What Conditions Do Pampas Grass Need?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:25 pm

The pampas grass grows quickly, reaches impressive heights and can be used in a variety of ways. Thanks to its simple elegance, it fits perfectly into a modern and restrained garden design. But the imposing grass giants also look great in containers on balconies or terraces. We tell you how to plant pampas grass so that it grows without problems.

What are the site requirements of pampas grass?

Before planting pampas grass in the garden, you should ensure that a suitable location is available. If the most important conditions are met, the plant is extremely long-lived. In this country, the American pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is found almost exclusively. As its name suggests, it comes from America, more precisely from South America. In the pampas region, which stretches across Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay, it grows mainly on sandy soils in grass steppes.

What Conditions Do Pampas Grass Need?

Ideally, the soil is rich in nutrients and sufficiently permeable to water. If the soil is heavy, you can improve water drainage by enriching it with sand or fine pebbles. If your garden is characterised by many slopes or hills, do not place the grass in a low-lying spot where water can collect, as waterlogging can cause root rot.

The optimal location for Cortaderia is also sunny and as warm as possible – in winter, winter protection is absolutely necessary. A place sheltered from the wind is also an advantage, as the hollow stems can quickly bend over.

How to plant pampas grass

Pampas grass grows in so-called clumps, which refers to the way it grows. The shoots of the plant grow close together and usually form a large, almost round tuft of grass. New shoots, however, continue to emerge from the centre of the plant, pushing the old ones to the edge over time and widening the diameter. Over the years, an aerie can therefore grow quite wide – a metre or more is not uncommon. Therefore, when planting the pampas grass, consider its final size.

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Allow enough space: Since the blades will also spread out over time, the pampas grass should have an area of approximately two metres by two metres at its disposal. Depending on the variety and its growth height, a little more or less may be necessary.
When is the right time to plant pampas grass?

A pampas grass bought as a container plant can in principle be planted all year round, provided the ground is not frozen. However, to make it easier for the grass to grow, we recommend planting in spring, when the last frost has passed and warmer days can be expected for the first time – it is best to choose a day after the Ice Saints.

Autumn planting is also possible, but should only be done if there is no prolonged damp. In the first winter, the grass must also be particularly well protected. If you plant in summer, watering must be more generous and also watered as needed in the initial period.

Instructions for planting pampas grass

1 first dig a hole about three times as wide as the diameter of the root ball and about twice as deep.

2 lean and nutrient-poor soil is best enriched with compost or organic slow-release fertiliser at the time of planting.

3 Position the grass in the hole so that it is central and upright. The root ball should not be set too deep, but should be flush with the soil level.

4 put the excavated and, if necessary, enriched soil back into the planting hole and press down lightly, this will allow the roots to make contact with the soil.

5 After planting, water the pampas grass generously.

6 If several grasses are planted, the planting distance should be between 1 and 2 metres.

Proper care of pampas grass

To ensure that the pampas grass is consistently supplied with nutrients after planting, it should be fertilised regularly, at least once a year. In this respect, cortaderia differs somewhat from other common ornamental grasses, as it can usually cope with very poor soil. For this purpose, add compost or other organic fertiliser to the garden soil in spring, as long as sprouting is already visible. Watering is not a must for well-grown plants outdoors, the pampas grass even prefers light dryness. Only directly after planting and in the case of prolonged heat in summer do you need to give it a little extra water.

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How is pampas grass overwintered?

Many plants like pampas grass, which originate from winter-dry regions or which are used to a permanent snow cover from their native habitat, suffer from our wet winters. Species with high leaf scapes, for example the torch lily, can be tied up to drain rainwater away from the outside. In winter, the laced scapes help the pampas grass not only to withstand frosty cold and wet, they also have an ornamental value for the garden. Tie the pampas grass together in autumn and cover it with fir brushwood at the bottom. Remove this winter protection in spring when no more heavy frost is expected, usually from mid-March. You can see if the grass is already sprouting green again in the middle of the plant. Then it is the right time to put it back.

It is best to always take small bundles of the dry grass and cut back the old shoots to about 15 – 20 centimetres. Make sure that you do not damage the newly sprouting leaves.
Caution: As the stalks are very sharp-edged and have small barbs, it is better to wear protective gloves.
Variety suggestions

Although only Cortaderia selloana is usually available in this country, the choice of different growth heights and flower colours is wide thanks to the numerous varieties of this pampas grass species.

VarietyHeight of growthFlower colourSpecial features
‘Pumila’1-1,5 Metercreamy white to beigegrey-green leaves, compact growth
‘Rendatleri’2,5-3 Meterpale pinklate flowering, partly until November
‘Rosea’2,5 MeterpinkFlower first pink, from autumn brownish
‘Patagonia’1,5 Meterlight redlight foliage and reddish shimmering flower
‘White Feather2,5 Meterwhitemoisture-tolerant
‘Silver Comet’2,5 Metercream whitelight foliage

How to grow pampas in a pot on the balcony or terrace

It also cuts a good figure in large pots or tubs; the upright-growing pampas grass can act as a privacy screen, for example. A southern exposure is ideal, as it can get enough sun there. The substrate, similar to garden soil, must be nutrient-rich and permeable. Drainage is also essential to prevent waterlogging.

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A mixture of humus garden soil, sand and somewhat coarser gravel or lava granules can be used for container planting. Substrate mixtures for ornamental grasses are also suitable in principle, but the pampas grass still needs additional fertilisation.

Because it grows quickly, pampas grass should be planted in a sufficiently large container. If it gets out of hand quickly, you can also divide the pampas grass very well. The grass can cope with slightly constricted roots, but then it may not produce the beautiful flower panicles. Nevertheless, container planting is a nice alternative, at least for large balconies or terraces, although it requires a little more care. Unlike pampas grasses planted outdoors, they should be fertilised at two-week intervals during the growing season, for example with liquid fertiliser in the water.

Has the pampas grass whetted your appetite for more grasses? Take a look at the graceful variety of ornamental grasses.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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