How to cut pampas grass with expertise - instructions in the tutorial

How to cut pampas grass with expertise - instructions in the tutorial

Wintergreen and sensitive to frost - properties relevant to cutting

The special position of pampas grass in terms of pruning is primarily based on specific growth properties. As the name suggests, the ornamental grass comes from a barren ecoregion on the other side of the globe. The South American pampas are dominated by a climate with dry, hot summers and cold, long winters.

also read

  • Tie up pampas grass in autumn
  • How to overwinter pampas grass in the bucket
  • Pampas grass is partially hardy - tips for wintering

In order to be better equipped for the extreme weather conditions of its homeland, pampas grass with evergreen leaves thrives . The stalks have the vital task of protecting the plant heart from frost and moisture. Instead of cutting an eyrie at ground level in autumn, gardeners loosely tie pampas grass together. Beforehand, the inside is well padded with wood wool or leaves. This optimizes stability under snow pressure, allows rainwater to run off around the outside and keeps freezing frost at bay.

In the comparatively mild climate of Central Europe, the transition from leaf shedding to new growth goes almost unnoticed. Cutting measures are primarily of cosmetic importance and are not based on biological requirements.


Horst plant without runners

Many hobby gardeners wonder whether pampas grass should be planted with a root barrier. You have heard that the popular ornamental grass is counted among the invasive plants. In southern European countries such as Portugal, Spain, Italy and France, the mighty sweet grass is actually spreading explosively. The cause of the vehement urge to spread is, of course, no extensive offshoots. Rather, pampas grass proves to be extremely productive in seed production. If self-sowing is undesirable in the garden, prudent gardeners cut ear stems from the eyrie after flowering before the feathery seed heads can form.

Don't cut, but comb out

In many protected locations in Germany, winter releases pampas grass with many green stalks into spring. Because the opulent ornamental grass benefits when its green leaves are retained, you shouldn't reach for scissors now. Retracted stalks are usually rotten through to the root disc and correspondingly softened. You can take advantage of this fact by combing out your pampas grass as follows:

  • Put on sturdy gloves
  • Cut off dried fronds and stems in advance close to the ground
  • Systematically comb out the grass with your hands

With this approach, a large number of dead stalks will get caught in your hands. If individual leaves still resist, repeat the measure some time later in spring. A particular advantage is that you do not damage the fresh shoots when combing out, as is regularly the case with numerous grass species after pruning too late.


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

Cut dead stalks in bunches

If winter comes with freezing frost, your pampas grass has little to oppose the cold. If the thermometer sinks 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. Rigorous pruning paves the way for young stalks to light. 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
  • Grasp the stalks in bunches with one hand
  • Cut off with the other hand and a pair of secateurs or garden sickle
  • Caution: do not cut into the green leaf tips of this year's shoot

Alternatively, cut the dried up eyrie back to 15 centimeters with a hedge trimmer (€ 135.56 at Amazon *). Clipping in clusters has the advantage of being able to put cut stalks to one side or in the wheelbarrow. If you cut back a mighty pampas grass with the hedge trimmer, the cut is completed in a few minutes. The clean-up work takes you many times longer because the stalks are criss-cross in the garden.

Pampas grass pruning


Perennial sickle also cuts tufts of grass

With a curved blade, the perennial sickle cuts off a clump of dead stalks. You can even master woody spike stalks on the pampas grass with ease. This is hardly surprising, because the garden sickle comes from Japan, where it is traditionally used to cut bamboo, perennials, grass and thin branches. The curved shape is reminiscent of a miniature scythe. The razor-sharp blade cuts the plant parts only when pulled, and not already when pushed, which significantly reduces the risk of injury.

Rejuvenate decrepit pampas grass

Pampas grass grows as an eyrie with numerous, very densely positioned leaves. In the course of time, the Horst center thickens so massively that fresh shoots can no longer prevail. The result is a balding plant interior. Green stalks still grow only on the outside. At the same time, the ornamental grass develops an expansive diameter, which causes space problems in the small garden. Pampas grass with this growth pattern is the ideal candidate for rejuvenation. How to do it correctly:

  • The best time is on a frost-free day from October to March
  • Thoroughly examine for hibernating animals in order to postpone the measure if necessary
  • Cut the pampas grass back to six to eight inches
  • Cut off Horst all around with a spade
  • Push the digging fork under the roots, rock several times and lift the ball out of the earth
  • Lay it on a firm surface and divide it with the spade blade

Optionally, you can halve or divide it into several segments. So that rejuvenated pampas grass can grow again, a section should have at least 3 strong shoots. Take this opportunity to cut off compacted, dead parts with a sharp knife.

Plant rejuvenated pampas grass

Before replanting regenerated pampas grass, please carefully prepare the soil on site. Loosen the soil with the rake to remove any remaining roots. Use nutrient-rich, fresh potting soil to plant a segment of grass in it. You ensure rapid rooting by planting divided pampas grass exactly as deep as before and generously watering it.

Rejuvenation without division - this is how it works

Rejuvenating old pampas grass by means of exhausting division is not always in the gardener's interest. Before you laboriously dig up the balding eyrie, a combination of pruning and combing out can solve the problem. The best date for the procedure is in spring. This is how it works:

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

The cut back inside the nest gives a clear view of the condition of the stalks. Pull out any leaves that are obviously rotten and soggy. Under the influence of a balanced supply of nutrients, the different growth heights balance each other out over the course of the summer.


Female pampas grass blooms more profusely

Pampas grass is a sweet grass and grows dioeciously. Specifically, this means that there are male and female plants. Although both sexes bloom in autumn, female varieties present the more splendid fronds. On male varieties, the already sparse flower panicles tend to fall apart. When purchasing, ask specifically for a female pampas grass if a nursery has both options on offer.

Dispose of clippings properly

Mountains of leaves and dried up fronds are evidence of the care taken on the pampas grass. The stalks decompose only slowly. It is advisable to shred the clippings for effective disposal. The following options have proven themselves well in gardening practice:

  • Sort out dry fronds to prevent invasive self-sowing
  • Cut or chop up clippings
  • Throw on the compost
  • Use as mulch (€ 213.00 at Amazon *) in the ornamental and vegetable garden
  • Use as litter in animal cages or horse boxes

Dried stalks of pampas grass are useful as a straw substitute in strawberry beds to protect the fruit from dirt. A ripening pumpkin also benefits when it lies on a protective mat made of clippings. Extra small-chopped stalks loosen up potted plant soil and optimize permeability.

Cut pampas grass as a vase decoration

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

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

The fronds are dry within two to four days and can be arranged in the vase. You can extend the shelf life by spraying dried flower panicles very lightly with hairspray.

frequently asked Questions

Is pampas grass poisonous?

Pampas grass is not poisonous for humans or animals. The ornamental grass is therefore ideal for the family garden. Only the sharp edges of the leaves 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 weathered the winter well. Many stalks are green, a few have a brownish discoloration, with a height of a meager 80 centimeters. 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 drift through better and develop beautifully. In the course of the year the ornamental grass will discard dead stalks by itself, but the well-groomed appearance is significantly impaired by then. Ultimately, it depends on your horticultural assessment whether you cut or clear pampas grass.

Our pampas grass has obviously frozen to death. What to do?

If you suspect frost damage to the pampas grass, digging up can save the plant. Wrap the host in a burlap sack. (€ 6.86 at Amazon *) The ornamental grass spends the rest of the winter in a frost-free room. If there is no more ground frost to fear from mid-May, plant the root ball while maintaining the previous planting depth. Cut all leaves back to six to eight inches and resume normal maintenance. By early summer it can be seen whether massive frostbite prevents fresh budding. Often pampas grass has only seemingly frozen and continues to grow in summer.

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

Like almost all perennials, pampas grass is increasing in size from year to year. During this process, the center of the plant can become too old. Carefully align the center in the eyrie. Grasp the dead stalks in clusters and cut them back to 15 cm. You can shorten larger areas with a hedge trimmer. In this way you clear the way for a fresh shoot.

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

Tying the stalks together serves to protect the plant heart from too much moisture and severe frost. In winter-mild regions with little snow and in locations with sandy soil, you can do without tying. Combing out or pruning disused stalks primarily has an aesthetic function, because pampas grass is often unsightly after winter. Whether or not you cut the ornamental grass depends on your personal judgment. In the wild, pampas grasses thrive vitally and in bloom even without pruning.

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

Splitting is a good solution to both problems. Between October and March, dig up the pampas grass. Use a sharp spade to break up the root ball. You can use this opportunity to cut out massively compressed parts. Also remove any dried stems and flower stalks. Plant the segments in fresh soil and make sure that there is a regular water supply.

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

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

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

Pampas grass is one of the "late bloomers" among the ornamental grasses. In particular, belated ground frost can considerably delay budding well into spring. The pruning should not be the cause of the hesitant growth. More problematic is excessive moisture during winter, which can damage the rhizome. As a test, pull on individual stalks. If these can be easily pulled out, the roots are rotten and the pampas grass has died. Conversely, if you encounter resistance, life will pulsate in the grass and it will soon sprout.

The 3 most common mistakes

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

Cutting errorsDamageprevention
cut in autumnno fresh shoot, total failurecomb out in spring
never shareddead center, sparse shoots at the edgeShare every 4 to 5 years
in summer all stalks cut off at ground levelbrown leaf tips, poor growthCut off dead stalks, leave green stalks

Gardeners make another common mistake in the run-up to pruning pampas grass. The South American ornamental grass is largely immune to widespread diseases and pests. Even voracious snails avoid the green stalks. If, on the other hand, pathogenic pathogens are offered access via contaminated scissor blades, they strike mercilessly in the eyrie. Please do not neglect to carefully clean the tool before cutting and to disinfect the scissor blades with alcohol or Sagrotan.



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