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Pampas Grass: Beautiful but Invasive

by Marcia Passos Duffy, All About Lawns Columnist

Pampas grass may seem like a gardener's dream: It's a tall and beautiful plant that grows quickly and flowers abundantly--a plus when you want to fill out bare spots in your landscape.

It grows full, sometimes reaching 10 feet in diameter, which makes it perfect for a naturalized privacy screen.

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And what's not to love in a perennial that:

  • Is pest and drought resistant.
  • Flourishes in dry, sunny spots.
  • Requires little maintenance.
  • Is inexpensive.

But before you plant, it is important to know that this is not ordinary grass. It grows aggressively and can quickly overtake your lawn and flowerbeds in a short time, particularly if you are in U.S. zones 7 to 11.

Pampas Grass: The Downsides

While the plant is lovely, it has some serious downsides:

  • Invasive. Pampas grass, native to South America, can become a nuisance, producing millions of seeds (requiring no pollination) that can easily take over your garden if the conditions are right--dry and sunny. In California, Pampas grass is considered an invasive species that competes aggressively with native plants on roadsides, dunes, and coastal bluffs.
  • Razor-sharp leaves. The plant looks soft, with its silky and supple flowers; however, the leaves are dangerously razor-sharp. Pampas grass planted along walkways can cut into the legs and arms of pedestrians.
  • Flammable. Pampas grass catches fire quickly; do not plant in wilderness areas.

While Pampas grass may be beautiful to look at and easy to establish, consider the downsides carefully before introducing it into your landscape. Once you have it, it is difficult--if not impossible--to get rid of.

About the Author

Marcia Passos Duffy is a freelance writer and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She is a frequent contributor to Turf Magazine and Growing Magazine. Visit her site at www.backporchpublishing.com

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