How to Divide Ornamental Grasses: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Divide Ornamental Grasses
How to Divide Ornamental Grasses

Dividing and transplanting ornamental grasses is a straightforward process that can rejuvenate your garden and promote healthy growth. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to successfully divide and transplant your ornamental grasses. Whether you want to thin out crowded clumps, create new plantings, or simply maintain the health and beauty of your grasses, we’ve got you covered.

Understanding Ornamental Grasses

Before we delve into the division and transplantation process, let’s take a moment to understand ornamental grasses and why you might want to divide and transplant them.

What Are Ornamental Grasses?

Ornamental grasses are a diverse group of plants that add beauty, texture, and movement to your garden. They come in various sizes, shapes, and colors, making them versatile additions to landscaping. Ornamental grasses can provide year-round interest, from their graceful plumes in the summer to their striking winter form.

Why Divide and Transplant Ornamental Grasses?

Dividing and transplanting ornamental grasses offer several benefits:

  1. Rejuvenation: Over time, the center of a grass clump can become dense and less productive. Dividing helps rejuvenate the plant, stimulating new growth.
  2. Space Management: Dividing allows you to control the size and spread of your grasses, preventing overcrowding and maintaining an aesthetically pleasing garden.
  3. Propagation: You can create new plants by dividing and transplanting sections of established grasses. This is an economical way to expand your garden or share plants with others.

Now that we understand the “why,” let’s move on to the “how.”

When to Divide and Transplant Ornamental Grasses

Timing is crucial when it comes to dividing and transplanting ornamental grasses. The best time for this task depends on whether your grasses are cool-season or warm-season varieties.

Cool-Season Grasses

Divide Ornamental Grasses

Cool-season grasses typically thrive in cooler weather and have their most active growth in spring and fall. Therefore, the ideal time to divide and transplant them is during their growth seasons:

  • Early Spring: Just before or as new growth begins in early spring is an excellent time to divide cool-season grasses. The weather is mild, and the plants are actively growing.
  • Early Fall: Dividing and transplanting in early fall, when temperatures start to cool, can also be successful for cool-season grasses. This timing allows the divisions to establish roots before winter.

Examples of Grasses Suited for Spring Division:

  • Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)
  • Feather Reed Grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora)
  • Blue Oat Grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens)

Warm-Season Grasses

Warm-season grasses prefer hot summer weather and are at their peak in the warmer months. For these grasses, the best time to divide and transplant is in late winter to early spring:

  • Late Winter to Early Spring: Dividing warm-season grasses just before or as new growth begins in late winter to early spring gives them a head start for the upcoming growing season. This timing reduces stress on the plants.

Examples of Grasses Suitable for Fall Division:

Now that we’ve covered the ideal timing, let’s gather the tools and materials you’ll need for the division and transplantation process.

READ MORE: When to Divide Ornamental Grasses

Tools and Materials

Before you start dividing and transplanting your ornamental grasses, gather the necessary tools and materials:

  • Sharp Spade or Shovel: You’ll use this to dig up the grass clump and divide it.
  • Pruning Shears or Hedge Clippers: These are handy for trimming back the grass before division.
  • Garden Fork: A fork can help loosen the roots and make lifting the grass clump easier.
  • Tarp or Large Sheet: Lay this out to collect and transport divisions.
  • Water Source: Have a water source nearby for watering newly transplanted divisions.
  • Gloves and Protective Eyewear: Wear these to protect your hands and eyes during the process.

Best Electric Hedge Trimmer:

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Now that you’re prepared, let’s proceed with dividing and transplanting your ornamental grasses.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Divide Ornamental Grasses

1. Pre-Division Preparations

Before you start dividing your ornamental grasses, take the following preparatory steps:

  • Choose a Suitable Day: Pick a day when the weather is mild, and your grasses are not stressed by extreme heat or drought.
  • Water the Grasses: Hydrate the grass clump thoroughly a day or two before division. This makes the soil easier to work with and reduces stress on the plants.
  • Prepare the New Planting Site: Ensure the location where you intend to transplant the divisions is ready. The soil should be well-prepared and amended with compost if needed.

2. The Division Process

Now, let’s divide your ornamental grasses:

  • Trim the Grass: Use pruning shears or hedge clippers to cut the grass back to about one-third of its original height. This makes the division process more manageable and reduces stress on the plant.
  • Dig Around the Clump: Use a sharp spade or shovel to dig a circle around the grass clump, staying about 6 to 12 inches away from the base of the grass.
  • Lift the Grass: Carefully lift the entire grass clump out of the ground. Depending on the size of the clump, you may need assistance.
  • Divide the Clump: Examine the clump, looking for natural divisions or areas where the grass can be separated. You can use your hands, a spade, or a sharp knife to divide the clump into smaller sections. Ensure that each division has both roots and shoots.
  • Plant the Divisions: Transplant the divisions into their prepared locations. Plant them at the same depth they were originally growing.

3. Post-Division Care

After you’ve transplanted your ornamental grass divisions, provide the following care:

  • Water Thoroughly: Water the newly transplanted divisions deeply to settle the soil and provide moisture for root establishment. Continue to water as needed, keeping the soil consistently moist for the first few weeks.
  • Apply Mulch: Spread a layer of mulch around the divisions to help conserve moisture, regulate soil temperature, and suppress weeds.
  • Monitor for Stress: Keep an eye on the transplants for the first few weeks after division. Watch for signs of stress, such as wilting or browning leaves, and take corrective action as needed.

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Special Considerations

1. Warm-Season vs. Cool-Season Grasses

Understanding the type of grass you’re working with is essential for successful division and transplantation:

  • Warm-Season Grasses: These thrive in hot summer weather. Divide them in late winter to early spring.
  • Cool-Season Grasses: These are at their best in cooler seasons. Divide them in early spring or early fall.

2. Grass Size Matters

The size of your ornamental grass can influence how often you need to divide it and how you go about it:

  • Smaller grasses may not need dividing as frequently as larger ones.
  • Large grasses can become overcrowded and less healthy more quickly, so they may need more regular division.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To ensure a successful division and transplantation process, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Timing Mistakes: Dividing at the wrong time can stress your grasses or even harm them. Follow the recommended timing for your grass type.
  • Too Much Division: Dividing too often or too aggressively can weaken your grasses. Avoid excessive division.
  • Over-Fertilizing: Giving your grasses too much fertilizer, especially right after division, can do more harm than good. Use a balanced, slow-release fertilizer sparingly.
  • Planting Too Deep: Ensure that you don’t plant your divisions too deep. The root crown (where the roots meet the shoots) should be level with the soil surface.

What is the best tool for cutting ornamental grasses?

The best tool for cutting ornamental grasses is typically a pair of sharp, clean pruning shears or grass shears. These tools allow for precise and clean cuts without causing unnecessary damage to the grass or leaving ragged edges. When cutting ornamental grasses, follow these steps for the best results:

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  1. Select Sharp Shears: Ensure your pruning shears or grass shears are sharp. Dull blades can crush or tear the grass, leading to a less attractive appearance and potentially opening the plant to disease.
  2. Safety Gear: Wear gloves and long sleeves when cutting grasses to protect your hands from any sharp edges or potential allergens.
  3. Bundle and Secure: If you’re dealing with tall or dense grasses, consider bundling the foliage together with twine or a bungee cord before cutting. This makes handling and disposal easier.
  4. Cut Low: Cut the grasses to within a few inches of the ground. Typically, leaving a few inches of stubble helps protect the crown of the plant from winter moisture and provides some winter interest.
  5. Dispose of Cuttings: Collect the cuttings and dispose of them properly, either in a compost pile or yard waste bin.

Pruning shears or grass shears are effective tools for maintaining the health and appearance of ornamental grasses when used with proper timing and technique.

How do you braid ornamental grass?

Braiding ornamental grasses can be a creative and visually appealing way to showcase their natural beauty. Here are the steps to braid ornamental grasses:

  1. Select the Grass: Choose tall ornamental grasses with long, flexible blades. Some popular options for braiding include pampas grass, zebra grass, or miscanthus varieties.
  2. Timing: The best time to braid ornamental grasses is in late winter or early spring, just before the new growth starts. At this time, the old foliage is still intact but starting to decline.
  3. Cut Back: Begin by trimming the grasses to a manageable height, leaving about 12-18 inches of foliage. This makes the braiding process more accessible and manageable.
  4. Bundle the Grass: Gather several stems of the grass together into a bunch, ensuring they are roughly the same height. Use twine or a rubber band to secure the base of the bunch.
  5. Start Braiding: Begin braiding the grass stems, much like you would braid hair. Cross one stem over the other, then add another stem into the mix, crossing it over as well. Continue this pattern, adding more stems as needed, until you have braided the entire bunch.
  6. Secure the End: Once you’ve reached the end of the grass blades, secure them with twine or another rubber band to hold the braid in place.
  7. Trim the Tips: If the tips of the grass blades are ragged or uneven, trim them with sharp scissors to create a neat, finished look.
  8. Display: Place your braided ornamental grasses in a vase or container filled with water. You can also incorporate them into flower arrangements or use them as a decorative element in your home or garden.

Braided ornamental grasses can be a stunning and unique addition to your decor, adding an interesting texture and form to your space. They are particularly striking when combined with other natural or dried elements in floral arrangements.

MORE: Can Pampas Grass Be Divided

Can you transplant ornamental grasses in the fall?

Yes, Transplanting ornamental grasses in the fall is indeed possible and can be a successful endeavor, provided you complete the process well before the ground freezes. Early to mid-fall is the ideal time for transplanting, allowing the grasses to establish their roots before winter. Prepare the new planting site with well-draining soil and enrich it with compost. Dig up the grass clump, preserving the root ball, and replant at the same depth. Adequate watering, mulching, and careful monitoring during the fall season are crucial for the success of the transplants. Fall transplanting takes advantage of cooler, moist conditions, allowing the grasses to establish before winter’s arrival.


Can you divide ornamental grasses?

Yes, you can divide ornamental grasses, and it’s a recommended practice to maintain their health and vitality. Dividing involves carefully digging up a mature clump of grass, separating it into smaller sections, and replanting those sections in new locations or to refresh the original planting area. The best time to divide ornamental grasses is typically in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. However, some well-established grasses can also be divided in the fall. Division helps prevent overcrowding, rejuvenates the plants, and encourages robust growth. Proper care and watering are crucial for the success of the divided sections.

What is the best time of year to split grasses?

The best time to divide grasses is generally in late winter or early spring, just before the new growth begins. This timing takes advantage of the plant’s dormant period and minimizes stress on both the parent plant and the divided sections. However, some well-established grasses can also be divided in the fall, before the ground freezes. The choice of timing depends on the specific grass species, your local climate, and your garden’s needs. Regardless of when you divide, proper care and watering are essential to ensure the success of the divided sections.

How to divide tall ornamental grasses?

Dividing tall ornamental grasses is a relatively simple process that involves choosing the right time (ideally late winter or early spring), preparing the new planting site, and digging up the clump while preserving the root ball. The clump is then divided into smaller sections, each containing roots and shoots. These sections are replanted at the same depth, spaced according to the grass variety’s recommendations. Adequate watering, mulching, and careful monitoring are essential for successful establishment. Trimming the grasses back, if necessary, can reduce stress on the root system. While divided sections may take some time to fully regain their height and beauty, proper care ensures their long-term health and vibrancy.


Dividing and transplanting ornamental grasses is a simple yet rewarding task that can breathe new life into your garden. Whether you’re looking to rejuvenate your grasses, create new plantings, or manage their size, this step-by-step guide equips you with the knowledge and techniques needed for success. By understanding the needs of your specific grasses, following proper timing, and providing post-transplant care, you’ll ensure a lush and vibrant garden filled with the beauty of ornamental grasses. Happy gardening!

Rachel Lean
Rachel Lean

Adventurer, loving nature and plants, particularly Pampas Grass. Happy to share with other people the knowledge that I accumulated on the journey of my life.