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Step-by-Step Guide to Growing and Caring for Pampas Grass at Home

Welcome to our essential guide to growing and caring for Pampas Grass. With its pinnate flowering plumes, Cortaderia selloana can be the feather in your garden’s hat! Just be sure to plant a variety that has been cultivated not to self-spread, as this fancy ornamental grass is a known invasive plant species. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know to successfully grow Pampas Grass at home, including planting, soil considerations, light preferences, feeding, pruning, and over-winter care.

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How to Grow Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) – The Essentials:

Botanical Name:Cortaderia selloana
Also Known As:Pampas grass
Hardiness Zones:6 to10
Flowering Months:Late summer to mid-winter
Growing Difficulty:Easy to grow
Type of Plant:Ornamental, perennial, evergreen, flowering grass
Light Requirements:Full sun to partial shade
Temp & Humidity:Thrives in ambient temperatures ranging from 65°F to 90°F and tolerates low to high humidity
Watering Needs:Low to moderate water needs: water once to twice a week and more frequently in hotter, drier climates
Soil Preferences:Well-draining, sandy, loamy soil of any pH
Feeding:Little to no fertilizer needed
Growth Expectations:4 to 10 feet tall and about equally wide, depending on the variety
Toxicity:Non-toxic to humans and pets

About Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

About Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Taxonomy

Commonly called pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana is one of many perennial, evergreen, flowering grasses belonging to the Cortaderia genus within the Poaceae (grass) plant family.

Origins and History

First recorded by the German botanist and naturalist Friedrich Sellow in the 19th century, Cortaderia selloana is native to the southern parts of South America, including the fertile lowland region known as the Pampas from which the plant gets its common name.

Today, pampas grass has become invasive across most of North America. It’s banned in New Zealand and has also spread throughout Europe.

Botanical Characteristics

Cortaderia selloana features arching clumps of long, grassy leaves from which tall, slender stalks grow flowering with plumes of feathery flowers in colors that range from snowy white and ivory to silver, yellow, gold, and rosy pink.

The plant’s genus name comes from the Argentine Spanish word cortardera, which means cutter. This refers to the plant’s razor-sharp stems that can break the skin or harm animals that feed on the grass.

Uses and Benefits

Despite its potentially invasive nature, pampas grass remains a popular ornamental garden plant with its attractive foliage and impressive flowers.

It can be used as a break-wind, privacy screen, barrier, or fencing hedgerow, depending on the variety. More compact types are also popular for planting in borders and beds. The flowers dry well and are also great for creating dried flower crafts.

Certain fibers from pampas grass have also historically been used to make paper.

Flowering Season

Pampas grass is evergreen down to USDA hardiness zone 7. So, its grassy foliage stays green year-round. The plant’s flowering season ranges from late summer, starting around August, to late fall or mid-winter, ending in November or December.

Growth Expectations

Growth Expectations

Pampas grass cultivars vary from compact to towering and large. Depending on the variety, the plant can grow anywhere from 4 to 10 feet tall with a nearly equal spread.

The plants usually need about 2 to 4 years to reach maturity and full growth. Their lifespan lasts for about 15 years.

Best Companion Plants for Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Pampas grass pairs well with a variety of other plants to create a stunning gardenscape. Some favorites include:

  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Fountain Grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpuria)
  • Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)
  • Bloodtwig Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea)
  • Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
  • Red Hot Poker (Kniphofia)

Popular Types of Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

1. Cortaderia selloana ‘Patagonia’

This unusual variety features slender foliage in a unique, bluish-green hue, and it produces silvery-white blossoms atop its tall stems.

2. Cortaderia selloana ‘Rendatleri’ or ‘Pink Feather’

This variety of pampas grass is stunningly beautiful. Its feathery spires can reach up to 8 feet in height and they feature the plant’s classically feathery flowers in a warm, rosy-pink hue.

3. Cortaderia selloana ‘Monvin’ or ‘Sun Stripe’

This yellow-hued, robust variety of pampas grass can be planted along a border as a windbreak to shelter more delicate plants in your garden.

4. Cortaderia selloana ‘Albolineata’ or ‘Silver Stripe’

This type of pampas grass has white feathery blossoms with a silvery sheen and stripes of silver running through its leaves.

5. Cortaderia selloana ‘Sunningdale Silver’

This impressive variety can reach up to 10 feet in height and has white stems and flowy, silver-colored flowers that are not as easily damaged by rain as other types of pampas grass.

6. Cortaderia selloana ‘Aureolineata’ or ‘Gold Band’

This compact variety of pampas grass is perfect for containers. It has gold bands lining its slender leaves. The flowers range from white to golden or tan in color.

7. Cortaderia selloana ‘Silver Comet’

This variety of pampas grass is usually cultivated for the beauty of its leaves, rather than its flowers which typically do not grow taller than the foliage. This plant’s foliage features delicate white striations that give the plant an overall metallic appearance.

8. Cortaderia selloana ‘Pumila’ or ‘Dwarf Pampas Grass’

This variety of pampas grass is good for growing in containers because it’s smaller than most, reaching a height of just under 10 feet. Its flowers range from off-white to pale yellow in color.

9. Cortaderia selloana ‘Silver Fountain’

Silver fountain pampas grass gets its name thanks to its white to silver-colored, satiny flowers that blossom from a tight foliage clump. These blooms can reach heights of 6.5 feet.

10. Cortaderia selloana ‘Splendid Star’

This is a dwarf variety of pampas grass, making it suitable to plant along borders and in containers. It has snowy-white flowers and golden-streaked leaves.


How to Grow Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

How to Grow Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Where to Plant

Although they can tolerate some shade, the best places to plant pampas grass are garden locations that receive at least 6 hours of full sun each day. It’s also essential to choose an area that has moist but well-draining soil.

Be sure you pick a location and a variety of pampas grass that are of a suitable size. Remember that the largest of these plants will achieve a 10-foot diameter at maturity.

Pampas grass plants are tolerant of drought, salt sprays, and wind. This makes these plants the perfect choice for coastal gardens, windbreaking garden edges, screens, hedgerows, and fences. More compact varieties are also suitable for beds and containers.

The Best Time of Year to Plant

If planting from seed, you can either sow them mid-winter indoors and plant the seedlings outside after the final frost has passed, or you can sow the seeds outdoors in spring.

If planting nursery plants, they are best put into the ground in springtime, as well.

Growing From Seeds vs. Planting Nursery Plants

Although they are relatively fast growers, pampas grass plants still need 2 to 4 years to reach their mature size.

While the plants can be grown from seeds, you’ll get a headstart in growth if you purchase and plant nursery plants instead.

What to Do Before Planting

Before planting, choose a suitable location that offers your pampas grass enough room to grow, enough sunlight, and well-draining soil.

Then gather some supplies. You’ll need sand or perlite to mix into your soil and a trowel or shovel, depending on the size of your pampas grass plant. Additionally, you’ll want to wear some sturdy gardening gloves and long sleeves to protect yourself from the plant’s sharp stalks.

The Best Soil for Pampas Grass

The Best Soil for Pampas Grass

When it comes to soil pampas grass really is not picky. The two most important qualities your soil should have are to be able to hold some moisture while also being well-draining.

Pampas grass grows best in sandy or loamy soils that drain well and can tolerate a range of pH levels from acidic to neutral to alkaline.

How to Plant Pampas Grass 

Once you’ve found a suitable location and you are ready to plant your pampas grass, start by digging a hole large enough to contain your plant’s root ball, but that is no deeper than the container your plant is in.

When in the ground, you want the base of the plant’s stalks and its clump of foliage to be level with the ground or the top of the soil in your container.

At this time, test your soil’s drainage by pouring some water into the hole in the ground. If your soil seems soggy or overly moist, you should mix a bit of sand or perlite into the dirt to improve drainage before planting and filling in around your plant’s roots.

Next, place your plant in the hole and fill in around its roots with your potting mix. Pat the dirt down gently and add more, if necessary.

Water thoroughly and continue watering your new plant at least once or twice a week until it is well-established.

Pampas Grass Light Preferences

Pampas grass plants can tolerate some shade. However, they need to receive at least 6 hours of full sun daily.

Temperature and Humidity Preferences

Pampas grass tolerates a wide range of temperatures and humidity levels. They thrive in ambient temperatures ranging from 65°F to 90°F and conditions with low to high humidity.

They’re winter hardy down to zone 7, which can see brief temperatures ranging from 0°F to 10°F. However, these cool temperatures can harm the plants – especially if the soil is particularly wet.

In zone 6, pampas grass plants should be grown in containers and brought inside for winter.


How to Care for Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

How to Care for Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana)

Watering

Pampas grass is highly adaptive to a range of moisture conditions but fares far better in drier conditions than in soggy, wet soil.

Water your plant once a week or twice in particularly hot, dry conditions for the first year. Depending on how much moisture you receive in your location, well-established plants might not require supplemental watering. If your climate is hot and dry, water once every two to three weeks.

Do not water pampas grass during its winter dormancy period.

How, When, and Why to Fertilize

A light feeder, pampas grass, usually does require regular fertilization. However, to promote growth, you can apply a layer of compost or a balanced slow-release fertilizer once a year in early spring.

Pruning, Cutting Back, and Deadheading

Pampas grass flowers do not require deadheading, but the whole plant needs to be cut back every year to make room for new growth. This is best done at the end of the winter before new foliage begins to sprout.

Basic pruning shears or hedge cutters aren’t strong enough to stand up to the massive stalks of pampas grass. You’ll need long-handled loppers or a chainsaw to get the job done.

Before you begin, use a stick to poke around in the clumps of grass at the base of the plant to scare away any small creatures.

To cut back, simply lop everything off, leaving only about 6 to 8 inches of stubs at the base of the plant. This will encourage new growth at the beginning of the growing season and keep your plant healthy.

Propagation

While pampas grass can be propagated by seed, most varieties you acquire for your garden will be cultivated not to produce seeds to prevent the plant’s unintentional, invasive spread.

You can, however, propagate the plants through root division in the spring. To do so, dig up your plant, divide the roots and stalks into equal parts, separate them, and replant each with ample room to grow.

Overwintering

In hardiness zones 7 to 10, where pampas grass is evergreen, no special care is required for overwintering pampas grass. In zone 6, your plant’s foliage will likely die off over the winter. You can add a layer of 1 to 2 inches of mulch to protect the root system.

Container plants grown in these zones and below should be moved indoors to a warmer location.

When and How to Repot Container-Grown Plants

Due to their sheer size, pampas grass plants will likely require repotting annually. At this time, you can follow the same guidelines for planting as above and either divide the plants or move them into larger containers (about 5 to 6 inches larger).


Common Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) Problems and How to Treat Them

Common Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) Problems and How to Treat Them

Signs and Symptoms of Problems

  • Browning Grass Tips – If your pampas grass’s foliage turns brown, it might need a bit of supplemental water.
  • Yellow, Drooping, Slimy, or Wilted Grass Tips – Your pampas grass is overwatered. Reduce your watering frequency.

Common Pests and Diseases

One of the reasons pampas grass is so easy to grow and has become an invasive species in so many locations is that no pests or diseases seem to affect it.

This plant is not only hardy in the winters down to zone 7, but it’s also tough when it comes to staving off pests and plant diseases.


Essential Tools for Growing Pampas Grass 

Essential Tools for Growing Pampas Grass 
  • Protective gloves and clothing
  • Shovel
  • Sand or perlite
  • Long-handled loppers or a chainsaw
  • Balanced fertilizer

A Feathery Fortune for Your Garden

While pampas grass has its negative traits (invasive tendencies), it can be a real showstopper in the garden with its attractive grass and silvery, feather-like flowers. Just be sure to grow it responsibly!


Growing Pampas Grass (Cortaderia selloana) FAQs

Pampas grass is winter hardy down to USDA hardiness zone 6.

Depending on the variety, pampas grass can grow to be anywhere from 4 to 10 feet tall and just about as wide.

Potted plants should be moved to a warmer location indoors. In zones 6 through 10, you do not need to do anything special to protect pampas grass in the winter. In cooler climates, mulching can help to protect the plants.

Pampas grass is considered an invasive plant species throughout North America, New Zealand, and in parts of Europe.

Pampas grass can grow in partial shade, but it needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily to thrive.

Pampas grass has no known toxicity to humans or animals.

If not adequately trimmed and controlled, thick tufts of pampas grass can be an attractive home for snakes.


Author

I’ve long been fascinated with the world of flowers, plants, and floral design. I come from a family of horticulturists and growers and spent much of my childhood in amongst the fields of flowering blooms and greenhouses filled with tropical plants, cacti, and succulents from all over the world. Today, my passion has led me to further explore the world of horticulture, botany, and floristry and I'm always excited to meet and collaborate with fellow enthusiasts and professionals from across the globe. I hold a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and have trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris.

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