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For optimal growth it is necessary to cut back reed grass. There are a few things to keep in mind to avoid damaging the reed or increasing its susceptibility to disease. The plant expert explains how to proceed and what to look out for.

To cut

Reed grass not only adorns bank zones and pond borders, but as ornamental grasses they are also becoming increasingly popular in flower beds or on balconies in flower tubs, especially as a privacy screen. In addition to their decorative touch, many types of reed grass are particularly impressive due to their rapid and, depending on the variety, their voluminous, dense growth. In order to be able to maintain this in the long term, reeds must be cut regularly. In the instructions for cutting you will learn everything you need to know plus tips from the plant expert.


By choosing the right time, you can have a relevant influence on the growth of reeds. Some believe that the right moment has come as soon as the native grass species turns yellow/brown and dries up. In most cases, however, you are laying the foundation for the plant to die, or at least you are promoting significantly poor growth in the next season.

Pampas grass in the garden


Most reed grasses are offered as frost-resistant, such as China grass (Miscanthus) or reeds (Phragmites). Theoretically, this is also correct, but this assumes that they have their leaves and culms at their disposal in freezing temperatures. These protect the reeds from the cold. If you cut back your reeds in the fall or winter, there is an increased risk of frostbite.

Grass species that have hollow tubes that are cut off provide a perfect spot for water to collect in the hollow bodies. Rot is usually the result, which can damage the reeds to the point where they die. A cut should therefore not be made in autumn or winter. At most, you can cut off discolored leaves of evergreen grasses. But mostly such specimens as, for example, the sedges (Carex). erroneously called reeds and do not belong to the reed family.

spring cut

Spring is generally the optimal and only time when reeds should be cut. Exactly when this is depends on the type/variety and the start of growth of the reed plants. Especially after mild winters, reed grasses often end their hibernation earlier than usual, while others wait for warmer temperatures.

So it may be that the cutting time extends between the end of February and May. Chinese grass should be cut back in April, for example. A pruning once a year is advisable. If this is missed, it usually does not harm the reed grass. But in the second year it should definitely be cut.

Pampas grass in the home garden


If you do not know the type of grass in your garden, you can use the budding as a guide. It is optimal if the cut is done before that, but if you do not know when the growth phase will begin, observe your reeds very closely and at short intervals from March. If the first green appears, you should act immediately or refrain from cutting back this year, but note the growth month for the following year.

cutting delay

Especially with reed grass, which has to be cut early in the spring, it can happen that there are still animals in the hibernation, hibernation or hibernation. Densely overgrown reeds in particular are used as winter quarters by some animals, such as ladybirds or lacewings. Larvae often hang from the stalks of water reeds.

These are mostly animals that are useful for nature because they keep your garden free of many pests in summer. Therefore, before each cut, you should check the reed for any animals and, if there are any, postpone the pruning until the animals have left the roost or refrain from pruning that year altogether.


Before you just start cutting, you should prepare yourself well so that you are optimally equipped. This saves you time and allows you to work without interruptions while protecting your reeds from disease and/or infection transmission.

cutting tool

Which cutting tool you should use depends primarily on the size and density of the reed. Especially near the ground, reeds often show very dense growths, which you can hardly or not at all penetrate with a conventional knife or small pruning shears. A large hedge trimmer or even better, an electric hedge trimmer is ideal here.

Hedge trimmers also have the advantage that the cut can be made quite straight overall. Since you have to use a knife or scissors several times, this is usually not possible with these cutting tools. In addition, you would have to reach too far into the reeds with scissors and knives, which significantly increases the risk of injury, since the leaves and/or stalks of reeds are usually quite sharp-edged. If no (electric) hedge trimmers are available, the scissors and the knife should at least have long cutting blades.

TIP: A pruning shears is an ideal alternative to hedge trimmers. Especially for extremely thick stalks of large reed plants, this is usually even better than a hedge trimmer.


Before you become active with the cutting tool, it should be disinfected. A simple cleaning with washing-up liquid, for example, is not enough. Even if reeds are quite immune to diseases, cutting with infected cutting tools can transmit bacteria, germs and viruses. There are various options available for disinfection that take little time and effort.


  • immerse the cutting tool in 70 or 80 percent alcohol (isopropanol - no alcohol!)
  • the cutting tool remains fully covered in the alcohol for about two minutes
  • then let it air dry
  • do not rub with a cloth
  • after drying, the cutting tool is immediately ready for use

burn down

  • Disinfect cutting blades in a gas flame
  • A Bunsen burner is ideal
  • hold in the lower part of the flame for about five seconds
  • then let it cool down well

disinfection products

It is particularly convenient to use a conventional disinfectant spray, such as that used in the home and for cleaning the bathroom and kitchen, such as Sagrotan. Use as recommended by the manufacturer.


As already mentioned, the leaves and/or the edges of cut stalks of many reed species are very sharp. The leaves in particular can cause cuts like a sharp knife just by grazing them with your hand or arm. For this reason you should always put on gloves and a long-sleeved jacket/sweater before you start cutting. Especially when working with an electric hedge trimmer, small cutting particles can fly through the air, sometimes with enormous speed and force. Therefore, protect your eyes with protective goggles.


The easiest way to cut back tall and bulky reeds is to divide the reeds into individual bundles and separate them by tying them with a ribbon. This gives you a better view of the clippings and you have cut stalks/grasses ready for clean disposal immediately after cutting.

TIP: If you dispose of the clippings in the compost, you should not use a plastic band or something similar that will not rot. For example, hemp ribbon is great for composting and there is no need to re-tie the bundles.


radical cut

As a rule, a so-called radical cut is always carried out on reeds in spring. This means that you cut your reed grass down to near the ground or water if it is in a body of water. When making a radical cut, stick to the following.

  • Cut off bundled stalks one after the other
  • Height of cut about eight to twelve centimeters (a hand's breadth) above the ground/water surface
  • if new green is visible, always set the cutting height above this
  • alternatively, just separate individual stalks around the newly sprouted greenery
  • Always cut vertically

partial cut

In some cases it is necessary and advisable to also cut reeds outside of the optimal cutting time in spring. This is the case, for example, if it is life-threatening due to rot or if too many leaves turn brown/yellow/unsightly due to a possibly incorrectly chosen location or become dry due to "sunburn". Here you should only make partial cuts that relate to the affected plant areas. However, if there is severe rot, you will not be able to avoid a radical cut. Otherwise, only cut off individual leaves and/or stalks.

exorbitant cut

If you don't use root control and a reed will grow too big for you, perhaps even crowding out other plants, should you make a pruning that robs the plant of girth.

You will need a pickaxe or spade for this. Section off the area where you want to narrow your reed grass species and dig deep into the soil there, reaching down to the root area. In this way you divide them and professionally reduce the grass and root circumference.

TIP: You can take the separated root area for propagation and plant it again in another suitable place.

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