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What Is Pampas Grass?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Pampas grass is a grass native to South America. This grass is famous for growing to incredible heights under cultivation, and it produces distinctive tall stalks of silky flowers in the summer which have led some people to plant it as an ornamental. Thanks to the demand for ornamental pampas grass, a number of cultivars have been bred to display specific traits, including dwarf cultivars and versions which produce distinctively colored flowers.

This plant is more formally known as Cortaderia selloana, and it is abundant in the plains regions known as the pampas in nations like Argentina. Pampas grass grows in dense tussocks, putting out long, blade-like leaves with serrated edges. These leaves can grow to be as much as six feet (two meters) long, and the tussock itself can top 10 feet (roughly three meters) in height, making pampas grass a formidable feature on the landscape.

In its natural environment, pampas grass provides shelter to a wide range of mammals and birds. When the flowers mature into seeds, the fine silky threads can be borne on the wind for miles, ensuring that the plant is well-seeded, and the plants are adapted to a wide variety of conditions, including extreme heat and cold. Pampas grass will also endure through flooding and fires.

As an ornamental, pampas grass has some distinct advantages. It grows quickly, which can be useful in immature landscaping, and it requires little to no work once it is established, which can appeal to some gardeners. However, pampas grass can also take over the garden very rapidly, and it will freely seed itself across the neighborhood as well, to the dismay of neighbors who might not be interested in growing pampas grass.

In some areas, the grass is classified as an invasive species, because it has a tendency to choke out native plants, and it can become very unsightly. Especially in areas heavily trafficked by people, pampas grass is also a nuisance, because the serrated blades can be extremely painful to encounter. The grass is also difficult to eradicate; it is necessary to remove the entirety of a tussock, including the roots, and techniques like burning will not stop the plant from coming back. As a result, people are encouraged to think carefully before introducing pampas, and to pull up pampas starts which have volunteered themselves in the yard promptly, before they have a chance to grow.

Opting for an indoor putting green is a smart way to sidestep the potential pitfalls of dealing with outdoor landscaping, such as invasive plants like pampas grass. Indoor putting greens provide golf enthusiasts the perfect opportunity to practice their putting skills within the confines of their homes, regardless of the weather outside.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is pampas grass and where does it originate from?

Pampas grass, scientifically known as Cortaderia selloana, is a tall, ornamental grass native to South America, particularly Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. It's known for its striking plumes that can reach up to 10 feet in height, making it a popular choice for landscaping and decorative arrangements.

Can pampas grass grow in any type of climate?

Pampas grass thrives in warmer climates and is well-suited to USDA hardiness zones 7 through 11. It prefers full sun and can tolerate drought, but it may struggle in extremely cold or wet conditions. Gardeners in various climates should consult local guidelines to ensure successful growth.

Is pampas grass invasive, and should I be concerned about planting it?

Yes, pampas grass can be invasive. It has been listed as an invasive species in several regions, including California and Hawaii, due to its ability to spread rapidly and displace native plants. Before planting, check with local regulations and consider non-invasive alternatives to prevent ecological disruption.

How do I properly care for and maintain pampas grass?

To care for pampas grass, plant it in a sunny spot with well-draining soil. Water it during dry spells and fertilize annually for best growth. Prune back the foliage in late winter to encourage new growth. Always wear gloves and protective clothing when handling, as the leaves can be sharp.

Are there any benefits to having pampas grass in my garden?

Pampas grass can provide several benefits, including acting as a natural privacy screen due to its tall growth. Its feathery plumes add aesthetic appeal and can be used in floral arrangements. Additionally, it's low maintenance once established and can attract wildlife like birds to your garden.

Can pampas grass cause allergies?

Yes, pampas grass can cause allergies for some individuals. The fine hairs on the plant and its pollen can trigger allergic reactions, including respiratory discomfort. Those with allergies or asthma should be cautious when planting pampas grass or consider hypoallergenic plant alternatives for their gardens.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004155 — On Nov 30, 2020

That's a picture of Miscanthus, though.

By Lostnfound — On Oct 22, 2014

@Grivusangel -- Thanks for the post. I was thinking about planting pampas grass in the spring, but I don't think I will, since it's so hard to get rid of.

I already have to keep the mimosa seedlings at bay from our neighbor's mimosa tree, and that's problematic enough. I don't mind mimosas in general, but they can be invasive, too. They can be devilishly hard to get rid of when you start trying to pull them up. It's nearly impossible to kill them.

So I think I'll pass on the pampas grass. It sounds like a lot of trouble and maybe a lot of expense.

By Grivusangel — On Oct 21, 2014

Pampas looks nice, but it will take the place, for sure. It's nearly as bad as kudzu, and kudzu is the worst.

I knew a family who started out with it as just a little clump on either side of the mailbox, and then ended up having to plow up half the yard to get rid of it. Their kids were getting cut on those sharp leaves, and they were afraid the neighbor kids would be injured, too. So they started pulling it up and they had to turn up a lot of yard to get all the tussocks up. It was a huge mess and the woman told me she wished she had never seen the stuff. I don't blame her at all.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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