Tips for growing various kinds of pampas grass. Should you plant giant, white, pink or dwarf Cortaderia selloana or would hardy, northern Erianthus ravennae be a better choice for your garden landscape design?
A group of Cortaderia selloana plants in bloom.Most pampas grass plants are of the genus Cortaderia. C. selloana is a giant species which can quickly grow into a 20 foot waterfall of cascading foliage.
One of the features gardeners find most attractive about this vigorous grass is that it is evergreen.
The species will sometimes reseed itself a bit too enthusiastically. This only happens under specific growing conditions but, to be safe, site this imposing plant in a lawn where the mower will keep any unwanted volunteers in check.
It can be invasive when planted in California gardens. Californians should plant a sterile dwarf variety instead.
Site the clump in front of a wall to take advantage of the dramatic shadows cast by the feathery flowers.
Keep it away from walking paths or any place where it is likely to be touched as the grass blades are unfriendly to skin.
Cortaderia selloana is winter hardy in USDA zones 7-11.
The plumes form on strong, upright stalks and are held well above the leaves. The 1-3 foot tall flowers wave in every late summer and fall breeze.
The plumes may be left to dry in place and add interest to the winter landscape.
If you would like to use them indoors, cut the stalks when the blooms are at their most beautiful and stand them in tall containers to dry. The dried plumes form a soft backdrop in flower arrangements.
Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila' does not self-seed like the species.
Because of its less aggressive reproductive habits, miniature pampas can be planted anywhere a neat 4 foot fountain of grassy leaves is wanted.
As an added bonus, 'Pumila' also flowers more heavily than her big sister and will begin to do so in her first growing season.
If you are planting more than 1, space the plants 2-3 feet apart.
Dwarf pampas is hardy in zones 6-10.
C. selloana 'Rosea Pink' is a winter hardy variety with pinkish plumes. The mound of grassy leaves grows to about 3 feet. In mid-summer, when the plant blooms, its flower stalks will shoot up to 10 feet into the air.
This cultivar is suitable for planting in zones 6-10.
The white variety is smaller than the species (6-10 feet when in bloom) and displays pretty off-white to pure white plumes.
This poster will give you an idea of the majestic effect this ornamental grass could produce if you were to use it to line the driveway of a stately home.
Massed pampas is eye-popping when in bloom. To plant them this way, space the plants 3-4 feet apart.
White pampas is hardy in zones 6-10.
At 8-12 feet tall in full bloom, E. ravennae syn. Saccharum ravennae is significantly smaller than C. selloana. Like Cortaderia, northern pampas forms a mounding clump above which its flower stalks fly like flags.
Its smaller, more subtle flowers can be dried and used indoors in the same way.
As its common name implies, this grass is more cold tolerant than Cordateria and may be planted in zones 5-9.
Saccharum ravennae grass performs best with constant moisture at its roots.
C. selloana growing beneath sabal palm trees in Georgia.
All varieties are salt tolerant and deer resistant. You can plant them right on the dunes and they look at home there.
Water newly installed plants regularly.
Once the plants have settled in (after a year in the ground), you will only need to give them supplemental water during very dry weather.
When you do water them, give them a deep soaking.
This is a tough grass with sharp edges. You will want to wear protective gloves when handling it.
Cut the clumps down to approximately 18 inches for the miniature types, 3-4 feet for the giant variety, each spring before new growth begins. A power shear will make quick work of this.
Yearly pruning is not an absolute necessity for these plants, but it is the only way to remove all the dead foliage from the previous season so that the plants will look their best.
I would not allow a clump to go for more than 2 years without removing the dead blades.
Like other ornamental grasses, the clumps will eventually die in the center. When this happens, it is time to dig them up and divide them.
Discard the dead cores and replant divisions from the edges of the clumps after revitalizing the soil with fresh compost.