Pampas grass: Everything you need to know

Pampas grass has become a favorite ornamental plant to grow in gardens. It has white feathery flowers that serve as the plant’s most eye-capturing feature, and its leaves look elegant from afar and can sway in any direction to the slightest breeze.

People plant pampas grass around their fences because it is tall and can offer some privacy. In addition, the plant is easy to grow and can last up to ten years in an area without much maintenance.

But before you can plant the grass, you need to know more about it. You should know how to grow the grass seed and whether the plant will do well in your area.

Origin and growing zones

Pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana, is a species of a large perennial flowering plant that is native to South America. It grows in the wetlands of Argentina, Chile, and Southern Brazil and typically thrives in damp soils.

In the USA, pampas grass grows in USDA Zones 8-12. When the plant is mature, it can reach up to 13 feet tall and six feet wide.

During the summer, it produces silvery-white plumes that beautify the environment as an ornamental.

What are the features of pampas grass?

Pampas grass is a perennial plant that can grow to a height of up to 13 feet. It has long, sharped-edged leaves that fold at the midvein to form a thick tuft.

It forms feathery seeds and silvery flower clusters about three feet long and resembles a plume as the plant grows.

Pampas grass bears both male and female flowers on different plants. However, the female plants have broad and full plumes because of their silky hairs and are much more stylish than the male flowers.

Types of pampas grass

Pampas grass flowers
Pampas grass with white feathery flowers. Image: Flickr/Greg Bradbury

The scientific name for pampas grass is Cortaderia, and the family name is Poaceae. However, most of these grasses fall into the species called selloana and come in at least 25 varieties.

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Furthermore, many plant species use the name pampas grass, including:

  • Dwarf Pampas Grass – The dwarf pampas grass only grows to a height of around 5 feet and flowers in various colors from ivory to pale yellow.
  • Pink Feather – The pink feather can grow up to eight feet high. It has rosy pink flowers and clumps together tightly when growing.
  • Purple Pampas Grass – The purple pampas grass has pink to purple flowers when young and becomes white or ivory once matured.
  • Silver Fountain – The silver fountain is a white pampas grass with densely clumped green leaves and silky, silvery flowers. Its leaves have a white silver stripe and can grow up six inches wide.
  • Silver Stripe – The silver stripe has white stripes on its leaves, and its flowers are feathery with a silver sheen.
  • Sunningdale Silver – The Sunningdale silver has silvery flowers and less dense pannicles. It can grow up to ten feet in height. But unlike other types, this variety does not form clumps when growing.

Another type of pampas grass is the Splendid Star that features golden-streaked leaves and fluffy white pannicles. The plant grows to a height of around five feet.

How to grow pampas grass

You can grow pampas grass in pots or along the yard to fence your home. The methods may be different, but the concept is the same. Here is what to do:

Select a location with lots of sunlight

The grass needs a lot of sunlight to grow well. Therefore, choose a spot that will get at least five hours of direct sunlight daily.

Prepare the soil

Pampas grass grows well in rich, moist, and well-drained soil. You can add some mulch or fertilizer to help in soil drainage.

Plant the seeds

Plant the seeds in a hole that is ten inches deep. If you want to fence your garden or home, ensure to space the seeds four-six feet between each plant to allow room for growth.

You can get seeds from your local store or online from Amazon.

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Water the ground

After planting the seeds, water the area deeply. Watering ensures the soil settles and allows the seeds to establish some roots.

Understand that you can grow pampas grass in pots if you prefer to use it as décor. In that case:

  • Choose a big pot to grow the grass.
  • Fill the pot with lots of rich, moist, and well-drained soil.
  • Choose a sunny location where the wind will not destroy the plant.
  • Plant the seeds.
  • Water the container thoroughly.

Avoid planting pampas grass during the winter because the cold temperatures and less sunlight will kill it.

The ideal temperatures for growing pampas grass should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

How to care for pampas grass

pampas grass in a landscape
Beautiful landscaping with pampas grass. Image: Pinterest/Ariaamos

The advantage of pampas grass is it does not require too much care once established. But here is what to do:

  • Water the plant thoroughly during extreme drought.
  • Fertilize the plant during its earliest stages of growth. However, this is optional.
  • Prune pampas grass to the ground each year, especially in late winter and early spring.

If the grass has been growing in your backyard for at least three years, consider propagating it for it to remain healthy.

The old plant will have new shoots after this period. Therefore, cut its stalk down to the roots until you see the new shoots. You will then have to transfer the remains by replanting the young shoots.

When replanting, dig a hole that is at the same depth. Water thoroughly and ensure the soil remains moist until the new plant thrives.

You don’t have to dispose of the grass you’ve just removed from your garden. Let it sit in the sun for a few days until the stalks dry up.

You can use the dried grass in flower arrangements and other decorative pieces.

Is pampas grass good for privacy?

Pampas grass is very good for privacy. It can grow to a height of up to ten feet tall and six feet wide, providing a beautiful fence.

As the plant grows, it forms enormous clumps that can hide specific sections of a home or garden.

Furthermore, it has sharp-edged leaves and stiff stems. That means it can serve well as a fence or living hedge.

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Why is pampas grass bad?

Pampas grass may not be bad if used for beauty and privacy. However, the plant is invasive and can destroy all other surrounding plants and cause low biodiversity.

A single plant can produce up to one million seeds over the plant’s lifetime. If unchecked, it can invade your entire yard. That is why the grass is illegal in some areas.

Is pampas grass invasive?

pampas grass
Image: Pinterest

Pampas grass is an invasive plant. The plant becomes invasive when grown outside of its native range, especially in North America, Europe, and New Zealand.

Once the grass invades an area, it outgrows and displaces native plants. As a result, it creates a habitat that is lower in biodiversity.

If not controlled well, especially in open areas like cliffs, roadsides, and river banks, the invaded grounds will not support other plant life.

We’ve created this guide to help you control or get rid of pampas grass.

Is pampas grass illegal in the USA?

Pampas grass is illegal in some parts of the United States. The plant can only grow in USDA Zones 8-12.

However, it is unlawful to plant pampas grass in Hawaii because of its invasiveness.

Is pampas grass toxic to dogs?

Pampas grass is non-toxic. Therefore, it will not harm any animals when they come into contact with it, including dogs.

However, dogs (humans too) should not ingest the plant because it may cause uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, depression, and vomiting.

Also, note that the grass does not have any medicinal uses.

Conclusion

Pampas grass is an ornamental plant grown at home for beauty and privacy. But the grass is also invasive and can outgrow and displace native plants.

In the USA, the grass grows in zones 8-12, but it is illegal in Hawaii. When planting the grass, ensure the soil is moist and well-drained.

Also, the temperatures should be between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The best way of taking care of the plant is to prune it every year and water it during extreme droughts.

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