How to Dig Up Ornamental Grass

Designing your yard’s landscape is one of the most enjoyable parts of homeownership, and choosing decorative grass is one way to add accents to your garden. These tall, colorful grasses fill vertical space, create focal points, and add texture to the yard. Many people plant these around doors and windows of the house, in garden areas, and along fences.

When these beautiful plants meet your growth expectations and make their statement, it’s a matter of time before they have overgrown the doors and windows and are popping up nearby in the lawn and garden.

Attentive maintenance is important to keep these types of grass under control, but sometimes the best thing to do is remove them, especially if they’re several years old. Healthy specimens can be dug up to transplant and propagate them.

Types Of Ornamental Grass

Types Of Ornamental Grass

Many types of ornamental grasses can be chosen to give any height, texture, and color to your yard. These grasses are large species that can grow to mature heights ranging from 4 to 10 feet and produce flowery heads. Some popular tall ornamental grasses include:

  • Karl Foerster Grass – This ornamental grass grows to about 6 feet and is a perennial grass that will live from spring to fall. It thrives in temperate and warm areas, and the grass’ tall, firm blades and tufted tips grow in small groups from a clump-style root system.
  • Pampas Grass – Pampas grass is a warm-season grass that naturally grows up to 10 feet tall. This grass also grows in clumping groups between 6 and 10 feet wide. These large groups of grass need enough space to grow to full width, and they give a soft, windswept look at maturity.
  • Zebra Grass – This is a popular choice to give an interesting and exotic addition to your yard. Named for its striped blades and tail-like tufts, zebra grass grows up to 6 feet and will stay year-round. The perennial will sprout in spring, thrive in summer, and the dry stalks will remain standing all winter, helping to insulate the clumped roots.
  • Fountain Grass – Fountain grasses are a kind of ornamental warm-season species that will grow up to 4 or 5 feet tall and sit in a spray formation with thin leaves and stalks with fuzzy tops. This grass also grows in groups of clumped roots about 4 feet wide and grows in beige, white, and purple tuft varieties.

Many ornamental grasses are not native to North America. They are characterized as invasive since they will grow and spread easily in an ecosystem with favorable growing conditions but aren’t adapted to accommodate the foreign grass. These species don’t pose much of a problem when contained, but some types can spread and grow in areas you didn’t designate for them.

Does Ornamental Grass Have Deep Roots?

Most ornamental grass is planted for its height and attractive flowers, and these tall grasses typically have deeper roots than shorter turf grass. Their clump-style roots reach down rather than spread out, providing a stable hold to the ground for their tall blades and stalks.

Some shorter types of ornamental grasses have shallow roots that spread horizontally by shoots off of their roots rather than seeds like the tall, flowering grasses do. Grass that reproduces by rhizomes, or the surface-level root extensions, are great for lawns since they will spread to fill any space they can.

Spreader-type ornamentals include Ribbon Grass and Blue Lymegrass, both of which are comparatively shorter than other ornamental grasses, growing up to 3 or 4 feet. These should be contained by dividers to prevent spreading into other parts of the yard.

Can Ornamental Grass Be Moved?

Can Ornamental Grass Be Moved

Ornamental grass can be moved when you dig up a healthy, mature grouping of grass. Taking care not to damage the center roots, you can use a sharp shovel to dig around a clump of roots, making sure to dig deep enough under the roots to not sever them completely.

When transplanting ornamental grass or any kind of plant, keeping the soil and roots below the greenery intact and in a ball shape will make for easier replanting when digging a hole and place the root ball in.

How To Remove Ornamental Grass Roots

Whether you’re removing them to transplant or because the ornamental grass is invading the lawn, has grown too big, or is too old and not growing well anymore, removing ornamental grass from its location isn’t a very complicated task.

To prepare the grass to be dug out, use hedge trimmers or shears to cut the grass down closer to the ground. If you’re transplanting, leave around 8 inches of grass to replant. If you’re getting rid of the plant, you can cut it down to 2 inches for easier removal.

Before you dig into the ground, watering the soil for a few minutes will help the soil hold together better, and the shovel will enter more easily to break up the roots. For clumping grass roots, break them up when you dig them out. This makes for easy transportation to transplant or dispose of these sometimes very wide groups of roots.

Clearing The Soil Of Ornamental Grass

Fountain Grass

For total removal of an ornamental grass from a spot, you should wait until the end of its growing season or right before the grass begins to sprout. Root systems of ornamental grasses are robust, and when pieces of the roots are left in the soil, they may regrow when conditions are right.

To make sure the grass roots are destroyed, some homeowners choose to use a post-emergent herbicide like roundup to kill ornamental grasses, which will be absorbed by the stems and roots of the existing grass, and the dead plant can then be dug up. Killing ornamental grass with vinegar is also an option if you don’t want to use a chemical herbicide to destroy the roots.

Since spreader grasses have more widespread root systems, using a herbicide and breaking the roots up with your sharp shovel will help ensure these grasses are effectively removed. Spot-removing these is much more difficult than ornamental grass groups with clumping, consolidated roots.


Author: Matt Hagens

Hi, I’m Matt the owner of Obsessed Lawn. I love to be outside working on my lawn, planning my next project. I created this website to help people like you find the best products for yard care and great advice. Learn more about me and find me on Facebook.