Pampas grass offers gardeners the traditional majestic beauty of an ornamental grass. This cultivar grows to towering heights with beautiful featherlike plumed flowers in late summer. The sheer size of this plant requires careful planning before buying pampas grass. The homeowner must allow plenty of room for pampas to reach maturity to avoid the need for later removal.
Select a location featuring partial sun to partial shade positioned away from structures. Pampas shouldn't be placed against structures due to the fire hazard caused by dried foliage in the winter. Landscapers use pampas grass as screening hedgelike plants and focal points much like a specimen shrub or tree. Pampas also forms an excellent border plant for perennial gardens.
Measure the planned location to ensure that mature pampas will fit properly. Pampas grasses reach up to 10 feet high and wide at maturity. Observe what the grass will hide from view at mature size. Check that a mature pampas grass won't obscure windows, porches, walkways or other distinguishing features in the landscape.
Check the USDA hardiness zone map to determine if pampas survives in your climate. Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture site and click on the map. Locate your state and compare the color on the map to the color indicator legend on the right. This code specifies the lowest temperature hardy plants can survive by zone. Gardeners grow pampas successfully in zones 5 to 11.
Visit the garden center to peruse the pampas grass cultivars available for your area. Most nurseries don't carry plants that won't survive in that particular locale. Check plant labels to confirm USDA hardiness zone matches before buying pampas grass. Check the label for the plant's real name: Cortaderia selloana. This helps you avoid purchasing imposter types of ornamental grasses.
Examine the plant for signs of neglect or disease. Look for healthy green straplike foliage with no blotches or pockmarks along the full length of the grass blade. Check blade tips for any sign of trimming by the nursery. Clipped fronds indicate pruning by the nursery. Pampas grass should only be pruned in spring when new growth appears at ground level.
Step back and examine the plant as a whole. Foliage should arch from the center of the lump to form an umbrella shape. Bent or drooping foliage may indicate overfertilization by the nursery. Avoid these plants since they'll produce dropping foliage during the first growing season and potentially few flowers.
Check the bottom of the pot for roots extending from the drainage holes. If you see none, slide your fingers inside the planting container to feel for roots. Shallow roots indicate recent transplant into the container and possible transplant shock to the pampas grass. Healthy roots that extend deeply into the gallon container indicate a healthy plant that hasn't suffered recent transplant shock.