Famous for its unmistakable feathery white plumes, pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) adds beautiful texture to outdoor spaces. Pampas grass is a large, ornamental grass, growing up to 10 feet high and wide. Planted in the spring, these large grasses are very fast growers and can quickly become invasive. Male and female flowers are produced on separate plants. Female pampas grass is most often seen because of its showier plumes.
|Botanical Name||Cortaderia selloana|
|Common Name||Pampas grass|
|Mature Size||5-10 ft. tall, 5-10 ft. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Loamy, moist but well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Pink, yellow, white|
|Hardiness Zones||7-10, USA|
|Native Area||South America|
Pampas Grass Care
Pampas grass is simple to maintain once established and often only requires yearly pruning. This hardy grass is tolerant of wind, drought, and salt spray from coastal areas. It is also resistant to most diseases and pests. By pruning the plant to the ground in late winter or early spring, you will keep its surroundings clear and encourage new growth each season.
This plant is highly flammable, so it is best to keep it away from structures, outdoor cooking areas, or open flames. Because of its rigorous self-seeding nature, it may be best to plant a sterile plant to reduce the risk of rampantly spreading pampas grass around your property.
Pampas grass grows quickly and readily self-seeds. This grass can quickly overtake other vegetation and is very hard to get rid of once planted. Before planting, be sure to find out whether this plant is listed as invasive in your area. It is listed as invasive in Australia, New Zealand, and throughout the west coast region of the United States.
Full sun is ideal for this grass, though it can grow in partial sun as well. Too much shade can lead to soil that is too damp, which can cause fungal problems.
Moist, well-draining soil that is rich in nutrients will keep pampas grass very happy. The soil’s ability to drain well is key for healthy pampas grass. Compost is a good soil amendment for area with pampas grass, since it enriches the soil and promotes drainage.
Pampas grass is drought tolerant. Established grasses should receive plenty of water from natural rainfall unless there is an extreme drought. For new plants, water them deeply right after planting. You may wish to water intermittently for the first few months to ensure that your grass receives enough water. After this, natural rainfall will provide all the water this plant needs.
Temperature and Humidity
Pampas grass thrives in hot climates. Native to South America, these grasses withstand both heat and high humidity. On the other hand, these hardy grasses can also withstand cold winters and even some snow.
Providing or withholding fertilizer will not make or break these fast-growing grasses. If you wish, add a well-balanced fertilizer after pruning in the late winter or early spring to encourage new growth.
Types of Pampas Grass
There are several varieties of pampas grass.
- Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’: Also known as dwarf pampas grass, this cultivator can be found with plumes that range from pale yellow to ivory. Because it is a compact variety, it grows up to five feet tall. This makes it a great choice for containers.
- Cortaderia selloana ‘Sunningdale Silver’: As suggested by its name, this variety sports silver plumes. They grow up to 10 feet tall and are not as prone to clumping.
- Cortaderia selloana ‘Rendatleri’: This "pink feather" cultivator is famous for its stunningly pink plumes and grows up to eight feet tall.
Pruning should be done once a year to keep the area clean and to encourage new growth. In the late winter or early spring, prune these grasses right to the ground. Be sure to wear protective gear, as the blades of grass are very sharp. Gloves, eye protection, and long pants and sleeves are important.
Propagating Pampas Grass
Propagating pampas grass is easily done by division. Here is how:
- After pruning the plant to the ground, use a sharp shovel to divide through the plant and its root system.
- Slowly dig around the separated clump until you can remove the clump from the ground.
- Fill in the hole and transfer the divided plant to its own area. If planted near existing grasses, space six to eight feet apart to allow sufficient room for growth.
How to Grow Pampas Grass From Seed
Pampas grass can easily be grown from seeds. Follow these steps:
- Cover seeds lightly with well-draining, rich soil.
- Cover the pots with plastic bags or plastic domes.
- Place the pots in an area with bright, indirect light.
- Germination should occur in about three weeks.
- When the seedlings are large enough to handle, repot them into larger pots.
- When they begin to take on a bushy appearance, plant them outdoors after all threat of frost is gone.
Potting and Repotting Pampas Grass
Though it can grow to be quite large, pampas grass can be kept in containers, especially the dwarf varieties. Because of its large size, it’s best to choose a large container with plenty of room for growth. When the pampas grass fills the pot, either divide the clump or transition the plant to a larger pot. To do this, tip the grass onto its side and tap the outside of the pot until the roots come free.
Place in its new pot and fill it in with rich, well-draining soil. Whatever pot you choose, be sure there are drainage holes to prevent any standing water.
These hardy plants do not require much attention to survive the winter. In fact, they do the best when left alone until it’s time to prune in late winter or early spring. Leaving the foliage will create a natural protective layer for the plant. Additionally, you may wish to add an extra layer of mulch to help insulate the plant.