Winter Maintenance for Grasses

This is what I do each winter and it seems to work ok for me. Maintenance is best carried out before new growth starts


Stipa gigantea before the late winter prune

Stipa are cool season grasses so start growing in late winter or very early spring.

Stipa gigantea

Evergreen needing little maintenance. By mid February the flower stems are bare and tatty. Wearing stout gloves I pull or cut out the spend flower stems. Then i comb out dead leaves using my gloved fingers. Then lift the leaves and check underneath as the mounds are favourite hibernation places for hedgehogs. I've also found Elephany Hawkmoth chrysalids in the winter. If all clear pull off the dead growth from under the leaves mount. Job done! Don't cut back the green leaves at all

Stipa pseudoichu

Can be treated more or less the same as S.gigantea but can be cut back hard if straggly

Stipa capillata, Stipa tenuissima

Both of these can be cut back hard to 2-3in / 5-10cm from the soil as most of the leaves die over winter. If you don't want loads of Stipa tenuissima seedlings you can do this pruning in autumn but do remember that the plants are short lived and fresh seedlings are needed to replace losses.


Moor grasses are "self pruning" as they topple over in winter gales and usually snap off at the base. Its advisable to gather up the stems as they can smoother plants around and provide a save haven for voles.

In Febraury break off any remaining stems and clear away

Calamagrostis, Carex, Chionochloa, Cyperus, Panicum

These can be pruned back very hard in late winter.


I prune these back to about 6-12in / 15/30cm in late winter. It is possible to allow them to shoot higher up the stems but I prefer to back them back. Pull out any dead stems from the clump

I sometimes strim large clumps but I find that a metal blade attachment is more effective than nylon line


These just need a clean up in late winter taking out dead leaves. keep an eye open for seedlings around the mother plant as Elymus arenn't long-lived and you'll need fresh plants every couple of years

All text and images Š 2007 - 2019 A partnership of Janet & Martin Blow.