How Do You Rejuvenate Ornamental Grass?

We previously explained what you can do if your ornamental grass is dying out from the center and the importance of cutting it back. However, what about normal, day-to-day care? How do you make sure your ornamental grass stays fresh? How do you bring it back to its former self if it has wilted?

There are several types of ornamental grasses out there, both annual and perennial, but they tend to start looking odd after some time. The grass blades start drying out at the end as the plant ages, causing people to ask, “how do you rejuvenate ornamental grass?”

The answer lies in taking proper care of your ornamental grass, especially when it comes to fertilizing, cutting, and dividing it. We recommend that annual grass be cut down to 6 inches at most late winter or early spring, while the perennial grass should be cut down to 2 inches. This is so that it grows back, looking much healthier than before. Let’s look at the specifics for a detailed answer.

How Do You Rejuvenate Ornamental Grass?

How Do You Rejuvenate Ornamental Grass

Some of the hardier varieties of perennial ornamental grass, such as the Muhly, zebra, and maiden grass, grow well in most US zones and remain green throughout the summer season. However, they might dry out a bit during winters. When left unchecked, these dried-out leaves will remain there, effectively giving your ornamental grass a bad look.

Usually, ornamental grasses don’t require much maintenance, hence their popularity. However, they will eventually need to be rejuvenated, a process that is much simpler than it seems. Before you get into how to rejuvenate ornamental grass, though, you should understand the extent of work you need to do.

For example, if your ornamental grass has a large dried or dead portion right at its center, chances are that the plant has been around for quite some time. You will need to cut it down and divide it. Every time you divide your ornamental grass, you will get at least 3 to 6 more plants out of the same one, thus giving you more grass to plant or to share with others.

When this happens, no matter how hard you try to rejuvenate the grass, you won’t be able to revive the dead or dried center. It will also be helpful if you reevaluate the site where the ornamental grass is growing. Ornamental grasses usually require full sunlight and extensive watering, but at the same time, they don’t like standing water, either. If the ground underneath your ornamental grass stays soggy, you may see stunted growth. Consider changing the soil or improve the drainage. Once you do that, you will see improved growth in 4 to 5 days.

Cutting to Rejuvenate

As mentioned above, another trick to rejuvenating ornamental grass is to cut it down. For more on how much to cut the grass and how to divide it, we recommend you go through the guide for the same here. Use a sharp set of shears to cut the grass back, especially in winters, if there are high winds.

Digging to Rejuvenate

Another method you can use to rejuvenate ornamental grass of all types is to use a small shovel to dig around the base of your ornamental grass. However, before you start digging, we recommend you check your grass’s age, it should be at least 3 years. This is because as ornamental grasses grow older, they start forming grass and root clumps in the ground.

You should dig around after you cut the grass back. The ideal digging depth is 12 inches or until you reach the root ball. Once you do, decide whether you want to dig the grass out or not. If it’s old and the center is dying, simply slide your spade or shovel underneath the plant and pull it up. If not, cut any roots extending beyond the dug area (give the plant at least 1 foot on all sides from its center) and add the soil back. The goal is to aerate the roots and give the plant more room to expand.

Cutting/Pruning the Grass to Rejuvenate

Ornamental grass in a yard hiding a power box
Ornamental grass in a yard hiding a power box

Just like any other plant or grass out there, cutting the plant back will encourage the plant to grow new leaves in the same area, each livelier than the last. When you prune a plant, you are mimicking animals in nature and how they eat away some foliage. The plant grows once, twice, or at most, three times in the same place before it “learns” that there is an “animal” here that will eat the blades growing in this direction or beyond a certain point.

You will need to prune the blades a few times before the plant learns that its goal is not to expand but stay green; this is called training the grass. However, it will continue to grow, so you will have to keep on pruning it but perhaps not as frequently.

As a rule of thumb, remember to cut back the foliage every year. This pruning will be very harsh and will help your plant’s roots survive the winter. For the rest of the year, light pruning will work just fine.

With larger grasses, just like larger palm trees, you may have to tie up the blades and leaves respectively. A prime example of this is the Miscanthus varieties. These grasses require stronger pruning tools, maybe even a chainsaw!

Fertilizing the Grass for Rejuvenation

Finally, the most preferred method out there for grass rejuvenation is to fertilize the ornamental grass. It might seem obvious that whenever the ends of your grass’s blades start drying out, it simply requires some fertilizer, right?

Well, this isn’t exactly the case. Ornamental grasses are usually very hardy and can live through almost anything. However, there are some things that even these grasses can’t bear, one of them being the addition of too much fertilizer.

While the US and UK enjoy a wide range of fertilizers available in the market, in other countries, especially in Asia, cow dung is used as a fertilizer which is quite effective. Still, they require extensive watering. Regardless, with ornamental grasses, you get the freedom to add a fertilizer of your choice without worrying about its composition.

It is best to cut the grass back or divide it if you want BEFORE you start adding your fertilizer. The best time fertilizing in our experience is spring. A 10-10-10 fertilizer has shown remarkable results for us, but just for the sake of testing, we also added some cow dung to one of our plants to see if it helps. We had to water it a bit more, but the results were better with this.

We recommend a quarter (1/4) cup of fertilizer per plant. Simply sprinkle fertilizer in a ring around the base of the grass about 4 to 6 inches away from the center. The best time of day to add fertilizer into your ornamental grass is in the evening. Make sure you water thoroughly after fertilizing so that the fertilizer grains get dissolved properly and that they can reach the roots properly.

Ornamental grass loves mulch when in the wild, especially the perennial species. The grass consumes its dried leaves for nutrients and grows new ones. Of course, these dried leaves are exactly what we need to avoid when rejuvenating ornamental grass and so, we pull or cut them out. You can emulate this natural behavior either by adding mulch onto the grass or simply by adding compost into your soil.

Make sure your grass has good air circulation to prevent diseases.

About Charlie D Paige

Charlie is a massive DIY fan, with dozens of DIY projects under his belt - ranging from tiling to electrics, and concrete pads to walls. Charlie loves tinkering, seeing how things works, the outdoors and playing with power tools... so is it any wonder that he's completed so many DIY jobs over the years?

Charlie loves spreading his hard-won DIY experience with the world via this blog.