Question: I've heard of burning ornamental grass as a way to rejuvenate it. Is that a good idea and would I burn the grass in the fall?
Answer: The dead foliage of warm-season ornamental grasses can be burned to remove it and make way for new growth. It's the same reason why you would cut off the dead foliage, just a different means to the end. Wait until late winter or early spring to burn the foliage. Burning it in fall would destroy the winter interest the grass contributes and open the plant up to winter injury.
Do not burn cool-season grasses, such as fescues and heliotrichons, which are semi-evergreen. Remove their dead or damaged foliage by cutting it or gently raking it out.
Careful attention should be paid to fire hazards, personal safety and local laws before any ornamental grasses (or other yard debris) is burned. Do not leave any fire unattended, and have means of extinguishing it close at hand. In many cases it is just as easy, and less risky, to cut the grasses back by hand with pruners or loppers. Electric hedge clippers or a string trimmer can make quicker work of a larger grouping.
See an array of great grasses for various situations and learn how to care for ornamental grasses—download the workshop "Right Grass, Right Place" for just $9.99.
Design your own personal prairie with John Greenlee's The American Meadow Garden.
Organize your seasonal tasks with The Perennial Care Manual: What to Do and When to Do It—by Nancy Ondra with photos by Rob Cardillo.