Pampas Grass – Cortaderia selloana – is one of the most spectacular – yet often hated, of the ornamental grasses. If Pampas grass is planted in the right place, it will give many years of stunning plumes of flower – for which it is rightly noted.
Flowers can be pure white, silver, or shades of pink. There are also a few variations in the foliage – the golden form being the most spectacular – and evergreen.
Pampas Grass is a plant you either adore or not! For us, it is one of the most majestic of all grasses, but it really does need to be planted in the right place. Not all gardens are suitable for growing Pampas.
There are quite a few variations in Pampas grasses if you decide to grow one. There are reasonably dwarf types, with white, pink, or smokey brown coloured flowers, which are generally feathery plumes.
The foliage of Pampas grass is more or less always grey green. The notable difference being with the golden leaved form seen below. The foliage of Pampas grass – regardless of variety – is either serrated or otherwise sharp. So much so as to be able to cause a nasty cut if not treated with care and respect.
Where and How to Grow
Cortaderia – Pampas Grass – need to be grown in an open position – preferably in full light and not overhung with tree branches. Any soil will suit, as long as it is well drained. Pampas grown on top of a dry bank do well, and of course give it even more ‘height’! Exposed situations are not normally a problem for Pampas Grass – other than those areas where the are persistent strong winds.
Each spring, your Pampas should be groomed. The best way is to use a garden rake and give the Pampas a good rake-through. Don’t worry about split ends with this hair-do. Be careful when picking up the debris – wear good gloves. During this spring clean, any old flower heads from the previous year should also be cut back to base.
Some gardeners like to ‘burn’ their grass in mid winter or early spring. The rake job is a better way.
Removal of Pampas Grass is not easy – especially with a plant that is more than a few year old. Best way forward is to dig a trench around the plant, soak it all with water and then hack away with a mattock. Good aerobic exercise. Another alternative is to kill the plant off with Glyphosate weedkiller, and then burn off the dead plant after a few weeks. You then have the ‘stump’ to deal with as above.
Pampas are not the easiest of plants to transplant as a whole. Refer to the propagation methods below for an easier option!
Types of Pampas Grass
Breeders are constantly trying for new strains of Pampas Grass. In particular, the dwarfer varieties or different foliage types. You should always buy your Pampas at a reputable garden centre, or – better still a specialist ornamental grass grower.
Pampas can easily be grown from seed, but the new plants will not always resemble the parent plant. So if you want a specific type, then a specialist grower would be producing plants from division from the true parent plant. All plants propagated this way would be true to form.
Cortaderia selloana Aureolineata – Gold Band – The image left. This is a golden striped variegated form which holds colour well into the winter. It is not as tall growing as the common Pampas – neither is the foliage mound as unruly. A slow growing, compact Pampas – well suited to large container.
Cortaderia selloana Albolineata – Silver Stripe – Similar in all respects to the Gold Band Pampas described above, but with white stripes to the foliage. The flowers are white with a silver sheen.
Cortaderia selloana Pumilla is a dwarf version of the common Pampas, with flowers that are generally pale yellow with a silvery sheen. Height to around 1.5metres maximum
Cortaderia selloana Sunningdale Silver has silvery flowers which are not normally affected too much by the rain. The flowers are not as dense as the parent type, and this seems to be a good factor in wet weather. The flower stems can get to 3m in height – so quite spectacular.
Cortaderia selloana Rendatleri is the true pink flowered Pampas. Many inferior seedlings are sold as Pink Pampas, and are nothing like the true Pink flowered Cortaderia. Again – buy from a specialist nursery or garden centre. Specifically ask for Cortaderia Rendatleri – The pink pampas.
The good news for Pampas Grass owners, is that you do not have to worry about any pests or diseases, and once established, you Pampas will give you years of pleasure – albeit with the spring cleaning chore!
Propagation of Pampas Grass
Cortaderia – Pampas Grass – are easy to grow from seed. The seedlings will be variable, so selection later will be necessary. They can take 2-3 years before flowering, though sooner if individually grown in a 3 litre pot.
Division in the spring is an option that gives you true to form offspring, but is not easy with a mature plant. However, slice off a wedge or so with a mattock or a hefty spade, and not to worry about the parent which will ignore what you have done and carry on life as normal.
The hacked-off sliced should be immersed in a bucket of water for a few hours before planting out in final position. Otherwise pot them up and care until ready to be planted out later.