Although maiden grass is low-maintenance, you will still need to care for it now and then to ensure it remains in the best condition possible. One of the things to do is cut it back, but you might be wondering how you should know when to do this.
You will know when to cut back your maiden grass if it’s late winter or early spring, the grass looks brown and has been brown for a while, if it feels crispier than usual, if there are visible dead or infected pieces of grass on the plant, or if the grass has grown too tall.
If you want to learn more about knowing when to cut back your maiden grass, keep reading this article. It will also discuss why it’s essential to cut maiden grass, how to know when to divide maiden grass, and other important ways to care for the plant.
1. If It’s Late Winter or Early Spring
The most significant indicator that your maiden grass needs to be cut is the time of year. You can’t cut the plant back whenever you please because it may cause issues down the line. With maiden grass, the most appropriate time of the year to cut it is late winter or early spring, just when dormancy is ending.
Cutting maiden grass back at this time will give it a chance to grow new grass from below that’s fresh and green. According to the K-State Research and Extension, fall is a bad time to prune because it’s right when plants–like maiden grass–go into dormancy. Because of that, they won’t be able to focus on healing the wounds created by the cutting.
So, maiden grass pruned at the wrong time of year (i.e., fall) is more likely to remain injured, which could affect growth during the growing season.
Consider Pruning During Summer To Repress Growth
Late winter and early fall are the recommended seasons to prune maiden grass, but in some cases, you might want to consider summer pruning. If you prune during the summer, it will have different effects than if you were to prune in winter or spring.
According to the University of New Hampshire, pruning plants in the late summer reduces growth and doesn’t stimulate bud growth. So if the plant has become too big and you want to control that, summer pruning might be a better idea.
On the other hand, pruning in late winter or early spring promotes growth. So the best time of year to prune depends on your required results. In most cases, people want to promote growth which is why winter and spring are generally the best.
2. If the Grass Looks Brown
If the grass looks brown, it could indicate it’s time to cut it away. However, it’s important to remember that brown is typical for maiden grass and doesn’t always indicate a problem.
You might notice that the plant has been brown for a while and seems to look increasingly worse as the months go by.
Other things to look out for include the following:
- Drooping. Maiden grass should stand vertically, so it’s abnormal if everything is droopy.
- Crispy grass. Maiden grass is feathery and light, so a harsh crisp texture generally indicates a problem that must be fixed by cutting.
These signs often indicate overwatering, so check to ensure the soil isn’t too wet. If it is, avoid adding water until it fully dries, giving the grass time to heal.
Additionally, it’s good to cut back the damaged grass to allow new growth to come in.
3. If There Are Visible Infected Pieces of Grass
Thankfully, diseases are uncommon in maiden grass, so they’re generally nothing to worry about. However, the plants sometimes develop an issue called ‘rust,’ which is different from rusting that occurs on metal.
Rust is a fungal disease that occurs when maiden grass and other plants are too wet for too long and can severely affect the health and appearance of the plant. If you suspect your plant has rust, it’s essential to act fast, so it doesn’t worsen.
To fix rust, avoid watering the grass directly. Instead, water the soil. Also, ensure you water in the morning rather than later in the day.
And, of course, you should cut away grass that’s visibly affected. Some parts will likely look brown or like they’re rotting away, and those are the ones you want to cut off. Cutting off the unhealthy, infected growth will allow new grass to grow. Leave the parts that aren’t highly affected, as they can heal with time.
Keep watch of the plant over the coming weeks to ensure the condition improves.
4. If the Grass Has Grown Too Tall
If you want your maiden grass to stay a specific height, but it begins to grow too tall, you can cut it back. As I mentioned earlier, cutting plants in late summer is an excellent way to suppress growth, so it might be best to wait until this time to cut the height.
Your garden must look exactly how you want it to, so there’s no problem cutting it when it grows more than you want.
Why Is Cutting Maiden Grass at the Right Time Important?
Knowing when to cut maiden grass is one thing, but it’s equally important to understand why cutting it at the right time is essential.
Below, I’ll discuss the main reasons:
It Gives You the Results You Want
First and foremost, cutting maiden grass at the right time gives you the desired results. For example, if your goal is to promote healthy growth, it’s best to cut the plant in early winter or early spring, giving it space to grow during the growing season.
On the other hand, if you want different results (i.e., for the plant to stop growing so much), it’s good to cut it during the summer rather than winter or spring.
Cutting maiden grass at the wrong time will disappoint you and could significantly impact the plant and overall look of your garden. So it’s essential to cut maiden grass at the right time.
It Keeps the Grass Looking Fresh and Uniform
Cutting maiden grass at the appropriate time of year will keep it looking fresh and uniform in color. For example, pruning in late winter or early spring will allow you to eliminate all the brown growth so that new, greener growth can come through right in time for summer.
As a result, the plant will look beautiful and vibrant, and it wouldn’t have the same results if you pruned it at the wrong time.
It Gets Rid of Possible Rotting Before It’s Too Late
Cutting back rotting grass before it gets worse is essential if you want to preserve the plant and ensure it lives as long as possible. That’s why you must cut away diseased pieces as soon as you notice the issue.
Waiting too long could be detrimental to the maiden grass, as the rust may spread to other parts. Eventually, it might be so bad that you can’t fix it by simply cutting away pieces of grass.
Keeps It Tame and Prevents It From Growing Out of Control
If you cut maiden grass back at the right time, it will keep the plant tame and prevent it from growing out of control. For example, maiden grass is self-seeding. So the bigger it gets and the more it spreads, it’s more likely to disperse seeds around the soil.
So cutting it back at the right time prevents this from occurring, ensuring you don’t have a garden overgrown with maiden grass.
How To Know When To Divide Maiden Grass
You now know the signs to look out for and the best times of the year to cut back maiden grass, but you might not know about dividing maiden grass, which ties in with the cutting process.
It’s generally best to divide maiden grass right after pruning because it’ll be easier for you to manage the roots without dealing with too much grass.
However, there are different things to look out for and consider, and I’ll discuss this in the sections below:
A Dried-Out Center
After a few years, the center of a maiden grass plant might become dry in the center, indicating that you need to cut it back and divide it. It’s generally a sign that the plant is getting older, but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore it and let it happen.
Dividing the roots and replanting them around the soil will give the plants more strength and should eliminate drying. Plus, you’ll get multiple plants out of it, so it’s a win-win! Just be sure to cut the plant back before dividing, as it will make your life easier.
I’ll discuss the best way to divide maiden grass later in the article.
If It’s Been at Least Three Years Since Planting
It’s recommended to divide maiden grass every 3 or 4 years, no matter how it looks. That’s because, after three or four years, the roots have likely spread pretty far, meaning the plant won’t have much room left to grow.
To fix this issue, you can divide the roots and replant them, ensuring each newly planted maiden grass plant has sufficient space to grow and flourish. Again, it’s also good to cut back the maiden grass before doing this.
If It’s Taking Up Too Much Space
Even if it hasn’t been three years, you might decide to divide your maiden grass due to lack of space, and that’s fine! For example, it might affect nearby plants and get in the way of their health and growth, which you certainly want to avoid.
It’s good to divide the plant sooner rather than later if it’s causing issues, so there isn’t always the need to wait until it’s been at least three years.
What Is the Best Way To Divide Maiden Grass?
Here is the best way to divide maiden grass:
- Cut the plant back first. Cutting the grass back gives easier access to the roots and will make the dividing and replanting processes much more effortless.
- Dig a circle around the roots using a shovel. Make sure you dig deep enough to reach the roots to easily scoop them up.
- Remove the roots from the soil using the shovel. You should have no issue removing the roots with the shovel by scooping them up. Be gentle so as not to damage the roots.
- Divide the roots. Divide the roots into sections using an ax or other sharp cutting tool. You can split the roots into two pieces or create multiple pieces. Ensure there are enough healthy roots in each section before planting them.
- Plant the roots wherever you want. Ensure each plant will have plenty of space to grow over the next 3 to 4 years.
Although it’s best to cut back maiden grass annually, there’s generally no need to divide it annually.
When planting the roots, leave a distance of 40-72 inches (1-1.8 m) between each plant–this ensures each one has enough space to grow out over the next few years without interfering with each other and other plants.
Other Ways To Care for Maiden Grass
Knowing when to cut your maiden grass is vital if you want it to be healthy and thrive for as long as possible. However, there are other things to consider if you want to care for the plant, and I’ll discuss some of them below.
Fertilize Once per Year
Although it’s not always necessary, giving your maiden grass fertilizer once per year can improve its overall appearance and give it more energy to grow. There are many fertilizers to choose from, so make sure you pick the right one. A balanced, all-purpose feed is best for these plants.
If you decide to fertilize, make sure you do it at the right time of day. Early morning or late evening are the best times because they’re cooler, meaning the plant won’t be as susceptible to fertilizer damage. Midday is the worst time to fertilize because the sun is at its strongest.
Although fertilizer is beneficial in many cases, it can be damaging if you apply too much or use it too frequently. For example, applying too much could result in fertilizer burn. Since maiden grass is a light feeder, applying highly concentrated fertilizer to the soil is unnecessary.
Give It Enough Sunlight
Cutting alone isn’t enough–maiden grass also needs lots of sunlight to thrive. Aim to have it in the sun for around 6 hours a day, but it’s OK if it gets more than this. Whatever you do, keep it out of the shade for extended periods because this could affect the general health and growth of the maiden grass.
Partial shade should be fine, but not full shade. If the plant is in an area of the garden that doesn’t get much sun, it might be worth replanting it somewhere else.
Give Water if Needed
Generally, it’s not necessary to give maiden grass water. The only time you’ll need to do this is if there is a period of drought, and the plant is more likely to become dehydrated.
If you do need to water the plant, be sure to do so in the morning so that it has enough time to dry during the day in the sun. Also, avoid watering the grass directly because this could cause rust; if that gets out of hand, you’ll need to cut away parts of the grass! Instead, apply the water directly to the soil above the roots.
Although adult maiden grass plants don’t usually need to be watered, younger ones need some watering until they’re fully established. So if you’ve just planted it, water it every few days to ensure it stays hydrated and energized.
You usually only need to water maiden grass for specific periods during the summer when it’s hot, and there is a lack of rain. For example, you would generally never need to water it during the winter because it’s dormant and highly unlikely to become dehydrated (especially if there is rain or snow) at this time.
Divide It When Necessary
As I discussed earlier, dividing maiden grass is vital to keep it in good condition. Failing to separate it every few years will allow it to grow out of control, and it may affect other plants nearby. Additionally, if you divide one maiden grass plant into multiple smaller plants, it’s easier for them to remain healthy because each root system has less grass to feed.
As a result, the plants will be healthier and better equipped to fight diseases and pests.
Knowing when to cut back your maiden grass is vital if you want it to be as healthy and aesthetically pleasing as possible. Generally, the best time to cut back maiden grass is in late winter or early spring, right before the growing season begins. Cutting at this time encourages healthy growth and is perfect if that’s what you want.
However, consider cutting the maiden grass back in late summer if you want to suppress plant growth. You should also cut it back if parts of the plant are diseased–cutting back infected parts makes way for new grass.