How to Grow Pampas Grass – Cortaderia

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Cortaderia — commonly called Pampas grass — is a fast-growing ornamental grass that has a fountain-like form growing in dense tussocks. It can grow to 20 feet (6m) tall, as much as 8 feet in one season.

Cortaderia has arching, narrow, and arching saw-toothed leaves. It bears long white to chamois or pink flower plumes in late summer. The flower plumes are up to 3 feet (1m) long.

Cortaderia can be overwhelming in the landscape. It should be placed at the back of a border or grown as a free-standing specimen. Cortaderia readily self-sows. It can become invasive if not tended to. It should not be planted where it can escape into the wild.

Cortaderia is a genus of about 23 species of perennial evergreen or semi-evergreen grasses. Cortaderia is native to grasslands, often near water, in New Zealand, New Guinea, and South America.

Pampas grass or Cortaderia selloana
Pampas grass or Cortaderia selloana

Get to know Cortaderia 

  • Plant type: Evergreen or semi-evergreen giant ornamental grass 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 6 to 9 
  • Hardiness:  
  • Height and width: 5-12 feet x 5 feet (1.5-3.7m x 1.5m) 
  • Growth rate: Fast 
  • Form and habit:  
  • Foliage: A fountain of saw-toothed, grassy leaves that are stiff, flat, narrowly linear, and often glaucous
  • Flowers: Majestic feathery plumes; female plants have the showiest plumes; flower color varies from silvery to cream white or pink, 1-3 foot (.3-.9m), usually male or female spikelets on separate plants, but occasionally hermaphroditic; female spikelets have long, silky hairs at the base 
  • Fruits:  
  • Bloom time: Late summer through winter 
  • Uses: Dramatic accent, back of the border, or as free-standing specimen
  • Garden companions:  
  • Common name: Pampas grass 
  • Botanical name: Cortaderia 
  • Family name: Poaceae (Gramineae) 
  • Origin: Argentina, New Zealand, New Guinea, and South America

Where to plant Cortaderia 

  • Plant Cortaderia in full sun.  
  • Plant Cortaderia in fertile, well-drained average soil. 
  • In cold areas, grow Cortaderia in a container and bring it inside in winter.  

When to plant Cortaderia 

  • Set container-grown Cortaderia in the garden in spring or autumn.
  • Sow Cortaderia seed at 55-64°F (13-18°C) in spring.
pampas grass with graceful white inflorescence plumes
Cortaderia selloana or pampas grass with graceful white inflorescence plumes

Planting and spacing Cortaderia 

  • Give Cortaderia ample space to develop; allow at least 5 feet (1.2m) between plants.

How to water and feed Cortaderia 

  • Keep Cortaderia continuously moist. 
  • Feed Cortaderia with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring. 

How to care for Cortaderia 

  • Before new growth begins in spring, cut Cortaderia back and remove dead material collected near base, take care to avoid sharp leave margins.
  • Protect crowns of young plants during winter.

Cortaderia pests and diseases 

  • Cortaderia can develop Helminthosporium leaf spot.

Cortaderia propagation 

  • Sow seed in spring or autumn in a greenhouse or indoors.
  • Divide Cortaderia in spring.

Cortaderia varieties to grow 

  • Cortaderia richardii, Toe toe, densely tufted, clump-forming, evergreen, perennial grass with recurved, leathery, pale olive-green leaves, to 4 feet (1.2m) long. In early and midsummer, arching stems, to 9 feet (2.5m) tall, bear shaggy, pyramidal, creamy white or silvery white panicles, 24 inches (60cm) long, which persist into winter. To 9 feet (2.5m) tall and 6 feet (1.8m) wide. New Zealand.
  • C. selloana (C. argentea), Pampas grass, densely tufted, clump-forming, evergreen, perennial grass with arching, glaucous, mid-green, to 8 feet (2.5m) or more long. In late summer, silky, silver, often pink- or purple- flushed spikelets are borne in pyramidal to oblong panicles, 18-36 inches (45-90cm) long, on erect stems. To 8-10 feet (2.5-3m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide or more. Temperate South America.
  • ‘Andes Silver’ is 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1m) tall with large silvery flower plumes.  
  • ‘Patagonia’ is 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8m) tall with striking silver plumes and bluish, gray-green foliage.  
  • ‘Pumila’ is a dwarf with creamy white flowers on 3-4 foot (.9-1.2m) stalks. It is very floriferous.  

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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