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In terms of cutting care, you should not lump pampas grass with other ornamental grasses. Read this tutorial to learn why cutting isn't always the best course of action. You can find out when and how to do it right here.

Pampas grass can be cut back in March, but doesn't have to be

Table of Contents

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  1. Cutting-related properties
  2. comb out instead of cutting
  3. Cut in clumps
  4. taper cut
  5. taper without division
  6. Dispose of clippings
  7. Cutting vase decorations
  8. frequently asked Questions
  9. Wintergreen and sensitive to frost - properties relevant to pruning

    The special position of pampas grass in terms of cutting care is primarily based on specific growth characteristics. As the name suggests, the ornamental grass originated in a barren ecoregion on the other side of the globe. In the South American pampas, a climate with dry, hot summers and cold, long winters dominates.

    In order to be better prepared for the extreme weather conditions of its homeland, pampas grass also thrives evergreen leaves. The culms have the vital task of protecting the heart of the plant from frost and moisture. Instead of pruning a clump to ground level in the fall, gardeners loosely tie pampas grass together. The inside is well padded with wood wool or leaves beforehand. This optimizes stability under snow pressure, allows rainwater to run off the outside and keeps the freezing frost at bay.

    In the comparatively mild climate of Central Europe, the transition from falling leaves to new growth goes almost unnoticed. cutting measures have predominantly cosmetic importance and are not based on biological requirements.


    Clump plant without stolons

    Many hobby gardeners wonder whether pampas grass should be planted with a root barrier. You've heard that the popular ornamental grass is classified as an invasive plant. In southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, the mighty sweet grass is actually spreading explosively. The reason for the vehement urge to spread are of course no expansive foothills. Rather, pampas grass proves to be extremely productive in seed production. If self-sowing in the garden is undesirable, prudent gardeners cut spike stems out of the eyrie after flowering, before the feathery seed pods can form.

    Not cut, but comb out

    In many sheltered locations in Germany, winter releases pampas grass with many green stalks into spring. Because the opulent ornamental grass benefits when its green leaves are preserved, you shouldn't reach for the scissors now. Drawn-in stalks are usually rotted through to the root disk and correspondingly softened. Take advantage of this fact by combing out your pampas grass like this:

    • Put on sturdy gloves
    • Cut off the dried fronds together with the stems close to the ground
    • Systematically comb out the tuft of grass with your hands

    With this approach, a large part of the dead stalks gets stuck in your hands. If individual leaves are still resisting, repeat the measure some time later in the spring. A particular advantage is that you do not damage the fresh shoots when you comb them out, as is often the case with many types of grass after they have been pruned too late.


    The filigree lightness of pampas grass belies the fact that the edges of its stalks razor sharp are. Protect your hands with cut-resistant work gloves when combing or cutting. are recommended Cut protection gloves class 3 with lycra and nylon. Conventional gardening gloves made of fabric or rubber do not offer sufficient protection.

    Cut dead stalks in clumps

    If winter comes with a bit of frost, your pampas grass has little to counteract the cold. If the thermometer falls well below freezing for many weeks, the ornamental grass has to pay tribute to the strain. In late winter and early spring, the formerly green tuft of leaves presents itself as a hodgepodge of dead, dried-up stalks and fronds. A rigorous pruning paves the way for young culms to emerge. How to do it right:

    • The best time is in the spring after the main frost period
    • Cut back dried pampas grass to a hand's breadth above the ground
    • Hold the stalks in bunches with one hand
    • Cut off with your other hand and garden shears or a garden sickle
    • Caution: do not cut into the green leaf tips of this year's shoots

    Alternatively, cut the dried nest back to 15 centimeters with hedge trimmers (77.00 €). Cutting in bunches scores with the advantage of being able to put the cut stalks to the side or in the wheelbarrow in an orderly manner. If you cut back a mighty pampas grass with the hedge trimmer, the cut is completed in just a few minutes. The clean-up work will take you a multiple of the time because the stalks are lying all over the garden.

    It is best to cut dead grass in clumps. Grasp the straws with a gloved hand. With the other hand, cut the dried grass down to 15 centimeters.


    Perennial sickle also cuts tufts of grass

    With a curved blade, the perennial sickle cuts off a tuft of dead stalks with a perfect fit. You can even master woody stalks of pampas grass with ease. This is not surprising, since the garden sickle comes from Japan, where it is traditionally used to cut bamboo, perennials, grass and thin twigs. The curved shape is reminiscent of a miniature scythe. The razor-sharp blade only cuts through the plant parts when you pull it and not when you press it, which significantly reduces the risk of injury.

    Rejuvenate decrepit pampas grass

    Pampas grass grows as a clump with numerous, very densely positioned leaves. Over time, the eyrie center becomes so dense that fresh shoots can no longer assert themselves. The result is a bare interior of the plant. Green stalks only grow on the outer areas. At the same time, the ornamental grass develops a large diameter, which causes space problems in small gardens. Pampas grass with this growth pattern is the ideal candidate for regeneration. How to proceed correctly:

    • The best time is on a frost-free day from October to March
    • Thoroughly check for overwintering animals in order to postpone the measure if necessary
    • Cut pampas grass back to 15 to 20 centimeters
    • Cut Horst all around with a spade
    • Push the digging fork under the roots, rock several times and lift the bale out of the ground
    • Lay on a solid surface and break up with the spade blade

    Optionally, perform a halving or division into multiple segments. In order for rejuvenated pampas grass to grow again, a section should have at least 3 strong shoots. Use this opportunity to cut off compacted, dead parts with a sharp knife.

    Plant rejuvenated pampas grass

    Before replanting rejuvenated pampas grass, please carefully prepare the soil at the site. Loosen the soil with the rake to remove the last bits of root. Use nutrient-rich, fresh potting soil to plant a grass segment in. You ensure rapid rooting by planting divided pampas grass exactly as deep as before and watering generously.

    Rejuvenation without division - this is how it works

    Rejuvenating old pampas grass by strenuous division is not always in the gardener's interest. Before you laboriously dig up the bare eyrie, a combination of pruning and combing out can solve the problem. The best time for the procedure is in the spring. How to do it:

    • Put on resistant gloves
    • Comb out the green border area with both hands
    • Cut back the dead interior with scissors or a garden sickle

    The pruning inside the eyrie gives a clear view of the condition of the stalks. Pull out any leaves that are obviously rotten and softened. Under the influence of a balanced supply of nutrients, the different growth rates even out over the course of the summer.


    Female pampas grass blooms more profusely

    Pampas grass is one of the sweet grasses and thrives in dioecious. In concrete terms, this means that there are male and female plants. Although both sexes flower in the fall, female varieties present the more magnificent fronds. On male varieties, the already sparse flower spikes tend to fall apart. When purchasing, ask specifically for a female pampas grass if a tree nursery offers both variants.

    Dispose of clippings properly

    Heaps of leaves and dried fronds bear witness to pampas grass pruning care. The stalks decompose only slowly. It is advisable to shred the clippings for effective disposal. The following options have proven themselves well in garden practice:

    • Discard dry fronds to discourage invasive self-seeding
    • Cut or chop clippings
    • Throw on the compost
    • Use as a mulch (€239.00) in ornamental and vegetable gardens
    • Use as bedding in animal cages or horse boxes

    Dried pampas grass stalks are useful as a straw substitute in the strawberry bed to protect the fruit from contamination. A ripening squash also benefits from being placed on a protective pad of clippings. Extra finely chopped stalks loosen up potting soil and optimize permeability.

    Cut pampas grass to decorate a vase

    In autumn, pampas grass inspires with opulent panicles of flowers that appear from afar like giant feather dusters. You can enjoy the picturesque spectacle in living rooms if you cut off and dry the flowers. That is how it goes:

    • Cut the stems just before the spike florets have fully opened
    • Use a knife or scissors to cut each stalk just above the ground
    • Hang upside down in a shady, dry location

    Within two to four days the fronds are dry and can be arranged in the vase. You can extend the shelf life by gently spraying dried flower spikes with hairspray.

    frequently asked Questions

    Is pampas grass poisonous?

    Pampas grass is not poisonous to humans or animals. The ornamental grass is therefore ideal for the family garden. Only the sharp blade edges pose a risk of injury. Furthermore, the leaves should not be fed to animals because they could cause cuts in the mouth.

    Last year in October I planted a pampas grass that survived the winter well. Many stalks are green, a few are brownish in color and reach a paltry 80 centimeters in height. Should I still cut back the grass, even though it is a young plant?

    Young pampas grass is also cut or at least combed out shortly before it sprouts. Thanks to this measure, the eyrie can push through better and develop shapely. In the course of the year, the ornamental grass will discard dead stalks by itself, but until then the well-groomed appearance is considerably impaired. Ultimately, it is up to your gardening judgment whether you trim or trim pampas grass.

    Our pampas grass is obviously frozen. What to do?

    If you suspect frost damage to the pampas grass, digging it up can save the plant. Wrap the host in a burlap sack. (€10.99) The ornamental grass will spend the rest of the winter in a frost-free room. If there is no fear of ground frost from mid-May, plant the root ball while maintaining the previous planting depth. Cut back all leaves to 15 to 20 centimeters and resume the normal care routine. By early summer it can be seen whether massive frostbite is preventing fresh shoots. Pampas grass often only appears to have frozen and continues to grow in summer.

    Our pampas grass only sprout in the outskirts. What can I do?

    Like almost all perennials, pampas grass increases in size from year to year. This process can overage the center of the plant. Thin out the center in the eyrie carefully. Grasp the dead stalks in bunches and cut them back to 15 cm. Shorten larger areas with hedge trimmers. In this way you clear the way for a fresh shoot.

    My neighbor has never tied his pampas grass together in the winter and never cut it in the spring. Nevertheless, a stately plant has developed. Can't I just let my pampas grass grow?

    Tying the stalks together serves to protect the heart of the plant from excess moisture and severe frost. In regions with mild winters and little snow and in locations with sandy soil, you can do without tying them together. Combing out or cutting back dead stalks primarily has an aesthetic function, because pampas grass is often unsightly after the winter. It is up to your personal judgment whether you cut the ornamental grass or not. In the wild, pampas grasses thrive vigorously and floriferously even without pruning.

    What to do if a pampas grass grows too wide and too dense?

    Division is a good solution to both problems. Between October and March you dig up the pampas grass. Break up the root ball with a sharp spade. You can use this opportunity to cut out heavily compacted areas. Also remove dried stems and flower stalks. Plant the segments in fresh soil and please ensure a regular water supply.

    Should only the long fronds of the pampas grass be cut in spring or the entire plant?

    After a mild winter, it is enough to cut off the stems with dried fronds. Pampas grass has evergreen leaves and does not necessarily have to be cut back. An exception applies after very cold winter months in severe frost. Then the grass turns brown and should be cut back to a hand's breadth above the ground.

    In the first year, our pampas grass shot up without forming the flowers we had hoped for. So this March I cut back the ornamental grass. Now it's the beginning of June and nothing is happening. Was the cut a mistake?

    Pampas grass is one of the "late bloomers" among ornamental grasses. Late ground frost in particular can significantly delay budding well into spring. The pruning should not be the reason for the hesitant growth. More problematic is excessive wetness during the winter, which can damage the rootstock. Try pulling on individual stalks. If these can be pulled out easily, the roots have rotted and the pampas grass has died. If you meet resistance, life will throb in the grass and it will soon sprout.

    The 3 most common cutting mistakes

    If the gardener makes a mistake in trimming, pampas grass will be left without its furious fronds or, in the worst case, die off completely. To save you from this annoyance, the following table names the three most common pampas grass pruning errors:

    cutting error damage picture prevention
    cut in the fall no fresh shoots, total failure comb out in spring
    never shared dead center, sparse shoots at the edge share every 4 to 5 years
    cut off all culms to ground level in summer brown leaf tips, stunted growth Cut off dead stalks, leave green stalks

    Another common mistake gardeners make in the run-up to cutting pampas grass. The South American ornamental grass is largely immune to widespread diseases and pests. Even voracious snails avoid the green stalks. On the other hand, if pathogens are given access via contaminated scissor blades, they strike mercilessly in the eyrie. Please do not forget to clean the tool carefully before cutting and to disinfect the scissor blades with spirit or Sagrotan.



    The modern front garden design has discovered ornamental grasses as floral leading figures. Slender pampas grass varieties such as Cortaderia selloana 'Pumila' and 'Sunningdale Silver' are very popular, with their picturesque feather fronds displacing the classic house tree.

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