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There are numerous Chinese reed species that decorate the garden all year round. Proper pruning is essential for optimal care and healthy, vigorous growth. Here, the specimen often called "elephant grass" makes special demands. The plant expert explains how to achieve the perfect cut.

To cut

Depending on the species, Chinese grass can reach a height of up to two meters. It is popular above all because of its wide-growing properties and dense growth, so that it is also often used as a privacy screen. It requires pruning both for vigorous growth after the winter season and can also be aided in recovery from illness by pruning. The professional instructions describe the correct procedure step by step.


The right time is an important factor that should always be considered when cutting grass.


Chinese grass, or miscanthus, as it is botanically called, loses its freshness in late autumn as temperatures drop and the stalks slowly dry out. Some hobby gardeners decide to cut back in autumn so that parts of the plant that have dried out in stormy winds are not unattractively distributed in the garden.

However, they do not consider that they can cause great damage to the Chinese grass. Pruning back in autumn would leave open culms in which moisture collects and can quickly lead to rot. While uncut, closed stalks can also tolerate extremely cold temperatures, frostbite with cut, open stalks is not uncommon. Therefore: Never cut elephant grass in autumn or winter!

TIP: To avoid, or at least minimize, dry weed flyaways, simply tie the stalks together tightly. At the same time you get a decorative accent for grey, dreary winter days.


Spring is the best time to cut back Miscanthus. Chinese grass is usually one of those species that only start growing late after hibernation. The pruning should be done shortly before, which is why April suggests itself as the perfect month. If growth has already begun, the newly grown shoots are usually also cut when pruning.

As a result, the elephant grass would no longer be able to grow so lush and dense. If you cut too early, the plant may still be too much in winter mode and is still too susceptible to possible cold snaps and moisture accumulation in the open stalks. Shortly before growth begins, the metabolism is in motion again and the grass can deal better with cold and wet conditions.

Before the cut

Before cutting, you should always check the Chinese reed for animals that may use the grass as winter quarters or occasional shelter. These are often useful little animals that could endanger your life if you carelessly trim the elephant grass. Animals that have not yet come out of hibernation, hibernation or hibernation in April are particularly at risk. If animals are found, it is advisable to let them complete their winter phase and postpone the cut until later.

For example, the Chinese reed is a popular home for the following animals:

  • Hedgehog
  • harvest mice
  • ladybug
  • lacewings

cutting tool

Before you can get started, you need to select the right cutting tool and have it ready. Depending on the size of the Chinese reed, a hedge trimmer is the best option for trimming. Anyone who owns an electric hedge trimmer saves a lot of effort, especially with large specimens. But in principle, the Chinese grass can also be cut with conventional pruning shears.

But the smaller this is, the more effort you can expect and the more time you need. In addition, the scissor cut usually does not offer you a straight cutting plane and the risk of injury is significantly higher. This is because you have to reach your hand over or through the already cut stalks. These are usually quite sharp-edged and can cause painful wounds. If you use a knife, it should be sharp and long-bladed.


An essential factor is the use of clean cutting tools. Chinese reed is very robust against diseases, but this plant is not safe from fungal infections either. Fungi are often transmitted via contaminated cutting tools. It is therefore important that you disinfect it before use. Simply soak in 70% or 80% alcohol (isopropanol) for two minutes and allow to air dry for a few minutes. Alternatively, you can also use a disinfectant spray such as Sagrotan.

protective measures

The dried stalks can be very sharp-edged and small pieces can fly through the air when cut. It is therefore important that you protect yourself sufficiently against injuries and that you use gloves and protective goggles when cutting.

binding material

To make trimming as easy as possible, it's a good idea to have some ribbons ready, especially if the chinea is large and/or tall. Divide the stalks into several bunches and tie them together lightly. This way you can cut the straws more easily and have them in manageable parts right away, which makes them more convenient to dispose of/transport without much effort.

TIP: Incidentally, Chinese reed leftovers can be chopped up into small pieces and then used as bedding for rabbit or guinea pig cages.

cutting process

The elephant grass is usually always shortened with a so-called radical cut. A partial cut is only recommended in exceptional cases.

radical cut

The Chinese reed is usually always completely cut off to a remaining height of about eight to twelve centimeters. That's about a hand's breadth. It is optimal if you guide the cutting tool evenly vertically through the stalks. If you have tied these into individual sections, cut from tuft to tuft.

Should spring unexpectedly surprise you with mild temperatures and the first shoots are already appearing, the cut must not be included. This means that the radical cut ends for all stalks at the height where the new shoots are located. If there are numerous new shoots, only the outer stalks should be shortened so that no new shoots are accidentally injured or cut off. This would cause unsightly brown shoot tips.

TIP: Incidentally, after a radical cut of Chinese reed, there is the perfect moment in which you can prepare the situation for propagation by root division.

health cut

In some cases, Chinese reed (usually) due to incorrect care or location can develop diseases that first only cover part of the Chinese grass before slowly spreading to the rest of the plant. This can happen, for example, with a rot. Some stalks then lose stability, tilt downwards, become very soft or even mushy. Here only a pruning helps to get the rot under control and to protect the rest of the plant. Cut off the affected stalks directly above the surface of the soil and then expose them slightly with your fingers from the soil so that no water from the surface of the soil can get into the open stalks.

TIP: It is advisable to exchange the wet soil for dry ones in the sub-area and, above all, to identify and remedy the cause of the rotting of the elephant grass. This significantly increases the chance that the Chinese reed will recover from the rot and not spread further.

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