Pruning pampas grass: how and when to complete this task

Find out everything you need to know about pruning pampas grass to keep yours looking tidy

garden with ornamental grass including pampas
(Image credit: Sharfsinn86/Getty Images)

When it comes to pruning pampas grass the good news is it doesn't need a lot of work to keep it looking good. Once established pampas grass is low maintenance and only requires yearly pruning to keep it neat. As long as you keep on top of this annual trim the rest is easy. And remember to keep the best stems for arranging in on-trend displays indoors.

Getting the hang of growing pampas grass includes knowing how best to keep it in shape. If your pampas grass is a fairly new plant that's just a few years old all you really need to do is trim it with shears in late winter or early spring to remove any dead foliage and flower stalks, then allow the new shoots to spring up freely. 

If the clump is older and has grown out of control or looks tired you will need to cut it back hard with shears, loppers or an electric hedge trimmer, depending on the size and condition. Your revitalized plant will thank you come summer when lovely fresh green shoots start to emerge.

clump of pampas grass Cortaderia selloana Pumila

Pampas grass Cortaderia selloana Pumila from Crocus. Each year in late-winter or early-spring wearing stout gardening gloves remove the previous year's stems by cutting and combing

(Image credit:

Learn how to prune pampas grass with these simple steps

Learning how to trim ornamental grasses is well worth doing if you want to ensure they continue to take pride of place in your planting scheme year after year. 

As one of the most popular types of ornamental grass, pampas grass certainly benefits from a regular pruning regime. Pampas grass foliage lasts all year round but it can start to look scruffy in spring, so this is a good time for pruning as keeping your ornamental grasses under control is key if you want them to look their best. 

  1. Pampas grass has razor sharp edges and tough stems so make sure you're dressed for the job and your hands and arms are protected. You also need the right tools. The best secateurs or best garden shears are generally all you need, but it might be necessary to use loppers or an electric hedge trimmer if the pampas clump has grown huge and is out of control. 
  2. Start by pulling out any dead stems and foliage that may have built up around the perimeter at the base of the plant so you can access the rest of the clump more easily. 'For the first five or so years, just trim away the old leaves and flower heads in spring, but once the plants are more established they can take an annual hard prune,' says Amateur Gardening's gardening editor Ruth Hayes.
  3. Use loppers to cut back any particularly thick stems, then you can move in with the shears, working your way over the clump. 'The best way to have healthy growth year on year is to prune pampas back to approximately half a meter from the ground,' says Mark Hewett of WOLF-Garten. 'We recommend our RS900T loppers (available on Amazon) as they can tackle thicker stems, and the telescopic, extendable handle helps to reach through dense foliage and avoids any nicks from the sharp pampas.' You can also use an electric hedge trimmer to make the job easier by going round the outside of the clump. 
  4. Cut out any dead sections from the center when it becomes easier to see what's going on. Look out for any side shoots in the surrounding area which you will also need to cut back if you don't want the pampas to spread.
  5. Big clumps need cutting back as far as possible without damaging any fresh growth that is coming through so be very careful not to cut any green shoots.
  6. Water the clump with the spray attachment of the garden hose to get rid of dust and any other debris, then apply a liquid fertilizer to give the new growth a head start. 'If you feed your pampas grass with a general purpose fertilizer it will soon start to shoot again,' says Ruth Hayes.

man pruning large clump of pampas grass

Make sure your shears are sharp before you start trimming pampas grass

(Image credit: BIOSPHOTO/Alamy Stock Photo)

When is the right time to prune pampas grass?

Although an evergreen variety, pampas grass benefits from hard annual pruning in early spring. 'These stately grasses should be cut back in spring, between very early spring and mid spring, just before they start growing again,' says Ruth Hayes. 

Removing the foliage in fall is not recommended because the dead foliage is used by the plant to insulate the root crown from freezing temperatures. It also continues to look good until later in the season so you can include this on-trend variety as a focal point in your winter landscaping ideas

One of gardening expert Monty Don's tips for growing ornamental grasses is to not grow taller grasses in an overly dense or formal planting scheme and instead give them plenty of space, and pruning is key to keeping on top of this. 

pampas grass bush

This ornamental pampas grass is in need of a trim. The best way to tackle the job is to cut and comb out last year's flower plumes and faded foliage in early spring

(Image credit: Graeme Hall Snaps/Alamy Stock Photo)

What is the duct tape hack for pruning pampas grass?

The duct tape hack is a good trick to know when it comes to pruning pampas grass, especially if you are dealing with a large clump with lots of dead foliage as it will make the clearing up process a lot easier. 

Walk around the clump of pampas grass several times encircling it with a band of duct tape, then slice through the bound grass below the tape with an electric hedge trimmer so the bundle of dead foliage falls to the ground in one piece. This keeps everything neat and saves all that time sweeping and collecting up dead foliage.

If you're big on landscaping with grasses it's a hack worth knowing to cut down on tidying up time.

clump of pampas grass by swimming pool

Well-manicured pampas grass adds an elegant touch to your landscaping

(Image credit: Sowersby/Alamy Stock Photo)

Can you burn pampas grass instead of pruning it?

'Gardening lore used to say that you should burn out the old growth of pampas grass,' says Ruth Hayes, 'but this is no longer advised as it can damage the new growth. A garden blaze is hardly to be recommended either at a time of climate change and increased risk of drought.'

It's also a risky business as a fire can quickly spread and become out of control, as well as being a threat for any wildlife that might have taken shelter in the clump. So when it comes to pruning pampas grass it's much better to get out the clippers.

How do you revive tired looking pampas grass after pruning?

Although pampas grass don't require much feeding generally, if yours is past its best it's a good idea to treat it to some plant food.

Add a general liquid fertilizer to the centre of the clump as one of your spring garden jobs after you’ve removed any faded old growth and dead sections. Feed your plant generously and this will be all that’s necessary to keep the clump in a neat condition. 

Once you’ve nurtured your pampas grass back to health all you need to do is keep watering plants in dry weather and keep it free from weeds. Plus of course don't forget pruning pampas grass annually.

pampas grass

With an annual trim your pampas grass will look stunning

(Image credit: Adomer/Getty Images)
Sarah Wilson
Content Editor

Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.