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A popular ornamental grass, American Pampas Grass is notable for its large silver panicles that sway gently in the breeze and are a relaxing sight over the summer. As the name suggests, Cortaderia selloana comes from America and even occurs in New Zealand. Also known as silver pampas grass, which refers to the coloration of the panicles, annual pruning is necessary for the plant to sprout to its full potential.
When is the best time?
As with many other ornamental grasses, when you should prune Cortaderia selloana is extremely important so that its growth does not slow down over the years. However, the pampas grass is extremely robust and can be overwintered without any problems even in our latitudes if the right winter protection is provided. And for this the right time for the pruning is necessary, because the winter protection of the ornamental grass consists of its own leaves, which protect it from moisture and cold. When is the best time?
- Spring: mid-March to mid-April (at the latest)
- when severe frosts are no longer to be expected
- first shoot tips should be visible
It is especially important that you never cut the pampas grass while it is still frosty outside or the snow is just beginning to thaw. Cortaderia selloana is particularly sensitive to moisture and if the stalks are cut too early in the year, moisture can get into the hollow interior of the stalks and cause the plant to rot. This is also the reason why a fall cut is never an option. Autumn in Germany is too humid and rainwater can damage the pampas grass particularly badly. If you were to prune at this point, the ornamental grass will not make it through the winter.
Notice: The dried stalks and inflorescences serve not only as winter protection, but also as an attractive winter green. You can enjoy the plant throughout the winter as long as you refrain from pruning in the fall.
Pampas grass pruning is made easier and less dangerous once you have the right tools and protective clothing. Of course you will need sharp scissors or a knife for this, secateurs are recommended as they give the best cutting performance. Protective clothing is even more important when trimming as ornamental grass has extremely sharp blades and many of the varieties available even have barbs that can dig into your skin and increase the risk of injury. This plant defense mechanism is why you need the following protective clothing when pruning.goggles for the eyes
- Safety goggles: protect your eyes from the long straws during the cut
- cut-resistant gardening gloves
- long-sleeved top, preferably a jacket made of synthetic textiles or leather
- long trousers
- sturdy shoes
Tip: Never let your children or pets play in close proximity to the pampas grass. Cats in particular are in danger here, as they cannot distinguish the plant from other grasses.pruning shears and gloves
When pruning, the dried stalks and fronds are removed if you did not cut them off in summer, allowing the plant to sprout quickly throughout spring and summer. Choose a dry day in spring that is not too sunny, as this would damage the young shoot tips. You can find out when this is the case from the weather report. Follow this guide to cut.
First prepare your tools and protective clothing as described above. Disinfect or clean the secateurs to avoid infecting the pampas grass with bacteria or viruses during pruning. This is especially important if you have previously trimmed diseased plants.
You need a ribbon for the pruning, with which you can tie parts of the pampas grass together. Use the ribbon you used to tie the ornamental grass together last year to prepare it for winter.
Bundle the straws with the ribbon. This makes the cut a lot easier, because you don't have to hold the individual, numerous blades of grass when cutting. Wear your protective gear here to avoid accidental cuts.Pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana
Only the outer stalks and fronds that have dried out over the winter are cut off. Never cut into the young shoot tips that are already developing at this time, as this is what allows the plant to flower in the first place. Also, make sure that you neither kink the young shoots nor get caught on them or scratch them. All of these injuries can cause flowering to fail, leaving the pampas grass looking desolate.
You have two options for pruning.
- complete cut
- Cut in two stages
It is up to you which of the two types of cut you choose. These are explained in the following steps within the guide and you can decide which you prefer. The time of the cut does not change here.
Notice: If you have a fairly young plant, you do not have to tie the stems together as described in the instructions. Since young plants still have very few stalks, they can easily be cut off individually.pampas grass blades
When cutting back completely, you cut off the pampas grass in one go. This pruning measure requires a particularly careful approach so that, as described above, you do not damage the young shoots and thus stop flowering. The growth form of the plant facilitates this procedure. New stalks are first formed inside and after the cut, the fresh outer shoots are added:
Proceed in a clockwise direction when cutting. Divide individual bundles and fix them in the upper part of the plant with the ribbon. Now, as a precaution, look for young shoots that could have gotten lost in the bundle. The young shoots are mainly found in close proximity to the ground.
Now cut off near the ground and remove all the dried plant material. Depending on the size of the plant, this can take a while as you have to re-partition each bunch and check for young shoots.
Cut back in two stages
With the second variant, you also split off bundles beforehand. Here you only shorten to a height of 15 to 20 centimeters and then let the young shoots of the ornamental grass sprout for a while. This reduces the risk of injuring the young shoots or accidentally cutting them off.
After the young shoots exceed the cut stalks, you can remove them completely and thus give the plant enough space to sprout.
After pruning, you need to carefully remove the cut plant material. Again, be careful not to injure yourself, especially your face.
You can dispose of the cut stalks on the compost, but you should chop them up thoroughly beforehand so that they rot faster. Pampas grass is particularly robust and would take far too long to decompose as a whole stalk.
Alternatively, you can also dispose of the stalks through the municipality. When and if the straws can be picked up differs from place to place. It is essential that you obtain information from the competent authority beforehand.
Notice: Of course, the disposal information also applies to the complete cut.Pampas grass with its long, narrow leaves
Cut for vase or drying arrangements: a guide
If you want to bring the panicles of pampas grass into your own home in summer or integrate them into a flower arrangement, you can do that too. The ornamental grass blooms from August and you can easily cut the panicles and use them for all sorts of decorative purposes.
To do this, proceed as follows:
- use a dry day for cutting
- put on protective clothing again for this purpose
- sort out the fronds and cut them close to the ground
- never cut them in the middle, this could damage the plant
- only after you have cut off the fronds can you shorten them to the desired length
If you put the fronds in the vase, it should be high enough and in a cool, air-protected place so that the panicles don't dry out so quickly. Of course, these can also be hung out to dry or laid out in the sun if you have drying arrangements in mind. Although they lose some of their beautiful color in the process, the fronds themselves still look attractive when colorless. Don't worry, the pampas grass doesn't need the fronds for winter protection, just the evergreen culms. Still, it's worth not cutting off all the fronds, as these are perfect for tying up the shrub over the winter.