Pampas Grass Is For Swingers

August 28, 2016 | By | Comments (27)

A rare sighting of pampas grass used well. Photo:

If you live in the burbs, chances are that at one time or another, you’ve been tempted to plant pampas grass. Count yourself lucky if you refrained. Because almost every place you could have put it would have looked downright awful.

This is predictable for a couple of reasons. First, pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is native to the pampas region of Argentina, where the landscape looks like this.

Photo: agro2b-ru

Keep your eyes peeled for llamas! If you hit one, it could totally wreck your dune buggy. Does this look like your neighborhood?

Second, pampas grass gets huge. Established clumps can reach 10 to 12 feet tall and wide. Plant it in the midst of a flower border and it will swallow everything around it. Plant it in the middle of the yard and it looks like you stuck a basketball goal out there.

Given the fact that the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word “tacky” as “bearing a close resemblance to pampas grass in residential settings,” why do people keep planting it? That’s easy — the outrageously gaudy floral plumes up to three feet long that tower above the cascade of foliage in summer. It’s the perfect plant for hiding the propane tank or screening the next-door neighbors who park two vehicles for every family member and only one of the lot actually runs.

Thus, you can see why people who have pampas grass are peeved when it doesn’t bloom. There are a number of possible causes for this tragedy.

1. Pampas grass loves hot summers and mild winters. North of USDA Zone 7, it won’t bloom and may not even live. So sad.

2. Pampas grass likes lots of sun. It won’t bloom in shade.

3.Young plants often take a few years to start blooming. So if you buy a plant that isn’t blooming, be prepared to wait.

4. Huge, old clumps need periodic dividing to rejuvenate them. Winter is the time to do this. Wear gloves as the leaves are sharp and can cut your hands to ribbons. Cut the old foliage to the ground before digging and dividing. A power hedge trimmer makes quick work or this. Or if the clump is all alone by itself with no combustibles around, set it ablaze. This won’t hurt it at all and it sure is fun.

5. In the future, buy named selections such as ‘Ivory Feathers,’ ‘Andes Silver,’ and ‘Sunningdale Silver’ that bloom reliably.

Is There Any Place Besides Argentina That Pampas Grass Looks Good?
Actually, yes. If you want a tall hedge that you won’t have to shear, a row of pampas grass does the job nicely. And like other ornamental grasses, it looks quite at home next to a large body of water. Here in the South, people frequently plant it at the beach with Grumpy’s blessing. It grows in sand, tolerates drought, and bends gracefully in the salt breeze.

But, as most people don’t live at the beach, those determined to have it usually shoehorn it into teeny yards where it ends up looking like this.


Or maybe they built the house around an existing clump. It’s so hard to tell.

Upon further investigation, I found the following annotation to this photo, which may explain what the pampas grass is really doing there. “It is a well established fact,” writes Firky, “that if you have pampas grass in your garden you’re going to attract swingers (swingers use the grass as an advert to other swingers). Has anyone got pampas grass in their garden and ….had anyone knocking on their door asking to swing?”

Now we know why so many people plant pampas grass. They’re looking to make new friends who love dancing to Benny Goodman.




  1. Sherry Aultman

    I soooo disagree with Grumpy!!! I live in the country and I have planted several Pampas grasses….love how it blows in the wind. It gets so tall (the cattails)! I love, love it! Beautiful specimen!!

    September 13, 2016 at 6:55 am
  2. Darlean M


    September 9, 2016 at 7:09 pm
  3. Jean Quintana

    This sounds like an evasive plant, not meant for most places in the USA. We planted some papyrus grass that took over one side of our back yard. Only the cement stopped it. It may have been OK if kept to a container or pot. My husband had to buy something at the hardware store that was able to wipe it all out. There were stumps from the plants that took several years before they came out easily.

    September 9, 2016 at 6:59 pm
  4. Lexi

    Awful snarky (read b*****)tone for an article posted as informative. When did this become a nasty comedy forum?

    September 9, 2016 at 10:44 am
  5. Lucy Ricardo

    I disagree with the Grumpy Gardner. Early this summer I planted eight Pampas plants in a row ten feet apart along the front edge of my woodland property which faces a gravel road. (it’s sunny and dry)
    I always admire Pampas grass and, furthermore, it is beautiful when planted in a place that can accommodate it.

    September 8, 2016 at 8:31 pm
  6. Nancy Collins

    My ex-landscaper planted supposedly low growing pampas grass and now it’s 10 feet tall! Please have an article on how to get rid of it! Permanently!

    September 8, 2016 at 6:24 pm
  7. Belinda

    We have pampas grass planted in a very large yard near some large boulders….absolutely stunning landscape feature and receive compliments all the time!

    September 8, 2016 at 1:28 pm
  8. Yes, I have some pampas plants

    This is a crudely written feature for Southern Living.

    September 8, 2016 at 11:43 am
  9. Kathleen

    I made a point to look at local pampas grass & maybe it’s more the spacing that’s an issue here. Folks try use it as a “living fence” & it gets all clumpy & crowded looking.
    I saw a beautiful stand of pampas grass on my way home yesterday by a bayou. Someone had given it enough room & space. It looked great.

    September 2, 2016 at 9:34 am
  10. Reinhild Gamboa

    Knowing pampas grass well I planted it in big planters and it looks great. Keeping it neat and clean is also a lot easier when pampas grass is growing in pots.

    September 2, 2016 at 7:41 am
  11. Mercy

    So I guess I should be glad my horse ate my cotton candy pampas???

    September 1, 2016 at 5:52 pm
  12. Jean Simpson

    I have had my pampas grass 3 years and I am so excited to have the beautiful Plumes!! It’s always catches my attention Wherever its planted. If you don’t like it don’t plant it and certainly don’t give such a negative post for those that may because considering planting it. They need to do their own research and make an informed decision based on their space and size. 😊

    September 1, 2016 at 3:03 pm
  13. Sandy Nally

    It will also die in the middle after a period of time. Mine was pretty for about 10 years, then the shade took over. Paul James said to dig up the middle and replace the dying part with a new plant. Too much trouble. But yes, the mice love it and so I will just let it all die. Thank you.

    August 30, 2016 at 9:29 am
  14. Chris Mallory

    I lived on Cape Cod near the Atlantic Ocean and almost everyone has pampas in their yard and it does beautifully. Likes the ocean and cold winters up there.

    August 29, 2016 at 10:19 pm
  15. Liliana

    It’s a joke? The Argentine pampas landscape doesn’t look as we can seen in the second photo. The pampa grass (Cortaderia selloana) grows near rivers, irrigation canals or ditchs. Where there is water it grows wild forming large clumps. Also it grows near the beach, it’s true that it grows in sand, tolerates drought, and bends gracefully in the salt breeze. The author confuses the Puna desert (Argentina North-West) with the green scenery of the pampas. You may see pictures and get more information in this link:

    August 29, 2016 at 9:50 pm
  16. Weebit Crazy

    Love it… bought enough to do the front property line… 330 feet. 😉

    August 29, 2016 at 7:46 pm
  17. Darryl

    Pampas Asses plant Pampas Grasses.

    August 29, 2016 at 4:03 pm
  18. Pat Lutz

    so how do you feel about zebra grass?

    August 29, 2016 at 3:39 pm
  19. penelope allingham

    Swingers, mice? This is so exciting! I planted a small clump three years ago here in Georgia and this year it is blooming. I shall await with eager anticipation, the arrival of both swingers and mice (which the cats will enjoy) Sadly I don’t have any Benny Goodman records but I make a great martini.

    August 29, 2016 at 2:46 pm
  20. Cathy Woody

    Years ago we had a pug dog who chewed a piece of our lovely stand of pampas grass and ended up with having emergency surgery to remove the razor sharp piece from his soft palate. Needless to say, it was gone from our landscape by that evening!

    August 29, 2016 at 2:28 pm
  21. Robert

    This is absurd. I have always admired pampas grass. I think its beautiful and displays an air of sophistication and distinction. I have been enjoying the blooms on mine for the past few weeks. Absolutely gorgeous. This article is full of bunk. Any plant planted in the wrong place is going to be an eye sore. Go figure.

    August 29, 2016 at 2:04 pm
  22. Kathleen

    It grows nicely in Georgia, but for some reason in the Gulf states it grows differently & always looks unkempt & clumsy.
    The prettiest example I’ve seen is along the median strip for blocks& blocks in Columbus, GA.

    August 29, 2016 at 10:36 am
  23. Karin from B’ham

    Someone had planted pampas grass in the corners of our yard in a gated golf course community in Montgomery that shall remain nameless. The same rocket scientist responsible for planting Bradford Pears along the entrance boulevard and the Hackberry tree in my front yard, no doubt. Don’t miss any of them!

    August 29, 2016 at 9:22 am
  24. Michelle Short

    Hilarious! I have never understood why people insist on planting it but I shall forever after be supremely entertained when I see it!

    August 28, 2016 at 4:17 pm
  25. Nora

    They also harbor mice.

    August 28, 2016 at 12:47 pm
  26. Pat

    I once bent the bumper on my husband’s pickup truck trying to pull ours up.

    August 28, 2016 at 12:10 pm
  27. bblawson

    The architecture of the home in the last photo leads me to believe the house is in the United Kingdom somewhere. It isn’t typical American architecture. Not quite relevant to the article, I know. But I do find it interesting that the pampas grass is growing in the UK considering most of their zones run from 7 – 10 (coordinating with our zones).

    August 28, 2016 at 11:08 am

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