Pampas Grass: Planting, Care, and Maintenance

Pampas grass (botanical name: Cortaderia selloana) is the common name for a flowering plant native to the southern parts of South America, specifically the pampas regions. The grass is quite popular in ornamental landscaping for its tall airy blooms that come in different colors, having won the Award of Garden Merit from the British Royal Horticultural Society. Although the name ‘pampas grass’ ideally only refers to the Cortaderia selloana species, in gardening, the name is used for identifying other species and cultivars from the Cortaderia genus.

Pampas Grass

Types and Varieties of Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

1. ‘Gold Band’ Pampas

Characterized by golden or yellow stripes along its leaf blades, it is a slow-growing evergreen grass that grows up to 6 feet. Well-suited for growing in a container.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Gold Band Pampas Grass

2. ‘Andes Silver’ Pampas

Characterized by silver-white flower heads that appear in fall, the grass can reach up to 7 feet in height.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10

Andes Silver Pampas Grass

3. ‘Pumila’ Pampas

Also called the ‘dwarf’ pampas, it grows 3-6 feet in height, with the short stems producing cream-white broad feathery plumes.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10

Pumila Pampas Grass

4. ‘Sundale Silver’ Pampas

Growing as tall as 10 feet in height, its large silvery white flower heads can even tolerate mild to moderate rainfall. It may also be sold as the ‘sunningdale silver’ pampas

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Sundale Silver Pampas Grass

5. ‘Pink Feather’ Pampas

Growing up to 8 feet, it has stunning feathery flowers with a distinct pink hue. The tightly-clumped bloom appears around mid-summer, and stays till autumn.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Pink Feather Pampas Grass

6. ‘Silver Fountain’ Pampas

Characterized by dense long green foliage, it grows 4-5 feet tall with silvery white flowers appearing late in summer.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-10

Silver Fountain Pampas Grass

7. ‘Splendid Star’ Pampas

With a hardy nature and bright golden-striped leaves, this dwarf pampas variety is suitable for growing in containers. The small, white flower heads of this pampas are good for dried flowers as well.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Splendid Star Pampas Grass

8. ‘Monvin’/’Sun Stripe’ Pampas

It can grow up to 6-7 feet, with multiple yellow stripes running along its leaf blades. Silky silvery-white flowers appear in fall.

Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Sun Stripe Pampas Grass

9. ‘Patagonia’ Pampas

It produces a unique gray-green foliage with a bluish hue, with the plant reaching 6-7 feet in height. The flowers are silver-white, growing in fall.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 8-10

Patagonia Pampas Grass

10. ‘Silver Comet’ Pampas

More popular for its striking foliage than its flowers, its leaves have characteristic white ridges along the edges. The plant grows up to 5-7 feet, with white flowers which are often removed to enhance the appearance of the leaves.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Silver Comet Pampas Grass

11. ‘Bertini’ Pampas

Having a compact foliage and creamy white flowers, it is one of the shorter varieties, growing around 4 feet.

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-8

Bertini Pampas Grass

12. ‘Rosea’/Pink Pampas

Growing 6-7 feet tall, this is another pampas variety with pink flowers that appear in summer. It has long leaf blades with sharp edges.

Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Rosea Pampas Grass

Other Pampas Species

‘Purple Pampas Grass’/‘Andean Pampas Grass’ (Cortaderia jubata)

One of the non-selloana members of the Cortaderia genus, the purple pampas can grow up to 20 feet or more, with flowers that start out with a pinkish or purple tinge, becoming white when mature. It is considered a weed in many places, hence not preferred for gardening.

Hardiness zone: 6-10

Purple Pampas Grass

Things to Know Before Introducing Pampas in Your Garden

Considered a weed in some regions: Check with your local authorities to make sure that you are allowed to introduce the grass in your area (it appears in a USDA invasive plant list). As this grass spreads through its deep traveling roots, as well as through self-sowing seeds, it is almost impossible to stop them from growing and spreading once established. However, you can check with your seller to get the sterile dwarf hybrids that do not seed further once mature.

Infamous for giving a bad reputation: Lately, having pampas grass in the front garden, especially when grown in a central location, has been associated with ‘swinger’ behavior in the owner of the house. This actually led to a considerable drop in their popularity in ornamental gardening. However, it is gradually gaining its demand back but is now grown more strictly as borders.

Not suitable for indoor gardening: The tall grass, with its sharp-edged leaf blades, is not considered a good option for growing indoors.

Pampas Grass Size Image

Beware of inferior-quality seeds: Make sure to get them from a reliable garden supply store, especially when buying seeds for the colored varieties. Online stores may offer seeds for unusual color variants, like blue and red pampas grass. These are often promoted with fake pictures, but such colors of pampas do not exist, and the seeds do not even sprout.

Growing Pampas Grass: Care and Maintenance

As it is considered a hardy invasive grass, it would not take much hard work to get them established in your garden. But controlling their growth to keep them within their boundaries might take a little consideration.

Planting and Propagation of the Seeds

What do Pampas Grass Seeds Look Like

Since pampas has female as well as androgynous plants, the seeds need both to be viable for germination. This is why it is recommended to buy the seeds from a reputed supply store, rather than collecting them from other plants as the latter may fail to germinate.

It is better to use cell packs for these seeds, instead of sowing them directly in the ground.

  1. Plant in any well-drained soil (not-too dry though) by just pressing the seeds into the soil surface, taking care not cover them completely as they need light.
  2. Water slightly to help the seeds get well-established in the soil.

Best time to plant the seeds: Mid-winter

Ideal temperature for germination: 65°F to 75°F

Time needed to germinate: 15 to 30 days

Transplanting the Seedlings

How to Plant Pampas Grass

They can be transplanted once 3-4 inches tall. You need to keep a distance of at least 6 feet between each plant, which is another reason why this grass is suitable for the borders. It also keeps your house and other structures safe, as the flower heads can pose a fire hazard.

  1. Pick a well-lit area and prepare the soil by draining well, and tilling with good quality organic compost.
  2. The holes dug for transplanting should be as deep as, and twice as wide as the original container.
  3. Plant the seedlings in the holes and water thoroughly to help them establish.
  4. Spreading a 2-3 inch thick layer of bark mulch around the new plants may be a good idea to help in moisture retention as well as weed-prevention. Make sure not to put the mulch too close to the pampas stems.

Other Care Requirements

Watering: During the first growing season, water the plants as frequently as needed to keep the soil moist. Take care not to overwater, as pampas doesn’t like flooded conditions. Once mature, the plants do not need regular watering anymore as they are quite drought-tolerant. Occasional watering in the summer, when the soil gets too dry, may still help.

Pampas Grass Plant Care

Fertilization: Fertilize 2 to 3 times during the first year of growth. After that, the plants can do quite well with little or no fertilization. Providing a high-quality garden fertilizer once a year, preferably during springtime, can help with the after-winter growth, also producing more striking flowers.

Sunlight: Being a hardy grass, pampas can grow in both full sun and partial shade. However, too much shade may interfere with the growth of the flowers. Around 6 hours of sunlight daily is ideal.

White Pampas Grass Picture

How fast does pampas grass grow to produce flowers

In most varieties, it takes about 2-3 years for the first bloom, with the flowers appearing around summer.

Pruning Your Pampas

It may grow as an evergreen grass in warmer regions, but in colder areas, most of the foliage dries and fades during winter. Late winter or early spring is the best time for trimming the older foliage and encourage fresh growth. The evergreen varieties may also benefit from a yearly pruning to keep them in shape. Rodents and other garden animals may nest at the base of tall established pampas, so it might be a good idea to poke the area before starting pruning.

Use a powerful weed trimmer to cut the overgrown grass down, leaving around 6-8 inches of foliage so they can grow back again from there. After pruning, the clumps of the grass stems may be divided and planted elsewhere.

Pampas Grass Pruning

Make sure to wear clothes that cover your hands and legs entirely, and also wear thick gardening gloves to protect yourself from the sharp edges of the grass.

Once the plant has been trimmed down, apply a couple handfuls of an 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 fertilizer to the plant base. Burning down the dry parts instead of pruning used to be a common practice, but is not done anymore as it may actually damage the crown.

Despite being quite hardy, some gardeners in cold, or flood-prone regions have claimed that their pampas never grew back after the first winter. It may happen due to extremely unsuitable growing conditions. Usually, there is some green left around the base, even when the rest may dry up during winter, which proves the plant is alive.

What if Your Pampas is Not Producing Flowers

Sometimes, when grown in a well-maintained flower garden, there may be too much nitrogen or too little phosphorus in the soil from garden fertilizers. Such soil conditions often inhibit normal growth of ornamental grasses. Application of some high phosphorus fertilizer can work to balance both the high nitrogen and low phosphorus levels. Bone meal may be a good option for this purpose.

Pampas Grass Diseases and Growth Problems

Being a weed, pampas is bothered by few diseases and pests. As already mentioned, insects and rodents may try to build their home around the stems, but they do not usually eat the plants.

Constant humidity may be harmful, causing root rot. In such cases, the whole plant needs to be uprooted and the damaged stem has to be cut away. The root ball may be planted again after drying, in a well-drained area.

Another potential problem is fungal infections like helminthosporium, causing leaf spots. Use any quality fungicide to deal with these problems in the early stage, so the damage remains minimal.

Pampas In Ornamental Gardening: Uses and Features

Being sturdy perennials, pampas can be a good choice of ornamental grass, serving both aesthetically and functionally. When grown in a controlled way, the flower heads give your garden a majestic look, while their height can provide some privacy in your garden.

Pampas Grass Adding Color to Your Garden

A single file of pampas grass looks nice as a hedge for small gardens, while those with a large garden area may combine it with some feather grass varieties to produce an airy sea-side look. It also complements plants having bright colored foliage, like forest pansy. Additionally, the flowers, when dried, cut and bundled together, make a great addition to dry flower arrangements.

Can Pampas be Toxic

It is not known to be toxic to either humans or pets.

Approximate Cost for the Seeds

A 25-seed packet usually costs between $2-$4 for most popular types of pampas.

by | Updated: September 10, 2018

2 thoughts on “Pampas Grass: Planting, Care, and Maintenance

  1. FK says:

    can the dried grass stems that are cut off at the end of the season be used for animal bedding?

    1. gMandy says:

      yes, they are not harmful in general, so long as the grass was healthy.

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