U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Friday, May 4, 2012

Looking at My Pampas Grass

This is a little update to my previous post Pampas Grass - Little Observation (February 19, 2011). In that post, I tried to figure out if the blooming power of pampas grass depends upon whether I cut it down or not. I also compared my pampas grass with the pampas grasses from our neighborhood.
In previous years, I cut my dwarf pampas grass two ways:  severe, all the way to the ground, and less severe.

This is what I call severe cutting -all the way down:

This is what I call less severe cut (on the right):
I didn't notice any connection between the type of cut and number of plumes. In both cases, I had just a couple of plumes.
Last year, for the first time, my pampas grass was not cut at all. It looked pretty good in spring 2011, so I just cleaned it a bit, removing yellow blades as much as possible. In 2011 there were no plumes at all.
The grass looked  green the whole time, including the mild winter of 2011-2012:
 January 2012
This spring, I am not cutting it again. With a rake, I just removed dead blades. Here is how it looked in the spring of 2012:
March 2012

My neighbors' pampas grass, which I wrote about, never got cut. I don't know the reason, but the owners just keep their clumps as they are. The clumps are not attractive with lots of yellow among green. But, as I noticed before, they do provide many blooms.
Following are the pictures of pampas grass (not dwarf type as mine) that has never been cut.
February 2011
September 2011
 September 2011
April 2012

So, what do we have after comparing mine and neighbors' grasses:
When mine is cut, it gives very few plumes.
When mine is not cut, it gives no plumes.
Neighbors' grass is never cut and gives lots of plumes.
The neighbors grass gets more sun, and it is older than mine. Maybe, the age of the plants and the amount of sun, which it gets, determines its blooming power?
Do the older plants and the more sunny location produce more blooms?
It looks like it to me.
As I wrote in 2011, for me personally, the appearance of the whole plant is more important than the plumes. So, I am pleased with how my pampas grass looks and will cut it only if it looks brown and worn-out.
As for composting, I personally don't compost it. Why, I wrote here Pampas Grass - Bad Guy?

In conclusion, here are the beautiful clumps of pampas grass in Kingston, WA in October 2011:

I hope your pampas grass behaves for you, doesn't self-seed and provides a lot of exotic feathery plumes.
Addition: Please read the comments to this post. My plant grows in sandy, not very rich soil. But, there was a pile of horse manure close to it. The grass' roots can easily reach it. It might well be that my pampas grass gets more nutrients than the neighbors' grass.
My plant is well fed, happy and lazy.
Neighbors' plants are stressed out and try to bloom and seed being afraid that they are going to die! This is what our NW garden guru Ciscoe Morris told about non-blooming lilac (Stress it out and it'll bloom for you!).
Thank you Greggo, Rob, GoSS, Cathy&Steve, Casa Mariposa and everyone who tried to answer my question!!!
***Copyright 2012 TatyanaS


  1. I do love pampas grass but it would never bloom here in zone 3 Alberta. I wonder if it would overwinter at all? I'd love to just buy the seed and give it a try sometime. I wish I knew the answer to your conundrum.

    1. Shirley, thanks! They say, it is good for zones 8 and higher. In zone 6, pampas grass is considered marginally hardy. Zone 3 ....too cold!

  2. My opinion: Your plants are obviously more healthier with more nutrients available, thus creating more leaves. When plants ate stressed and hungry they produce more fruit (seeds) to reproduce (a stress fix). I've seen it over and over in plants.

    1. Greggo, thank you! It makes sense! I wrote about our NW garden guru Ciscoe Morris who recommended to stress plants out to make them bloom.

    2. I remember reading some comments from an extension agent who used to beat the bark of his fruit trees with a wadded up sunday newspaper to get his trees to bloom. lol. true story.

  3. I think your leaves look nice and am glad you clean it up each year. As for blooms, sounds like Greggo is on to something. They do need sun too.

    1. Thank you, Gardener on Sherlock Street! My plant gets about 5-6 hours of sun. There used to be a pile of horse manure close to it. Maybe, the grass roots reached the yummy stuff!

  4. I'm in solid agreement with Greggo and G on SS.... I wish you luck with it, and to be honest, yours might not have a lot of plumes, but it looks so much better than the one that is never trimmed and cleaned.

  5. I think you pampas grass looks much better. I don't like the dead growth with the new green growth. The plumes are beautiful. I have some pampas grass but when I purchased it several years ago I thought it was a dwarf. Nooooo! It is now a bully in the garden and is going to have to come out. I will need to find a replacement grass for the space. Your size looks more manageable!

  6. Tatyana, I'm certain it's a combination of the amount of sun they receive and perhaps a little too comfortable nutrients wise.. They like to bake and seem to do well on thin, slightly impoverished soils.

  7. I have a Pagoda Dogwood that did not bloom until I severely pruned it due to cicada damage. I like grasses to be cut down to about six inches (to protect the crown) and have learned not to fertilize them. The year I fertilized my carex it grew like crazy covering the path.


  8. Maybe your soil is too rich. They might need a little, or a lot, of tough love!

  9. Hello Tatyana, in the area here which has been previously covered by lahar from the eruption of Mt Pinatubo years ago, the unproductive silty lands grow just similar to those pampass grass but maybe different species. Passing through those vast lands while they are flowering is a bit mystical because of the sea of white plumes!

  10. Thank you everyone! It looks like I need to put my plant on a diet, and my neighbors need to give their plants a haircut!

  11. Your pampass grass is lovely without the plumes! I am afraid to plant anything grasslike, outside of a pot, because I am afraid it would spread rampantly here.

  12. Tatiana, Your grasses are very expressive. Let them grow without limits

  13. Amazing! I never realised that this grass is actually pampas grass.
    It grows wild here in my region and often considered as an invasive weed and no one actually take note of their plumes.
    Now that you mentioned it - I realise that they are actually beautiful.

  14. Hi Tatyana, What an interesting post and experiment with pampas grass! I have had such mixed success with grasses of all kinds. I think my soil may be too rich and not sandy enough. I also looked back through some of your previous posts. The tulips and trees pictures are amazing! Your photographs are just super.

  15. I left mine this year and didnt even cut it back at all, I did use the 10' canes as pea supports this year, they are strong like bamboo. Maybe this weekend I will get out there and cut it back to about 2' tall.

  16. This is interesting. When I lived in NY we had these and chopped them to about 1 ft tall every November...never even thought about leaving them?!! But I have found this to be the case separately with Liriope, that people regularly cut here early spring. I've left mine for the past two years and it looks a heck of a lot better than anyone else's. I'm not sure who came up with that piece of savvy advice in the first place!

  17. I havent cut back the plumes of my Pampas Grass this year - this is the first time in the 20 years we have lived here that its not been cut.(The plant must be at least 30 years old) We have always got lots of beautiful plumes in the past and I am wondering what will happen this year


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