Ornamental grasses have become extremely
popular in the past ten years or so, and if you buy them at a garden
center they are kind of pricey. Learning how to grow them yourself is
actually quite easy. They can be grown from seed, but I won’t pretend
to be an expert at that for several reasons. One, I don’t know
anything about growing them from seed, and two, I have no desire to
propagate them from seed because seedlings require too much care.
The easiest and most effective way to propagate them is through simple
division. Of course you will need at least one parent plant of each
variety that you would like to grow. If you shop around you might be
able to find some 4” inch pots at a fair price.
One of each variety is good for a start. I find that 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 your 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 to be very large. It’
difficult to describe, but as long as you have some roots, the new
plant is likely to grow.
If you have small young plants you can probably just tear the root
mass apart with your hands, but if the root mass is very big then you
are going to need some tools. You might need some heavy duty tools!
Last spring I divided several grass plants that had been in my
landscape for a few years. When I dug out the root mass it was much
larger and more dense than I expected. Using a very good digging spade
and some real elbow power I was able to chop the root mass into
quarters, and I replanted the quarters back into my landscape. That
still left many clumps that I wanted to divide into very small plants
that I could pot up in 2 quart containers.
The root mass was too dense to tear apart with my hands, so I
literally got a hammer and a 4” wide mason’s chisel and chiseled off
pieces. It worked and I now have a couple of hundred beautiful little
grass plants in 2 quart containers.
Since then I have talked with a friend of mine who works for a large
wholesale grower, and he told me that you never want to let an
ornamental grass plant get that big if you intend to divide it. He
said they plant small divisions in the field in the spring, and dig
them up the following spring and divide them again. He assured me that
if you get them just 12 months later, they can be easily torn apart by
That sounds like a lot more fun than what I went through!
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
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