Growing pampas grass – the beginner’s guide
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We have talked about a lot of grasses on this website and what comes to mind when you think about ornamental grass? well, most think of ornamental grasses, think of the tall, feathery tipped grasses swaying in the wind. They think of pampas grass. Pampas grass produces the creamy, white plumes that take on the appearance of feathers atop larger clumps of foliage. There are some varieties with pink plumes available too such as Cortaderia selloana ‘Rosea’. Regardless of colour, this ornamental grass is a popular addition to any landscape not just because of its appearance but because of its easy maintenance.
The most common varieties such as pampas grass ‘Patagonia’ grow to 8ft but what most people don’t realise is you can get dwarf varieties that grow to around 1 to 1.5 meter tall such as pampas grass ‘Pumila’. We recently talked about this variety in an article on the best evergreen grasses for containers here
How to grow pampas grass
The first thing you need to know is the size. As already mentioned, pampas grass can get 1-3 metres wide and tall, so you should only plant it somewhere there is enough room to grow for the variety you choose, better yet choose a variety to suit the area you have available. If you are planting more than one, you want to give them at least 1-2 metres of space between each plant, don’t forget you will need to get right around the plant to prune them and keep the tidy.
Pampas grass prefers full sunlight but can be grown in partial shade but we would always plant in full sun if possible to get the best out of it. It likes moist, well-drained soil and is otherwise tolerant of all soil types which is a good thing. You will find it commonly grown along the coast because of its tolerance for salt sprays, wind, and drought.
You can also grow it in containers, but again, given the size of most varieties, it might be a bit impractical and best for large raised flower beds or directly in the ground. Don’t forget if you only have limited space and have no option but to plant one in a pot, choose a good-sized pot and use a variety such as pampas grass ‘Pumila’ which are classed as a dwarf in pampas grass terms but they will still reach 5ft.
Pampas grass care
Once your pampas grass is established, it requires very little care other than watering for the first few months until established and in the event that your area experience periods of drought. Annually it requires some pruning, which is something to do carefully. You can, with clumps far from a structure, burn foliage down in order to allow for greener growth too. You do not have to, but you can apply balanced fertilisers if you want to encourage newer growth but this is something we often don’t do ourselves as they are very robust and bounce back.
Pruning Pampas Grass
When you are considering pruning your pampas grass, it should be done in winter, ideally, January or February or early spring before the new shoots start shooting when the weather starts to warm a little. You don’t want to do it in the summer or you can damage the plant and promote new flowering spikes that will late produce the stunning flowers which you want to avoid.
Remember that the blades on the leaves are extremely sharp and will cut you if you are not properly geared up with long sleeve t-shirt and good quality gloves. When you go to prune your pampas grass, make sure you are wearing long sleeves, pants, and sturdy leather gloves as just mentioned. The pampas grass is very strong so regular hand clippers will not suffice in some cases. This job is best done with the use of a hedge trimmer or loppers.
Propagating pampas grass by dividing plants
You can propagate your pampas grass by dividing the existing plants much the same as you would divide any other perennial. You might need a friend to lend a hand both literally and figuratively for this process as the root clump can be quite heavy and pampas grass are fairly large plants.
For this process, you have to dig up the crown careful not to harm the root system underneath. If needed you can rinse any soil away from the root structure so that you can have an unobstructed view. Once the soil and debris have been removed you can use two shovels or gardening forks back-to-back and place them directly down into the clump where you are going to make your separation, then pull them apart to separate the clumps of pampas grass. Replant both of your divisions and water them well.
Pest and diseases
Pampas grass is one of the more popular ornamental grasses, regardless of recommended varieties you plant, because they are generally pests or diseases.