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Cutting lamp cleaner grass: the most important tips

First things first: don't cut pennon grass back until spring. There are three good reasons to wait before pruning: In autumn the ornamental grasses with the decorative feather bristles rise to their top form and with their winter silhouette give structure for a long time. It would be a shame to neglect the winter aspect of the plants. The last color carriers literally shine in the bare garden when they shine through the lower-lying sun. They look particularly attractive when it is frosty. The dense clumps also offer shelter for all kinds of small animals in winter. In addition to the ecological aspect, letting it stand protects the grass itself. In winter, moisture does not penetrate the heart of the plants. That prevents putrefaction.

Cutting lamp cleaner grass: the most important things in brief

It is best to cut back the lamp-cleaning grass just before the new shoots in spring. To do this, tie the tuft of leaves together and cut it off about a hand's breadth above the ground with garden or hedge shears.

Theoretically, ornamental grasses like lamp-cleaner grass shouldn't be cut at all. In nature, the plants thrive without scissors. But in the garden it looks visually nicer when the grass can sprout fresh and the young fronds don't have to fight their way through old, dry leaves. The new shoot gets more light and air.

When do you cut the lamp-cleaner grass?

The cut can be made until shortly before the new plants emerge. Depending on the region, pennon cleaner grasses sprout in April or even later. Pennisetum is a "warm season grass". These "warm season" grasses grow in high summer temperatures. Flowering begins in late summer. Combined with a beautiful autumn color, the warm season grasses stop growing afterwards. They go into a resting phase until late spring. From this point on, it is generally possible to prune the plant. But the lamp-cleaning grass in particular looks attractive for a long time. If the faded sculptures become unsightly over time due to wind and weather, the motto applies: Cut back your lamp cleaner grass as soon as you are bothered by the sight of the plant. This is usually the case when the first bulb flowers bloom in spring.

How do you cut pennon cleaner grass correctly?

Take the old tuft of lamp-cleaner grass back about a hand's breadth above the ground. You can use secateurs just like those used to cut roses. It is easier with a hedge trimmer. The most common winter hardy pennon cleaner grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides), also known as Japanese feather bristle grass, grows hemispherical. Try to work out the shape while cutting back. The trick: you cut straight at the top. Turn the hedge trimmer to the sides and cut downwards. This gives you a semicircular spherical shape.

The shape is less important in other species. The not-so-hardy Oriental Pennisetum (Pennisetum orientale), for example, has a more delicate appearance with slightly finer, curved, inclined flower rollers. It is often used in groups or so-called drifts, which meander through a plantation like waves. In early spring, the plant is simply cut off ten centimeters above the ground. The winter effect can also be used in a pot. However, if you want to save yourself the trouble of packing the buckets and the ornamental grass hibernates frost-free in the garage, a cut close to the ground with the storage is recommended.

Frost-sensitive lamp cleaner grasses such as the popular purple lamp cleaner grass ‘Rubrum’ (Pennisetum x advena), African lamp cleaner grass (Pennisetum setaceum) or woolly lamp cleaner grass (Pennisetum villosum) are grown annually by us. There is no need to cut back. In regions with a warm climate, however, the tropical species can become heavily pollinated and become a problem. It was even discussed in the EU whether the African pennon cleaner grass (Pennisetum setaceum) should be placed on the list of invasive neophytes. To avoid spreading, the seed heads are cut off before they ripen.

You can find even more tips on how to care for and the correct location for bulb cleaner grass here:

In late summer, the pennon grass inspires with its feathery inflorescences, which set accents in the sunny perennial bed into the winter. This is how you plant and care for the showy ornamental grass correctly.