Do I Want Pampas Grass In My Yard?
Pampas Grass – You’ve seen it, maybe even smelled the plume-like seed heads wafting on the breeze, but what is it? Pampas grass is a perennial that is a tall-growing grass but may not be beneficial to plant in your yard. I will provide you with some pampas grass information and removal instructions.
So, what is pampas grass? Pampas Grass (Cortaderia jubata) is a tall-growing ornamental grass, introduced from Argentina. It has become naturalized throughout much of temperate North America and is considered an invasive weed in many areas. Its preferred habitat is moist sunny sites near streams or ponds.
Pampas grass is a particularly well-known plant in the southern United States, and for good reason. This perennial can grow up to 20 feet tall with leaves that are 4″ wide – no wonder it’s so widely recognized!
While pampas grass can be attractive, allowing it to thrive in your yard is not a good idea. If you plant the ornamental variety of this plant, it will quickly get out of hand because it’s biologically programmed to do so.
It’s one of the most invasive ornamental grasses and will continually stress your other plants in the yard. It’s also a safety hazard because it quickly forms large, sharp-edged leaves that can injure people and animals.
Describing Pampas Grass
Stems of pampas grass are ridged and range from 3-6 feet tall depending on the variety, while leaves can grow up to 4 feet long.
Although extremely showy, pampas grass has been known to form large colonies throughout its native South America, and in some places is considered an invasive pest. Pampas grass is a type of ornamental, South American grass native to moist regions in Argentina and Brazil.
It has been used for centuries as an important food source and building material for the people who live in its range. In more modern times it’s been widely used for cattle feed and erosion control because of its invasive nature.
I could go on about its beauty, or how it is a good example of a monocotyledon, but that is not why you are probably reading this article. You want it out of your yard. It is an invasive weed, and it has the potential to spread quickly if you do not take care to remove all of its parts from your property.
I will provide some guidance on how to identify pampas grass, but first I want to mention that some plants resemble Cortaderia jubata (referred to hereafter as pampas grass) that are not this invasive weed.
I will refer to it by its scientific name Cortaderia jubata but you should be aware that some of the plants with similar common names, such as elephant grass or Mexican feather grass, are not invasive weeds and can therefore be introduced into your yard.
Note also, that in some parts of the country pampas grass is viewed as ornamental grass and you should research your area to determine whether it is considered an invasive weed.
Identifying Pampas Grass
Now for identification…Cortaderia jubata is a tall-growing grass with inflorescences (flower clusters) that resemble plumes of fluffy white or pinkish clouds. These inflorescences are at the top of the plant and can be 6-8 feet tall.
The leaves are long, wide, flat, and green in color. Another helpful identification feature is that the branches all emerge from one point on the stem so you will not see many stems branching off of each other to create a tree-like structure.
The seed heads are made up of small grains (commonly referred to as seeds) that disperse on the wind, spreading the plant.
Optimum Growing Conditions for Pampas
Here is some more information about how hardy pampas grass is and its optimum growing conditions:
- Cortaderia jubata will grow in most soils except heavy clays. It thrives in full sun or partial shade but is best adapted to moist soils that are slightly acidic to alkaline. The plant is cold tolerant and can survive winter temperatures down to about -20°F.
- Pampas grass is very hardy and tolerant of poor soil and drought. They grow best in moist sunny areas with good drainage. The plants should be planted 1 to 2 feet apart.
Pampas grasses are striking additions to any landscape. These large, feathery plants provide an exotic feel to the garden, but they may also pose a problem for homeowners who don’t want them in their yards.
Pampas Grass Information
The ornamental grass that you’re likely to see around your neighborhood is Cortaderia selloana, the pampas grass. This plant grows well in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zones 6 through 9, where it can grow up to 12 feet tall and 16 feet wide.
It’s popular in landscapes and gardens for its tall, densely packed flower stalks that resemble a fountain of feathers. These fluffy flowers mature to a tan color as they fade, adding winter interest to the landscape.
If you are reading this article, chances are very high that you don’t want it in your yard. I will tell you why that is so and then tell you how to get rid of pampas grass.
Pampas Grass Removal Tips
Because pampas grass provides such striking architectural interest even when it’s not in bloom, it’s no surprise that this ornamental grass is so popular. Unfortunately, pampas grass poses a few problems for homeowners who decide they don’t want the plant in their yards any longer.
Pampas grass can be tough to remove and may require hand pulling or digging to get rid of it. Dense stands of pampas grass can be especially difficult to remove and may require herbicides or repeated cutting to take it down.
Control Without Chemicals
If you’re able to pull the pampas grass out of your yard by hand, you can control it without chemicals. This method is less effective on dense stands, but if you have only a few plants, it’s a good way to get rid of the grass without adding chemicals to your yard.
To remove pampas grass by hand, start digging them out at the base and pulling up on the root ball. If you have a stand of pampas grass, divide it into sections and cut down as many plants as possible with pruning shears or loppers.
Then tear out the pieces by hand before dividing and replanting them elsewhere, if desired. If you want to be thorough, you can treat the plants with an herbicide before removal for faster results.
Control With Herbicides
If you decide that pampas grass must go but can’t remove it entirely by digging or cutting, you can use an herbicide to kill it. While any broadleaf herbicide will work, glyphosate is one of the most effective products you can use.
This chemical takes anywhere from hours to weeks to take effect, depending on how much rainfall occurs after you spray the product onto the pampas grass.
When using this method, avoid spraying when rain is expected, and water the pampas grass well before you spray it to ensure that the chemical gets absorbed into the plant.
Chemical Products for Removal
There are several products on the market specifically for removing pampas grass from your landscape. Each product has its specifications as far as how long it takes to work and what types of plants it can kill safely.
So if you want to get rid of pampas grass, it will thrive in moist soil – particularly near water. This is one reason that many people see an explosion of this invasive weed after heavy rains or floods.
If the seeds are already on your property, even small amounts of moisture can cause them to germinate.
Oftentimes you will see pampas grass along waterways or in flood areas, but don’t assume that if you have an area near water where it has not taken over yet that it won’t someday. It is important to remove all parts of the plant from your yard so the seeds can’t take root.
Digging Up Roots
Pampas grass can be removed by digging up the roots. Be sure to remove the entire stem (or culm) because not doing so will result in re-sprouting.
You should also dig around the root ball at least 6 inches down into the soil to ensure you got all of it. Planting another plant right away helps mask the bare spot so the pampas grass doesn’t have a chance to start growing back.
If you are unable to dig up the entire root ball, cut off the plant below ground level and be sure to remove all of its parts from your property. Be aware that it is not just seeds that can spread this weed – even dead stems (culms) can take root and grow.
Even if you cut off the plant entirely, it is important to prevent further growth of pampas grass by removing all parts from your property. If the seeds are already on your property, even small amounts of moisture can cause them to germinate.
Mowing or using a weed-whacker is a temporary solution at best. At the very least, restrict mowing to once a month with a weed-whacker or hand saw so that you are continually taking off new growth and not allowing it to flower.
Pampas Grass Facts
- Pampas grass grows from seeds but they are very slow-growing and take a long time before you start seeing results. It takes about two years for the seedlings to grow into a good-sized plant that can be transplanted. Pampas grass grows in any soil although it needs well-drained soil to avoid root rot. It does not like full sun but will tolerate part shade.
- The pampas grass is wind-pollinated and the tall, feathery plumes are used by the plant to catch pollen that fertilizes the seeds. The plant is usually pest-free so the only maintenance needed with pampas grass is to remove dead leaves and flowers as they appear.
- Pampas grass can be used around pools, walkways, or even at the back of a flower garden where it provides height and forms a nice backdrop for shorter plants. The plant does need regular grooming and to be cut back in spring or fall because it can become top-heavy and could topple over. It is also important to remove the seed heads before they dry out and drop seeds throughout the garden.
- The flowers on pampas grass are not for everyone although they do attract birds, butterflies, and bees. The plant has green foliage that is not very attractive but it does provide texture to the garden landscape.
- Most pampas grass facts are about the plant’s height, color choices, and characteristics. It is important to know how much maintenance is involved with pampas grass before planting them in your garden landscape. Once you know what to expect, it’s a simple matter of deciding where in your yard they would be the most attractive.