billowy, airy, feathery, wavy—these are just some of the words we use to describe ornamental grasses. So often, though, grasses are stripped of all these adjectives by incorrect trimming.

bad grass trimming
These grasses have been sheared up the sides, highlighting old, dead growth. In this situation, I would remove the plants that have spread too close to the curb and leave the others with room to shine. Photo: Francesca Corra

When it comes to trimming, I find that grasses are one of the most mistreated plants. So many people don’t understand the fine art of trimming grasses. All too often they are just sheared up the sides and then across the top. Bim, bam, boom, done! Sometimes more care is given, and they are trimmed into little rounded meatballs. Grasses should not be trimmed into a shape. First of all, the amount of time it takes to trim the top,…

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