Few plants make as bold a statement in the landscape as pampas grass. These showy plants require little care except for the annual pruning, which isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Find out about pruning pampas grass in this article.
How to Prune Pampas Grass
Pampas grass needs annual pruning to get rid of the old foliage and make room for new growth. The foliage is tough and razor sharp. You’ll need to wear leather gloves, long pants and a long sleeve shirt to avoid getting cut.
Pampas grass pruning is much easier when you have proper tools for the job. Hedge pruners and electric shear aren’t up to the task. The best tool for the job is a chainsaw. If you’re like me, a smallish person who is intimidated by a chainsaw, you can use long-handled loppers. The long handles on loppers provide more leverage than short handled tools and make the job of cutting pampas grass plants easier, but even so, you can expect sore muscles and a few blisters the next day.
Before you begin, you might want to use a long stick to poke around the base of the plant and make sure there isn’t anything unexpected inside. Small mammals often use the cover of pampas grass foliage as a winter nesting site. Once you’re sure the grass is free of critters, you’re ready to begin.
Cut through the leaves near the base of the plant to leave a tuft of foliage 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm.) tall. You may have seen people burning off the remaining stubs, but you’ll get healthier and stronger regrowth if you leave it alone. After pruning, broadcast a handful or two of 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 fertilizer around the plant.
When to Cut Back Pampas Grass
The best time to cut back pampas grass is in late winter just before the plant begins sending up new foliage. Waiting until the end of winter allows you to enjoy the plumes all year.
Every once in a while, clumps of pampas grass form smaller clumps off to the side. Remove these clumps when you do your annual pruning to prevent overcrowding and to preserve the shape of the clump. Thin the clump every three years or so. This is a big job. Separating the roots requires the use of a heavy duty saw or an axe. Dig up and remove about one-third of the foliage.