Pampas grass is an ornamental grass from South American that naturalizes itself in some warmer climates and takes over landscapes. It is very attractive in small doses. A large, focal point plant, pampas grass is eye-catching. However, pampas grass can easily get out of hand and take over a yard to become a nuisance.
Pampas grass requires very little care. Pampas grass is a hardy plant that thrives in temperate climates. Plant your pampas grass in a sandy to loamy soil for the best results. Clay soil is hard, and holds water around the roots, which promotes root rot in pampas grass.
Pampas grass is popular with gardeners because it is fast growing. The silver to pink plumes are beautiful and get as tall as 12 feet. Rather than flowers, the blooms on pampas grass are feathery fronds of grass seed. Pampas grass gets tall very quickly, and can achieve 5- to 6-foot heights in the first year, but can take up to 3 years for the plumes to develop. Beware that too much water, or fertilizer, can keep the plant from developing grassy plumes, and instead make the stalks leggy. The plant blooms in the summer and the billowy plumes last a long time, usually even into the fall. The best time to cut pampas grass for indoor arrangements is in October. Cut them when the plant is in need of water, and then hang the cuttings upside down to dry further.
Pampas grass naturally grows best in warmer temperate climates, but is strong and can survive light frost and freezing temperatures in colder temperate climates. It will probably grow slower, and not achieve the taller heights in seasonal areas, and it is not likely to spread and take over in areas where the weather is not warm year round.
Problems with Pampas Grass
Pampas grass causes problems when it takes over an area. The tall plumes are a wonderful way to grab attention. However, in the right conditions, pampas grass grows so quickly and aggressively it can crowd out other plants in your landscaping. Too many of the tall, willowy pampas grass plumes can overwhelm onlookers, and distract them from other parts of your yard.
How to Get Rid of Pampas Grass
Small, young pampas grass plants are easy to remove. Pull them out to remove them. Be careful not to shake the plumes and release seeds that will spread to other areas and take hold. If the plumes are full of seeds, place a bag over them and cut them off the plant before you remove it.
Mature plants are more difficult to remove. Very large plants have thick bases and extensive root systems. Use a spade shovel to break up the roots and dig them out. The shovel also works well to break up the plant itself and make it more manageable.
To keep pampas grass at bay, develop a full landscape without any bare land.
If you choose pampas grass for your landscape, watch out for the sharp leaves. They produce painful cuts if you are not careful. Do not plant pampas grass anywhere children play, near walkways, or other areas where you would brush against it easily.
Wild Pampas Grass
Pampas grass exists in the wild in many warm climates. In California, South America and New Zealand, it is a pest. In other places, such as Hawaii, it is planted on purpose. However, even in Hawaii, pampas grass is taking over and becoming a nuisance. If you find pampas grass on your property unintentionally, or if you live in a state where it is a nuisance plant, dig it out. If you spot pampas grass in other locations, or in the wild, contact the local Department of Agriculture. In Hawaii you can contact HEAR (the Hawaiian Ecosystems at Risk project) at 572-4418.