Perennial pampas grass is majestic and showy, with 13-foot-high white plumes which create as much visual interest as a specimen tree. But be careful in regions where it is invasive: make sure a species is sterile before you let it loose in the garden.
Where to plant
Red twig dogwood
Pampas Grass: A Field Guide
Statuesque pampas grass behaves well in its native South American climes and in such European countries as England and Ireland (but then, what plants don’t thrive in those spectacularly temperate conditions)? Few plants have as much theatrical presence as airy clumps of Cortaderia in a landscape. But in other parts of the world—notably Australia and the US—gardeners must be more judicious about their use of this perennial grass, which is invasive if special care is not taken.
First, know the difference between species. Showy Cortaderia selloana, 13 feet tall and sporting pure white plumes that look like feather dusters, can be controlled much more easily than dun-colored Cortaderia jubata, which has sharp, unfriendly foliage and a dangerous predilection for choking out nearby plants. A dwarf pampas grass cultivar, C. selloana ‘Pumila’, is a good compromise; it will reach heights of 6 feet with showy plumes (but will not run rampant like a weed).
Mixed grasses make a lovely landscape. If you are looking for a tall, back-of-the-border perennial grass, consider Maiden Grass, particularly Miscanthus x giganteus (which will grow to heights of 12 feet and won’t behave like a thug). See dozens more of our favorite perennial grasses in our Grasses 101 guides.