Growing sugarcane can be fun in the home garden. There are some great varieties that make for good decorative landscaping, but these plants also produce actual sugar. To enjoy a pretty plant and a sweet treat, know when and how to cut and prune your sugarcane.
Do You Need to Prune Sugarcane?
Sugarcane is a perennial grass, so if you’re wondering does sugarcane need to be pruned like a tree or shrub, the answer is technically no. However, if you want your sugarcane to look nice, pruning is a good way to do it. These large grasses can grow quite unruly, with side shoots and leaves. Sugarcane pruning can also concentrate growth on the main cane, which is what you will harvest for sugar.
When to Cut Sugarcane
You can prune or cut your sugarcane at any time you want, but if you are hoping to get sugar out of it, put off cutting until as late in the season as possible. This allows the sugar to develop fully in the cane. Late fall is the best time to cut and harvest sugarcane, but if you live somewhere with a winter frost, you have to do it before the first frost or you run the risk of letting them die. It’s a balance that depends on your location and climate. For pruning to shape and keep your plant healthy, any time is fine to prune, but spring and summer are best.
Harvesting and Cutting Back Sugarcane
To prune sugarcane, simply remove side shoots and leaves in the spring and summer as the canes grow. This can help them look neater if you are using canes as a decorative feature. If you have canes that have grown out of control, you can cut them all the way back to just about a foot (31 cm.) from the ground. In the fall, when you harvest sugarcane, make the cut as low to the ground as possible. There is more sugar concentrated in the lowest part of the cane. Once you cut the cane into small pieces, you can remove the outer layer with a sharp knife. What you’re left with is sweet and delicious. Suck the sugar right from it, or use the cane pieces to make syrup, tropical drinks, or even rum.
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Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.
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