How to Summer-Prune a Floppy Miscanthus Grass (Video Tutorial)

by Genevieve on September 26, 2009

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I’m a big fan of ornamental grasses because they add so much motion and life to a garden. If you use multiples, they’re an easy way of bringing a sense of continuity to a busy or scattered-feeling garden, because the effect of their foliage is so soothing.

Miscanthus is a favorite because it grows so fast, it’s bulletproof (just give it sunshine), and it always looks so exuberant and healthy. The downside to its enthusiastic growth is that late in the season it can start taking up more space than we imagined and begin flopping onto its neighbors.

I’ve seen people take out their frustration with their Miscanthus Grass by taking their electric hedgers to it and just shearing off an entire side of the plant, so the poor thing loses the graceful movement it had and simply sits there looking shorn and attacked. Please don’t do that!

In this video I’ll show you a quick way of pruning your Miscanthus Grass to make it smaller and less floppy if you are having that issue, and nobody will be able to tell you did anything except for the fact that the Miscanthus will now be smaller AND still pretty.

Of course, if you’re having to summer-prune the grass every year, it might be time to either divide your Miscanthus this winter by digging it up and replanting just a smaller portion (I do this every 5 years or so), or maybe you have chosen a grass that is too big for the spot, and a more dwarf variety of Miscanthus like ‘Yaku Jima’ (4’+) or ‘Little Kitten’ (3’+) would be a better choice.

I’ll add: if you love ornamental grasses the way I do and want more ideas on how to use them in your garden, you’ve GOT to get Nancy Ondra’s book Grasses: Versatile Partners for Uncommon Garden Design. Saxon Holt’s photography is simply gorgeous, and Nancy’s suggestions on how to use each grass gives me new ideas each time I read.

If you liked this article, you might also enjoy learning how to winter-prune your ornamental grasses.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie September 27, 2009 at 9:59 am


Great video post. I love grasses too and try to use them as often as possible. I have two mature Morning Light grasses in my garden and only got around to dividing one this spring so the other is definitely encroaching on her neighbors. I never thought about selectively pruning out some of the stray pieces right now. Thanks for the advice, I was thinking I’d have to wait until spring to tidy up that area of my garden but I’ll think I’ll try your technique now.
.-= Debbie´s last blog ..Book Preview: Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love =-.


Monica the Garden Faerie September 28, 2009 at 6:05 am

LOL, I really like the big floppy look! I leave the folaige of all grasses over the winter, tie them up at the base with twine, and use my hedgetrimmer to cut off the top part in spring (conveniently bundled and ready for the yardwaste bags!).


rebecca sweet September 28, 2009 at 5:25 pm

You are a brave, brave woman for pruning this monster with a tank top on!! Great video – as usual – one which I’ll be passing on to several of my clients who always ask me how to prune these grasses. Your videos are wonderful!!
.-= rebecca sweet´s last blog ..Pssst….your laziness is showing… =-.


Genevieve September 29, 2009 at 2:57 pm

Debbie – thanks for your kind words! I LOVE Morning Light, definitely one of my favorite grasses.
Monica – I actually quite like them floppy too! But the neighboring plants don’t always approve, LOL. I love your hedgetrimmer tip – I don’t have any electric shears but bundling them definitely helps make the cleanup waaaaay faster!
Rebecca, yeah, I started pruning and thought to myself – uh-oh! No sleeves! I have so many tiny crisscrossing scars on my arms though that I think they’re hardly noticeable at this point! The worst is that the tiny cuts do itch a bit.


tom | tall clover farm October 30, 2009 at 8:07 am

Wow, another great video tutorial — love these! Thanks.
.-= tom | tall clover farm´s last blog ..I’ll Tell You What to Do With Your Green Tomatoes =-.


billy galanis July 8, 2010 at 6:51 am

great video..too many people just prune in the spring with a hedge trimmer/chainsaw. before and after shots show a nice peekaboo view. Carrying around a flip camera you can stop by new installs and show progress videos, go back to installs done 2-3 years ago and really get some nice video.Found in hard to keep my eyes off of you and concentrate on the pruning…lol very photogenic. Nice addition to the landscape leadership site. I just did the first native planting at an HOA entrance where our county gives a rebate($$$) to installs using more than 75% of square footage with md native plantings. We took out all the builder plant material and went native… thinking of trying a hand at this video style soon!


Genevieve July 8, 2010 at 6:56 am

LOL, thanks Billy. I’m really wanting to do more in the way of progress videos on designs, because unlike realtors I don’t have a super-wide-ridiculous angle lens on my camera! So video would really let me show an expansive view. If you do that for your gardens be sure and let me know so I can see!


Ethlyn McCleave August 29, 2013 at 9:00 am

What would happen to the plant, if one would dig up the roots of those stalks around the
outside of the plant? And, how far back should I go? Your video was very helpful.


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