|Official Plant Name||Cortaderia Selloana|
|Common Name(s)||Pampas Grass|
|Native Area||South America|
|Flowers||Silver white spikes, sometimes with pink or purple tinge|
|When To Sow||March, April, May|
|Flowering Months||July, August, September, October|
|When To Prune||February, March|
Exposed or Sheltered
2.5 – 4M
1.5 – 2.5M
Summer – Autumn
Most Soil Types
Moist but well drained
Cortaderia Selloana, more commonly known as pampas grass, is a tall, proud grass boasting silvery-pink panicles (that’s the swishy bits on top).
Whether resting or swaying gently in the wind, the silver-pink palette casts a captivating aesthetic and invites the gaze, adding a subtle attractiveness to any outdoor space.
Pampas grass is a great way to bring a different tone to the green-heavy palettes and flower-heavy backdrops of British gardens. It’s a versatile plant, equally suited to use as a border to frame an area, a screen to fence off an area, or an element to add vertical interest to a flower-bed.
This guide will teach you how to grow pampas grass and how to care for an established plant. After reading you’ll be all set to get this bold and noble grass growing in your garden.
What is pampas grass?
Pampas grass is part of the family Poaceae, which contains all types of grass, from bamboo to the ubiquitous green blades you see all over the place. The first half of the Latin name – Cortaderia – comes from the Argentine Spanish word for ‘cutter’, and pays homage to the sharpness of the leaf margins. The second half – Selloana – comes from a German botanist who worked in Brazil and spent much time studying local flora.
This plant is so iconic that an entire region of South America is named after it. The Pampas are over 460,000 square miles of fertile lowland spanning Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.
The panicles and grass combine to provide a visually interesting colour palette, and the plant’s height and confidence make it a fantastic vertical contribution to beds and garden areas. It’s a great way to bring something a little different to your garden, and it’s very easy to grow!
How to grow pampas grass
The following sections outline everything you need to know about growing pampas grass, and how to take care of it in the long term. We’ll cover the basics, where and when to grow, and more.
What you need to know
This is an enthusiastic grower, and will get big quickly! It’s also considered an invasive species, raising the interesting question of what differentiates a problematic plant from an acceptable one. Make sure you’re ready for the rate and spread of pampas’ growth, and that you’ve got a suitable area of garden set aside.
Pampas grass is hardy enough to survive whatever the UK throws at it. The plant has hardiness rating 6, meaning it can make do with temperatures down to twenty below zero.
When to plant pampas grass
For best results, plant pampas grass in spring. This gives it more than enough lead time to establish itself, and build the required strength for future years and seasons.
How to plant it
Pampas grass is a real treat to plant, because it’s so easy. All you need to do is sprinkle seeds over freshly-raked soil, water gently, then leave them to get on with it. The water and gentle spring sunlight provide perfect conditions for germination, and you’ll see growth quickly.
If your garden is popular with birds, cover your pampas seeds with a light netting. Something to prevent inquisitive beaks from playing havoc, but which lets light through and leaves enough space for fledgling growth.
Where to plant it
This plant likes full sun best, although it will make do with partial shade. If you choose to grow pampas in shade, the eventual height of the plant will be shorter. Grasses with too little sun exposure may also fail to flower, so make sure you find a spot that aligns with your eventual plans for the plant.
Pick a spot with moist soil and good drainage. The grass is resilient to wind, drought, and other elemental hassles that may discourage other plants: One of the reasons it makes such great borders.
Pampas grass isn’t fussy in terms of soil composition or acidity, so you don’t need to worry too much about soil type.
Relocating and propagating
You can move established pampas grass by carefully uprooting it, then transplanting it into a hole just bigger than the root ball. Teasing the root ball gently apart and watering the soil gently after covering over will both help the transplanted grass to take better, and reduce the risk of trauma.
To propagate, replant a clump cut from an established plant. Female cuttings will take root and re-establish themselves. You can tell female plants by the more vibrant and showy plumes.
Pampas grass doesn’t need much in the way of fertiliser, but giving the plant a dose in spring, summer, and autumn of the first year will help it to reach full strength.
Unless you’re living through particularly severe drought conditions, pampas grass won’t need watering. This plant hails from arid regions and is perfectly fine left to its own devices.
To encourage the healthiest growth, prune your pampas grass back to ground at the end of each growing season. Cut back to a height of around half a metre.
Remember earlier we said that the first half of pampas grass’ Latin name – Cortaderia – came from the Argentinean Spanish word for ‘cutter’? There’s a good reason for this: Pampas can be sharp! We recommend wearing gloves whilst pruning, and taking good care not to nick yourself.
Anything else to be aware of?
Pampas grass is sharp, so try to avoid planting it anywhere children or pets are likely to spend time! It’s tall, too, so be careful if you’re growing near a road. It’s very plausible that the grass will get tall enough to impact visibility.
To boost your plant’s resilience during the winter, you can mulch the base of the plant and cover this with cardboard, netting, or similar. This will insulate the roots and reduce the impact of cold. As we said earlier the plant can survive even the coldest UK temperatures, but a little extra help never goes amiss.
As an invasive species, pampas grass isn’t a natural part of any species’ diets. This means it’s unlikely to be bothered when growing, either in the wild or in your garden.
You’re also unlikely to encounter any pests with this plant – what a treat! Insects do take up residence in the plant, so if you’re propagating, inspect carefully for bugs or their nests. Try to avoid propagating a plant with active residents, as you may spread them to other parts of your garden.
Pampas: Pink and proud
Whether you choose pampas grass for its colour palette, its striking height, or the fact that it’s so easy to grow, this plant is guaranteed to deliver. It’s visually interesting and versatile enough to function in many areas of your garden, making it the perfect choice for gardeners of all levels.
We think that pampas grass will make a fine addition to your garden. After reading this guide you should be equipped with all the information you need to get pampas established, and to keep it healthy and strong for years to come.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.