Prairie Maintenance #1: Mowing

Published by Houston Chapter on

A question came to NPAT (Native Prairies Association of Texas): “We will be converting some acreage in our parks [to] prairies and wildflower areas… What is the recommended amount of times per year and height… to mow the areas…

Answered by Tim Siegmund of Texas Parks & Wildlife and board member of NPAT

I would agree with the once or twice.  6 or 7 times a year is wayyyyyy too much for any type of prairie in Texas to truly express itself floristically….

I would recommend 6” being absolute lowest they would shred.  It would be better at 8-12”.  This leaves more growing points (buds, leaves, stems) on the vegetation so it can recover and survive. I tell folks that shredding in late February is ok before spring wildflowers begin to lift from their rosettes, and then early July is ok once spring wildflowers are done, and it gives summer and fall wildflowers enough time to recover to bloom again in the fall if they get rain.

As far as untidy that is the in the eye of beholder.  Some would say thickets of Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese privet, Ligustrum, and callary pear are untidy, but that’s what I see when I go to most city parks.  So an untidy native area with lots of bees and butterflies may be of better worth especially with a few interpretive signs to let folks know why it looks the way it does.