Why is Pampas Grass Bad?

pampass grass with a sky blue background

There’s no denying the allure of pampas grass. Used for wedding decor, garden beds, and landscaping focal points, this elegant, plume-bearing ornamental grass has visual appeal. But why is pampas grass bad? Beyond the aesthetic appeal of this invasive grass lies a dark side that threatens the health of outdoor spaces and natural areas.

Learn everything you need to know about pampas grass,  including why it could be a problem in your yard, eradication methods, and plant alternatives.

What is pampas grass?

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Deriving its name from the Pampas region of South America, pampas grass is a tall, perennial grass preferred for its ornamental and versatile qualities in landscaping. It boasts large, feathery plumes that extend above long, narrow foliage. Depending on the variety, the plumes can vary in color from pink and silver to creamy white or beige.

Pampas grass normally grows between 6 and 10 feet tall, with the plumes contributing 2 or 3 feet to the overall height. It prefers full sun and well-draining soil. According to the University of Georgia Extension, mature pampas grass is low-maintenance and highly pest- and drought-tolerant. That said, it can benefit from occasional watering during dry periods.

You’ll find pampas grass growing throughout the Southern half of the United States, particularly in hardiness zones 6 to 10. An easy way to find your hardiness zone is to consult the 2024 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. Whether you live in Florida, Texas, Georgia, or South Carolina, or in more coastal areas such as California, Oregon, or Washington, you won’t have a hard time finding pampas grass. Warm, humid climates are what this grass type loves.

Maintaining pampas grass is relatively fuss-free, but you may have to do some pruning between late winter and early spring. Wear protective clothing and heavy-duty gloves to prevent skin irritation or injury when handling pampas grass. Although the grass blades look soft, feathery, and elegant, they’re stiff and boast extremely sharp edges that can cause injury.

Why is pampas grass so bad for your landscape?

Sun shining on blades of pampas grass
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Despite its visual appeal and hardiness, pampas grass has some drawbacks.

Pampas grass is invasive

Pampas grass is highly invasive outside of its natural habitat, particularly in areas where Mediterranean climates dominate. It spreads rapidly and forms dense clumps that can disrupt and alter local ecosystems. According to the Texas Invasives Organization, pampas grass is a highly fertile plant that can produce over 100,000 seeds per flower head. 

Pampas grass can harbor vermin

Although to a smaller extent than other dense vegetation, pampas grass can provide shelter for wildlife, rodents, insects, snakes, and other invertebrates. Without proper management and care, pampas grass can attract vermin like a magnet, leading to property damage, health problems, food contamination, loss of curb appeal, and limited outdoor activities.

Pampas grass can cause injury

With razor-sharp leaf edges resembling a serrated knife, pampas grass is considered dangerous to pets and humans alike. To minimize the risk of injury, keep it to a minimum or avoid planting it in areas where children and pets play.

Pampas grass displaces native plants

Due to its invasive nature, pampas grass can easily displace native plants, reducing biodiversity and altering wildlife habitats. Its ability to spread rapidly and dominate landscapes often leads to ecological imbalances.

Pampas grass is a fire hazard

Many blades of pampas grass with trees in background
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Pampas grass is highly flammable, especially when it dries out in summer. Due to its dense, tall growth habit, it can act as a fuel source in wildfire-prone areas, posing a threat to homes, infrastructure, and natural landscapes such as forests and grasslands. 

Pampas grass can be costly to control

Controlling and managing pampas grass infestations can be challenging and costly for homeowners. This process often involves time, intensive labor, manpower, equipment, a combination of pre-emergent herbicides and post-emergent herbicides, and constant monitoring to prevent regrowth and expansion.

When using herbicides, it’s important to consider the ecosystem and surrounding non-target plants. If possible, limit herbicide use and stick to environmentally friendly control methods such as manual pulling, smothering, cutting, and applying mulch.

Pampas grass can trigger allergic reactions

The pollen produced by pampas grass can trigger allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, including symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and congestion. If you suffer from pollen allergies, The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America recommends the following:

  • Start allergy treatments ahead of allergy season
  • Reduce outdoor activities during high-count pollen periods
  • Keep windows closed
  • Limit contact with pets that regularly spend time outdoors

Pampas grass is visually unappealing to some people

In addition to its ecological impact, pampas grass can visually alter landscapes. Its tendency to spread, grow aggressively, and turn beige/brown when dry can result in an overgrown and neglected appearance, diminishing the overall beauty of your outdoor space. 

How to eliminate pampas grass from your yard

A picture showing may blades of pampas grass
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As an aggressively spreading grass type with a deep root system and sharp blades, pampas grass can be challenging to remove. Here are some helpful strategies to get you started.

  • Dig it up: Dig up the pampas grass plants, including their roots. Use a sharp shovel or spade to cut through the roots and lift out the entire clump. Ensure you remove as much of the root system as possible to prevent regrowth. The manual approach is ideal for a small area of grass or a few individual plants.
  • Apply herbicide: Selective herbicides, particularly glyphosate-based products, can control pampas grass infestations. Saturate the foliage with herbicide. Always follow the application instructions laid out by the herbicide manufacturer, and remember that multiple applications may be necessary for complete eradication.
  • Try the cut-and-smother approach: Use pruning shears or a saw to cut down the pampas grass plants to ground level. Cover the remaining stumps with thick black plastic or heavy-duty landscaping fabric. This prevents sunlight from reaching the plant and inhibits growth. Monitor the area regularly and remove any new shoots that emerge.
  • Give burning a try: Controlled burns can be used to eliminate pampas grass (find out whether this is allowed where you live). Cut down the plants and allow the stalks to dry out completely before burning them. Use caution and follow local regulations and safety guidelines when using fire as a plant control method.
  • Call in the pros: If other control methods don’t have the desired effect, contact a landscape professional. They can provide expert advice and develop an elimination plan tailored to your particular situation.

FAQ about pampas grass

Is pampas grass toxic to pets?

While pampas grass is not considered toxic to pets, its sharp-edged leaves can potentially injure your furry friend. Additionally, your pet may be allergic to the pollen produced by pampas grass flowers. To prevent any health issues, it’s a good idea to keep animals away from pampas grass plants.

What are some alternatives to pampas grass?

If you’re not one to deal with invasive, dense, aggressive plants in your yard, no problem. There are plenty of pampas grass alternatives that will look just as good and cause less damage:

  • Indian grass
  • Switchgrass
  • Japanese silver grass
  • Little bluestem
  • Big bluestem
  • Blue fescue

What are some ways to use pampas grass?

Many homeowners use pampas grass in an attempt to breathe some life into their yards and homes. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and like to get down and creative, you can use pampas grass in the following ways:

  • Garden borders
  • Landscaping focal points
  • Wedding decor
  • Indoor decor
  • Seasonal decor
  • Garden beds
  • DIY projects, such as wreaths, bouquets, centerpieces, wall hangings, or other designs that require a hint of natural texture and elegance

Pro help at your beck and call

Pampas grass can add a touch of sophistication and charm to your yard. With its attractive plumes and low maintenance qualities, it’s no wonder homeowners across the U.S. repeatedly choose this ornamental grass for landscaping and decor.

But if you’re not one to work outdoors, no worries. A local pro can transform your property like you wouldn’t believe, tackling everything from lawn mowing, trimming, and edging to aerating, fertilizing, and building garden beds. Reach out for a consultation and watch your curb appeal take off.

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Andie Ioó

In my free time, I enjoy traveling with my husband, sports, trying out new recipes, reading, and watching reruns of '90s TV shows. As a way to relax and decompress, I enjoy landscaping around my little yard and DIY home projects.