Purple Pampas Grass Plant Profile

This Tall and Graceful Perennial Can be Highly Invasive

Pinkish tufts of grass on tall thin stalks.
Purple pampas grass is usually closer to being a pale pink mauve color.

Alan King / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Purple pampas grass is a tall, graceful perennial that can add some dramatic form and even privacy to the garden landscape. Despite its name, it's not exactly purple, it is also known as "pink pampas grass", and its color can vary. Sometimes in catalogs, photos of purple pampas grass are manipulated to make the plant look a particular shade of purple, magenta or lavender. But depending on how particular you are about color palettes in your garden, expect the color of this grass's tufts to be closer to a sort of pinkish mauve, or a pink-tinged ivory color.

This plant is related to a smaller variety of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) but this version can grow much taller, as high as twenty feet tall, so be prepared for a plant that can overwhelm small spaces or beds.

The important thing to note before considering growing purple pampas grass is that it's a very aggressive plant and is considered a problematic invasive species in many areas now. It has had years of naturalizing in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and parts of the United States, especially California, where it grows in warm grassland areas and along roadsides.

It can grow in many different habitats and is particularly threatening to coastal dunes where it can eradicate endangered plant species. An invasive species that is small is one thing, but a twenty-foot tall clump of invasive grass is quite another.

It's only recommended to grow this on your property if you have plenty of space for it to spread. Planting it in a garden bed means it will eventually overtake the entire bed, crowding out other plants and creating hard to remove root systems.

However, purple pampas grass is not very cold hardy (it may survive to Zone 6 with winter protection), so it's possible to grow it as an annual in colder zones without worry about it's being overly invasive

Scientific Name Cortaderia jubata
Common Name Purple pampas grass, Andean pampas grass
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size  Up to 20 feet
Sun Exposure  Full sun
Soil Type  Rocky, clay, sandy, moist
Soil pH  Tolerant of most soils
Bloom Time Color appears in summer
Flower Color  Pink to purple tufts
Hardiness Zones  USDA 7 to 11 
Native Areas  South America
Toxicity  Non-toxic
Pink-purple tufts of grass bending over green stalks
Before the turn "fluffy" purple pampas grass has tufted tops with shiny seed-bearing stems. shkawamoto / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Purple Pampas Grass in the Landscape

This plant can look very imposing with its tall fronts and fluffy tops that wave in the breeze. If you have a large area, planting purple pampas grass as a sort of divider or privacy hedge can be a good use for it.

It can be easily mowed around so it makes a good specimen landscape to mark space in a large lawn. The grassy clump can be cut back to ground level in late fall to make way for new spring growth or can be left for winter interest if desired. In this case, it would be cut back in early spring before new growth forms.

The Invasive Nature of Purple Pampas Grass

If you live in a zone where this plant perennializes (warmer than Zone 6), be aware it not only spreads as the root system gets larger but also propagates by seed. It can be highly invasive, and, once established, this plant can be difficult to eradicate as the root system is very thick and tough.

Other Issues with Purple Pampas Grass in Gardens

This plant has other considerations beyond its invasive growing tendencies. The grass has sharp edges that can make cutting it or moving it somewhat dangerous. In some cases, the "fluff" that blows from the grass at the end of the growing season can cause respiratory distress, especially in densely-populated areas. This is an important consideration when deciding whether to plant purple pampas grass in urban settings.

Purple Pampas Growing Conditions

If you do decide to plant purple pampas grass, it isn't very fussy about soil. It prefers a well-drained variety but will tolerate clay and rocky soils.

It prefers a decent amount of moisture but can be drought-tolerant. It's also tolerant of salt, so it often flourishes in coastal areas and by roadsides, where many other salt-sensitive kinds of grass can't survive.

While it prefers full sun, purple pampas grass can do just as well with partial shade. It doesn't need any special fertilizer, and, like many plants with invasive tendencies, it's immune to most pests and diseases.

Indeed, the practical definition of an invasive plant species is one that doesn't have any natural predators or common disease problems, which can allow it to spread more aggressively and quickly. This is one of the reasons why removing plants from their native areas can be problematic. The natural predators (insects, wildlife, etc.) in the plant's original location may not be present in a location it's moved to.

To avoid the aggressive spread of this invasive plant, remember to only grow it as an annual, or, less preferably, only grow as a perennial where it has plenty of room to spread.