Question of the Week Number 2: January 25, 2018

“Neil, it appears my pampasgrass leaves are all turning brown. Do I need to trim them? If so, how and when?”

Photo: There’s still some green left in the leaves of these clumps of pampasgrass in McKinney, but there won’t be much longer.

What you need to know about pampasgrass…
You’re dealing with a subtropical plant here – a large evergreen grass from Argentina that is completely winter-hardy only to the southern half of our state. When we try to grow it north of its normal boundaries, winter isn’t always kind to it.

If you leave browned, frozen foliage like you see here the new leaves will never really overtake them. You’ll have a ratty looking mess for the rest of this season.

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That’s why commercial maintenance companies trim pampasgrass back when it looks like this. They use either gasoline powered hedge trimmers or long and very sharp machetes to cut through the leaves. They cut them back to tufts 18 or 20 inches tall, looking rather like a very large old-fashioned shaving brush.

That trim has to be made soon, however. If you wait until the plant starts to put out new leaves you’ll be cutting them, too, and that will produce ugly browned tips the rest of this growing season.

Now the critical warnings…
These leaf blades are razor sharp. Wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. Wear a hat and goggles.
Only allow one person to work on this at a time. You don’t want machetes flying through the air with other people around.
Someone on Facebook suggested you wrap bunches of the leaves with duct tape before you start trimming, to make them more manageable. Others said they had tried that with great success.
Others on Facebook reported having rats, possums and raccoons run out of their clumps as they trimmed. This grass is a refuge for wildlife. (Still want it up by your house???)
If you want to remove it, digging it after you trim it will be one of the choices. But don’t try to burn it. That’s a terrible accident waiting to happen. Glyphosate sprays will kill it, but you have to wait until it’s growing more actively in late April or May. Sprays won’t work right now. And remember: If you spray it, you’re still going to have to dig out the dead clumps. You might as well dig them out now.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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