Get More for Your Money: Divide Ornamental Grasses

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Get More for Your Money: Divide Ornamental Grasses
Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator
Get More for Your Money: Divide Ornamental Grasses
Enjoy ornamental grasses as an addition to your landscape. Image by Pixabay.

Ornamental grasses have become popular additions to the landscape and if you buy them they are kind of expensive. Learning how to grow them yourself is actually quite easy. They can be grown from seed, but the easiest and most effective way to propagate them is through simple division. If you shop around you might be able to find some parent plants in 4 inch pots at a fair price.

Image of 'Apache Rose' switch grassWhen to Divide
The best time of the year to divide them is in the spring just before the new growth emerges. If you buy the stock plants in the early spring, you might be able to divide them right away. If you buy them at any other time of the year, just plant them in the garden or other suitable location, knowing that you are going to dig them up in a few months, or a year.

When spring arrives you can divide them at any time as long as they are not well into putting on new growth. The earlier the better. To divide them simply dig up the root mass and start dividing it into pieces. The divisions do not have to be very large. As long as there are some roots, the new plant is likely to grow.

If you have small young plants you may be able to tear the root mass into two pieces with your hands, but if the root mass is very big then you are going to need some tools like a large sharp knife or sharp spade.

Picture of Purple fountian grassWhen you dig out an old root mass and it is much larger and more dense than you expected, use a very good digging spade and chop the root mass into quarters, and replant the quarters back into your landscape. If the quarters are still too large cut them in half again. You may have some replants to give to a neighbor.

Dividing ornamental grasses every two to three years in this manner will greatly add to your landscape and save you money at the same time.

The Author would like to acknowledge the contribution of Don Janssen, former UNL Extension Educator who authored the first edition of this publication.

All images by 

  1. 'Apache Rose' switch grass, Panicum virgatum. Image from Proven Winners
  2. Purple fountian grass, Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'.

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Ornamental Grass Selections

Sherilynn Hawkins from Bluebird Nursery in Clarkson Nebraska talks about ornamental grass selections

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