When to cut back pampas grass?

Written by joshua roberts
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Pampas grass is a dramatic-looking ornamental grass that is popular with gardeners. This grass grows colourful flowers and is exceptionally hardy when given full sun, making it a favourite for landscapers with space to fill. As with many grasses, though, pampas grass has a tendency to look dishevelled if not properly pruned. Trimming at the right time can have a beneficial effect on the overall appearance of pampas grass in your yard.

Become Familiar with Pampas Grass

Pampas grass is well known for its ability to thrive in nearly any climate. In fact, varieties of pampas have been so successful in California that the National Parks Service has deemed it a problem. When properly used as an ornamental feature in your own yard, though, it is both safe for the environment and an attractive landscaping component. Caring for pampas grass is simple, but knowing the tricks and techniques for handling pampas will ensure that your grass looks great year after year.

Plant Pampas In the Right Place

Plant your pampas grass in the right area. Gary Wade at the University of Georgia Extension Office states, "Unfortunately, pampas grass is often used as a foundation plant. It is often purchased from a nursery as a small plant and...after several years it grows so large that it becomes difficult to find the house for the pampas grass". Also, the blades of pampas grass are extremely sharp; they have been known to cut through skin. Be sure to plant the pampas grass a reasonable distance from any walkways or routine traffic areas in the yard for safety's sake.

Pruning for a Smaller Plant

When pruning pampas grass, wear gloves, long trousers and a long-sleeved shirt to keep from cutting yourself during the process. Ultimately, the way you prune your pampas grass will depend upon aesthetic factors However you prune it, the timing should always be the same: Robert Stiffler of Hampton Roads recommends pruning at the end of winter, right before new growth begins to emerge.

Consider the size of the plant as it relates to the area in which you've placed it. If you are looking for a space filler that is tidy and neat, you may simply cut the whole plant down to a height of three to four inches. For this purpose, Wade recommends using a chainsaw or lopping shears, so, clearly, it is not a delicate process. Don't worry, though, because pampas is a remarkably resilient plant.

Prune Dead Growth

If you have planted your pampas grass in an open area, intending to create a natural screen of some sort, then you may wish to let it grow as tall as possible. You'll still need to prune for the health and vitality of the plant, but here your task is only to remove any old growth that was damaged by winter. A little shaping and neatening up may also be in order, particularly to remove any leaves or dead blades of grass that have fallen into the centre of the plant. This can stifle growth in the middle, causing a full, vibrant plant to begin looking like a thin circle.

Rejuvenate Growth

However you prune, get it done before the new growth comes out in spring. Your pampas should emerge with energy and beauty as soon as the sun warms the ground, bringing back a freshness to the yard after winter. If, for some reason, your plant does not seem to retain its old vitality after the cold season, consider dividing the plant. This will trigger new growth and will rejuvenate your pampas grass.

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