Known for the white, feathery plumes, pampas grass add a stunning texture to any outdoor space you plant it in. Pampas grass is an ornamental, large grass that will get up to 10 feet wide and tall. You plant it in the spring, and this fast-growing large grass can actually become invasive if you’re not careful. Pampas grass care is also very easy, and this is why many people love it. Female and male flowers get produced on separate plants, and female pampas grass is most often used in landscape settings because this is the plant with the showier plumes.
Pampas grass care is very straightforward, and you get a huge payoff with how this ornamental grass looks when it’s healthy.
Defining Pampas Grass
Pampas grass is the common name for Cortaderia selloana, and it’s a flowering plant and ornamental native grass that is native to Brazil, Argentina, and other regions in South America. Today, this plant is cultivated worldwide. It’s also a member of the Poaceae family, and pampas grass has close ties to rice, bamboo, and wheat. The flowering plant is easily identifiable by the height, and this varies between 4 and 13 feet, and the group of feathery flower plumes it produces. Pampas grass also has yellow or green saw-toothed blades on the leaves with razor-sharp edges that form tufted clumps that you call tussocks.
As far as planting zones go, pampas grass grows best in zones 7 to 11, but it thrives when you plant it in zone seven. This includes Massachusetts, Alabama, and New York. Under the correct conditions, pampas grass is a low maintenance option that grows quickly and easily. However, many states like pampas grass as an invasive species, and New Zealand and Hawaii have banned it.
Pampas Grass Care – General Guidelines
|Bloom Time:||Summer and fall|
|Botanical Name:||Cortaderia selloana|
|Common Name:||Pampas grass|
|Flower Colors:||Yellow, pink, and white|
|Hardiness Zones:||7 to 10|
|Mature Size:||5 to 10 feet tall and wide|
|Native to:||South America|
|Soil pH:||Neutral or acidic|
|Soil Type:||Moist, loamy, but well-drained|
|Sun Exposure:||Partial to full|
Popular Types of Pampas Grass
There are many types of pampas grass on the market, and the most common types you can get include:
- Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’ – Also called dwarf pampas grass, you can find this cultivar with plumes that range from ivory to yellow. Because it is a more compact type, it tops out at five feet tall. This makes it a nice choice for a container garden.
- Cortaderia selloana ‘Rendatleri’ – This cultivar has pink plumes on them, and it tops out at eight feet tall with the correct pampas grass care.
- Cortaderia selloana‘ Sunningdale Silver’ – As the name suggests, you’ll get silver-hued plumes with this cultivar. They can get up to 10 feet tall, and they’re not as prone to clumping.
When to Plant Pampas Grass
Pampas grass is a perennial, and this means that it goes dormant during the winter months before you’ll see new growth in the early spring months. To grow this dioecious plant for fruit production, you should plant separate female and male plants together to ensure they pollinate.
Once you have viable pampas grass seeds ready to go, you’ll take them indoors and press them into flats or cell packs that have a well-draining soil in the mid-to-late winter months. You want to ensure they get plenty of light and that the temperature range stays between 65 and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. You should transplant the seedlings for the female plants, and this is whichever ones have the fuller plumes that don’t produce seeds during the spring months.
There are types of pampas grass that do well in colder conditions, so you want to match the type to your planting zone to ensure it thrives.
Pampas Grass Care
Pampas grass care is very simple once it’s established and it usually only requires yearly pruning. This hardy grass is very tolerant of drought, wint, and salt spray when planted in coastal areas. It is also resistant to most pests and diseases. By pruning your plant to the ground late in the winter or early in the spring, you’ll keep the surroundings clean and encourage new growth each spring.
However, this plant is highly flammable, so you want to keep it away from outdoor kitchens, structures, or open flame. Because of the rigorous self-seeding nature, it is best to plant sterile plants to reduce the risk of it spreading rapidly around your property.
- HappyDIYHome Warning – Pampas grass will self-seed and grow very quickly. This grass can overtake other vegetation very quickly, and it’s very hard to get rid of once you plant it. Before you plant it, be sure to check and see if it’s invasive in your area as it’s invasive or outright banned in New Zealand and Hawaii, and it’s listed as invasive in Australia and the west coast area in the United States.
Withholding or providing fertilizer won’t break or make this fast-growing grass. If you want to, you can add a well-balanced fertilizer after you prune it in the late winter or early spring to encourage new growth.
Full sun is ideal for pampas grass care, but it can also grow in partial sun conditions. Too much shade can lead to damp soil, and this can cause fungal issues.
Well-draining, moist soil that is very nutrient-rich to keep your pampas grass very happy. The soil’s ability to drain well is key for pampas grass care. Compost is a good soil amendment for the area around your pampas grass because it promotes drainage and enriches the soil at the same time.
Temperature and Humidity
Pampas grass will thrive when you plant it in hot climates. It’s native to South America, and it can easily withstand both high humidity and heat. On the other end of the spectrum, this hardy grass can also withstand some snow and colder winters.
Pampas grass is very tolerant to drought, and established grasses should get more than enough water from natural rainfall unless you have extreme drought. For new plants, you want to water them deeply right after you plant them. Also, you may want to water intermittently from the first few months to ensure that your grass gets enough water to establish a root system. After this, rainfall will give them more than enough water.
Pruning Pampas Grass
You should prune your pampas grass once a year as part of your pampas grass care routine. You’ll prune to keep the area clean and encourage new, healthy growth. In the later winter months or early spring, prune this grass right to the ground level. Be sure that you wear protective gear as you do so as the blades are very sharp. Eye protection, gloves, and long sleeves and pants are important.
You can prune your pampas grass and keep the plumes for decorative elements in your home when it dries.
Propagating Pampas Grass
Propagating pampas grass is very easy when you use division, and you do so by:
- Once you prune the plant to the ground level, you’ll use a sharp shovel to divide the plant and the root system.
- Slowly dig around the separated clump until you can remove the clump cleanly from the ground.
- Fill in the hole and transfer the divided plant to its own space. If you plant it near existing ornamental grasses, you’ll space them six to eight feet apart to give them enough room to grow
How to Grow Pampas Grass From Seed
You can also easily grow pampas grass from seed using the following steps:
- Cover the seeds lightly with a rich, well-draining potting soil.
- Cover the seed pots with plastic domes or plastic bags.
- Place the pots in an area that gets indirect but bright light.
- Wait for germination; this can take up to three weeks.
- When the seedlings are large enough to safely handle, repot them into bigger containers.
- When the seedlings start to get a bushy look, plant them outside after the final frost of the season comes and goes.
Potting and Repotting Pampas Grass
Even though it can grow quite large with good pampas grass care, you can keep it in containers, especially when you get dwarf varieties. Because of the big size, it’s best to pick out a bigger container that allows for plenty of room for growth. When the pampas grass fills the pot, you’ll either transition the plant to a bigger pot or divide the clump. To transition it out, you’ll tip the grass on its side and tap the outside of the pot until the roots come out. Put it in a new pot and fill it with a well-draining, rich soil. Whichever container you pick out, be sure you have drainage holes to prevent any issues with standing water.
Overwintering Pampas Grass
These hardy ornamental grasses don’t require much attention to do well over the winter months. In fact, they do best when you leave them on their own until it’s time to prune them in late winter or early spring. Leaving the foliage on the plant will give it a natural protective layer. Also, you may wish to add an extra layer of mulch to insulate it from the cold or freezing temperatures.
Just like other pampas grass care elements, overwintering the grass is low-maintenance as all you have to do is cut it back to the ground and leave it be.
3 Top Tips for Pampas Grass Care
Below, you’ll find a few great tips for pampas grass care to help keep your plant healthy and thriving:
- Propagate – After roughly five years, your female pampas grass will require propagation to keep it healthy. Propagating your pampas grass will require you to cut the plant’s stalk down to the roots to show the new shoots in your old plant. Remove the remains of your old plant and replant the young shoots to the same depth. Once you do, water it deeply and keep the soil moist until the new plant takes off.
- Prune – Pampas grass grows very quickly. So, to keep it under control, prune the grass stalk to the ground with gardening shears in late winter or early spring. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and gloves to protect yourself from the sharp foliage.
- Water – Pampas grass care is a very low-maintenance project when it comes to watering it. Once they’ve fully established themselves, they’ll only need the water they get from natural rainfall, unless you’re under drought conditions.
Pampas grass care is very straightforward, and for the more busy gardeners who don’t have a lot of time to care for them but want something ornamental in the landscape. You can take this guide and use it to keep your pampas grass thriving and healthy.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.