Question of the Week Number 1: January 23, 2020
“My pampasgrass planting at work turned brown with that November cold spell. Should I prune the plants back? If so, how much and when?”
Pampasgrass is a subtropical plant – 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 in the photo in place the new leaves will never really overtake them. You’ll have a mess for the rest of this season.
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 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 a few years ago that we wrap bunches of the leaves with duct tape before we start trimming, to make them more manageable. Someone reported back that it was a great suggestion.
• 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.