Past Articles Library | Caring for Pampas Grass
Many years ago, my dad and I planned this new plant in his landscape. He happened to have this troubled area in his landscape that kept washing away. This plant was touted to reduce soil erosion. So away to the nursery we went and my dad purchased several pots of this miracle plant. Once we got home, we dug the holes and planted the new plants. While the plant itself did hold the soil, it did cause some issues. The biggest issue was the fact that within five years, we had pampas grass everywhere. It popped up in the flowerbed, vegetable garden and in my dad’s orchard. What no one told us was that it was a very invasive species. Because of its invasive nature, it is banned in Hawaii and has made it onto the USDA list of plants to watch due to invasive habits.
While this species is invasive, it can still be grown responsibility with a little work. Prior to planting any pampas grass, make sure to check with your local Extension agent. Once you get the green light, the next step is to prepare garden space for the pampas grass. What makes this plant a wonder is the fact that it can tolerate a lot of different soil conditions. Sand, silt, clay, along with acidic and alkaline soils are not a problem. It can even tolerate a spray of salt water but the one thing that it cannot tolerate is wet soil.
If the soil condition is right, the next requirement you need to meet is sunlight. Yes, pampas grass will tolerate some shade; it does best when it is planted in full sun.
Now that you have the soil and sun requirement met, the next step is to get planting. To begin this process, one will need to dig a hole that is twice the width of the container and the same height. Once you have the hole dug, tip the pot of the pampas grass upside down and gently squeeze on the container to loosen it from the roots of the plant. If this does not work, just cut the pot away from the root mass. Next, tease the roots of the plant. What does this term mean? Well, teasing the roots means to loosen them up a little bit from the soil. Doing this step is very important and allows the roots to grow out from the shape of the pot. Once the roots are teased, the next step is to place the root mass in the hole and fill in with a compost and soil mixture. After the plant has been planted, water in and fill in as needed.
Repeat this process every six feet if you are creating a hedge.
To keep your pampas grass looking its best, dig in a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet of planted area.
In the late fall to early winter, give your pampas grass a haircut. This will do two things. First, it will reduce the fire hazard that this plant has and second, it will encourage new growth by removing the dead leaves and plumes. To do this, take hedge trimmers and remove all the plant material except three to four inches.
While large clumps of pampas grass look beautiful, there is one more task that needs to be done to keep the plant looking its best. As you can guess it, it is dividing. Dividing allows you to share the wealth of the plant while keeping it health. Most ornamental grasses are divided in the spring; this plant can be divided in the fall also. This division should occur every three to four years. Following this program will reduce the habit of the center dying out.
Dividing this plant is easy to do and begins with suiting up properly. Pampas grass has sharp edges on its leaves. In doing so, you will want to wear long pants and sleeves along with gloves before proceeding on.
Once you have your protective gear on, the next step is to take a sharp spade and go straight into the root mass of the plant. Next, repeat this process all around the small section of plant and then lift up. To make this a viable division, it needs to at least have three to five health shoots and several roots. Repeat the process until you have numerous divisions.
After you have your divisions done, the next step is to replant the pampas grass in a new location. To do this, starts with digging the hole. The hole itself needs to be large enough to hold all the roots but it needs to be only as deep as the plant material. Once you have the hole dug, place the division in the hold and fill in. Gently tap down the soil and fill in again as needed. Water in the newly planted pampas grass and continue to water until you see new growth appear. This is an indication that the division has taken root but be careful when watering. Keep in mind that this plant does not do well in soggy soil but to keep the division alive, keep the soil evenly moist.
Reduce watering schedule once you see green growth.
While white pampas grass is the most common, there are other types of pampas grass to choose from depending on your needs. If you are looking for something a little different, consider the pink pampas grass. This grass has the same growth habit as the white and the only difference comes from the color of the plumes this plant produces.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something a little shorter, check out the dwarf variety of pampas grass. The dwarf pampas grass has two advantages. One, it typically only grows to a mature height of five feet. The second positive is the fact that many of these dwarf types are sterile. What this means is that the plant can still spread from root, it cannot spread from seed. In doing so, if pampas grass is not allowed in your area, a dwarf variety may be an option.