A Gardener's Guide To Growing & Displaying Pampas Grass The Right Way
Whimsical pampas grass can give any home, wedding, or event space a certain je ne sais quoi. Here's everything you need to know about growing the dreamy grass in your backyard (in an eco-friendly way) and/or decorating with oh-so-trendy dried pampas.
Where to grow pampas grass.
Pampas grass, Cortaderia Selloana, is a fluffy perennial grass native to the warm climates of South America. It can grow up to 10 feet tall and has an uncanny ability to thrive in the heat.
"As a gardener, my only concern lies in knowing that they're an invasive species in some areas," master gardener and wild forager Brianne Dela Cruz tells mbg of pampas grass.
Since the grass' signature fluffy plumes grow so quickly and densely, you need to pay attention to them to ensure they don't get out of control.
"My hope is that the fascination of pampas grass isn't having a negative impact on the environment by encouraging this plant to be grown in inappropriate landscapes," Dela Cruz adds. Some places that consider pampas invasive include California, Washington state, Hawaii, Texas, Australia, and New Zealand.
Outside of those areas, you might be able to find this grass in local garden shops and nurseries. Online retailers like Etsy are also a good place to find dried pampas.
Caring for the grass.
Want to add pampas to your yard? Once you've checked that it's OK to grow in your area, here's a guide on how to get the low-maintenance grass going.
Pampas can grow in a container or directly in the ground. Because of its tolerance to drought and sea spray, it's OK to grow in USDA zones 7–11 and 6 if it's not extreme cold. You can start it from seed indoors during the cooler months before planting it outdoors in the spring.
Once in the ground, pampas loves bright light, and many varieties will be happy with six hours of direct sun a day.
Consistent and regular watering is key for pampas. Watering your grass once or twice a week should be plenty, but you'll want to keep your location in mind: Hotter temps equal more frequent watering sessions.
Pampas does well in a variety of weather conditions except for the extreme cold. Temps between 65 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit are best. There's no way you'll grow a grass like this successfully indoors or in the cold.
"Pampas grass can grow in a wide range of soil types but prefers moist, well-draining soil, similar to what we'd find along a riverbank or mountain stream," Dela Cruz tells mbg. Pampas also loves a little acidity in its soil. An easy way to add acidity to your soil is by tossing in some organic, material-rich compost.
"Pampas grass should be pruned each year to the ground in late winter or early spring to inspire new growth of blade foliage and inflorescence blooms," says Dela Cruz. This keeps the grass tidy and prevents it from becoming invasive.
Pampas is nontoxic to your animals but may cause some stomach discomfort if it's ingested. The leaves are also pretty sharp, so be mindful of planting it anywhere kids and pets play often.
How to dry pampas grass.
Want to preserve what you've grown and repurpose it in your home? Here's your step-by-step guide to drying pampas for decor:
Step 1: Harvest the plumes.
Use your strongest shears to cut the pampas' stems to your desired length, as straight as you can. Be sure to check your freshly cut plumes for insects before bringing them inside.
Step 2: Tie your pampas upside down.
Using thread or twine, bundle the base of your plumes together and hang them upside down on a hook or an area where air can circulate around them for the next two weeks or so.
Step 3: Check for texture.
After roughly two to three weeks, check the stems to make sure the pampas is completely dry before moving on to the next step.
Step 4: Spray it with hair spray.
Spritz a very light layer of hair spray over the newly dried plumes to preserve their fluff and prevent shedding.
Step 5: Decorate.
With that, you'll have dried pampas plumes! Now comes the fun part of using them to decorate your home or make arrangements for your next event.
Step 6 (optional): Dye.
Using hot water and droplets of dye, you can dye your freshly dried plumes in less than 30 minutes. After you dye them, hang them and allow them to fully dry again before re-fluffing with hairspray.
Using pampas grass for decor.
No matter whether you decide to use fresh or dried pampas, this grass can give any space a variety of feels—wild, boho, artsy, rustic, romantic. You name it.
Here are a few ways that you can display the fluffy grass at home:
- Turn it into a table centerpiece.
- Pop a vase of it in your entryway.
- Work it into a DIY wreath.
- Frame it to make nature-inspired pressed-flower art (Dela Cruz recommends placing it between two sheets of parchment paper to dry it out first).
- Place some plumes on your mantel.
- Use it as a Christmas tree or ornament.
- Incorporate it into a dried-flower bouquet.
The bottom line.
Pampas grass can make for a wonderful garden showstopper or indoor plant, as long as you grow it with intention. Be mindful of where you live because while you may not be able to harvest it into your area, Dela Cruz says there are varieties of pampas-like grasses that you can try instead.
Alex Shea is a storyteller and generational healing life coach with words in Byrdie, Verywell Mind, HuffPost, Shape, and more. Outside of publications, Alex writes stories that touch on, and sometimes intertwine, themes of grief and magic.
With a unique view on life, she taps into her own experiences to guide folks to live life for themselves, empowering them to explore their inner wild and find their own way in adulthood. Her weekly newsletter is a tiny way she furthers her mission to hold space for the unfathomable, romantic, and messy parts of life that make it that much more beautiful.