Question about Pampas Grass...

Vicki__ILMarch 18, 2003

Hope this is the right forum for this. Want to get some pampas grass for my yard. This is probably a stupid question, but can anyone tell me if they require full-sun, part-sun, or shade?



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apcohrs(z5 IL)

Pampas grass, Cortaderia selloana, is not hardy in zone 5. It is usually listed hardy to zone 7.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2003 at 5:31PM
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plantlust(z5ish IL)

If you are talking about what people typically call Pampas grass, it's actually a Miscanthus and will need full sun and preferably mesic or dry soil to keep it from flopping.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2003 at 10:42PM
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woodland_gardens(z5 WI)

Try Andropogon glomeratus for something a little different that not many other people grow. There is a "hardy" pampas grass, but I don't remember the latin name. I tried one and it didn't grow the first year, didn't come up at all year 2, and came back weakly last year. I killed it as it had been replace by then.

Here is a link that might be useful: A. glomeratus @ Plant Delights Nursery.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2003 at 9:46PM
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Hi Vicky,
If it is the miscanthus that you frequently see growing in the ditches please reconsider. It is terribly invasive and can take over large areas, choking out all other plants, native and otherwise. I'm not sure what part of Il you are from, but if you drive through the Chicago area you can see that it has taken over miles and miles of wetlands. We had it at the old place. It started as a 3 foot patch and by the time we left it had overtaken the yard and most of the deck. It's like quack grass on stroids. The running roots are as big as your thumb and it is practically impossible to kill. Roundup didn't phase it. It went under a 3 ft deep barrior that I put in.

There are many grasses that are clump forming, some of the miscanthus are fine, but stay away from that common one that runs like the plague.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2003 at 8:54AM
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MaggieT(z7 TN)

Vicky - Hi there - If you are just looking for a simple answer - it is that Pampas grass takes full sun and likes well drained areas like sandy soil and very warm areas. It is very easy to maintain..... you can trim it back or not. Where I live (in zone 7) they stay in one massive clump but do get VERY large in size. I actually have some by my pool that looks very old and seems to just get larger in that one spot.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2004 at 10:31PM
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Hi Vickie, Hello there! Miscanthus truly may not be the best choice. It is creating monocultures all over our area and is choking out other plants. Everywhere I go lately, I can see this plant. Instead of waves of wheat... we have waves of miscanthus. This plant is right up there with Russian Olives and burning bushes for our area. The bushy blue stem (Andropogon glomeratus) mentioned above is a great plant and you could even try your hand at starting it from seed. If there is a photograph listed at the link posted above, you will see how A. glomeratus may be a great substitute for what you were originally interested in.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2004 at 12:51AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

Miscanthus in wetlands? Sure you aren't thinking of reed canary grass or perhaps Phragmites?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2004 at 2:28AM
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Take a look at what the Village of Gurnee has all over. There are clumps all over the place that spread out into even more clumps. It was touted as the premier ornamental grass and marketed that way for quite a few years and people have been buying it. Add this Miscanthus sinensis to the Ribbon Grass/Reed Canary Grass and the Phrgamites and we have "ornamental" grasses at chest height and that tower over you everywhere. The miscanthus around here forms huge clumps and spreads by rhizomes, tolerates drought, and some can tolerate wet feet like the RCG and the Phragmites. The miscanthus does all seem to need full sun. We have tall grasses everywhere. The Miscanthus sacchariflorus will unfortunately do quite well here in Illinois. These plants were being researched as non food crop for paper production I believe. Maybe I do have the wrong plant but there have to be over 50 cultivars of this stuff out and about my local area. The phragmites... what can I say. If I had my choice I would take the miscanthus anyday over that or the RCG. I suppose it is possible the miscanthus is just overplanted. Lycopus, what do you know about this miscanthus and why does it seem to be in clumps everywhere these days? Educate me on this, ok?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2004 at 9:08AM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

All the info I can find indicates that Miscanthus sinensis is not established this far north in our area. M. sacchariflorus hasn't become a major pest here either presumably because the growing season is too short here. When I think around Gurnee Mills I recall there being a lot of the silver grass planted around the mall. Have not heard of any species of Miscanthus being a problem in our forest preserves. I wouldn't doubt that it is being overplanted. There has been a big rise in the sales of non-native ornamental grasses in our area, a trend it would seem. Hopefully one doesn't find a new home here.

Phragmites isn't such a bad thing. It is native. I know you have some in your wetland but it doesn't spread quite so fast as the narrowleaf cattail. At least it produces very little viable seed. Stirring up wetland soils seems to bring out the beast in this plant. In areas that are left alone it doesn't seem that common. It looks a little bit like silvergrass except bigger. Indiangrass has big plumes too.

Reed canary grass was once widely planted (and still recommended by some numbskulls) for erosion control. Why they don't use native grasses for such a thing is beyond me. It has practically zero wildlife value and is tough to get rid of.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 1:41AM
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Hi lycopus, there is/was a native phragmites around here just like you said. I had mine sent off to a lab and it is not the native phragmites. They checked it out under a microscope. Mine is a by product of crossed introduced European strains and the native strain and this created a "super" phragmites strain that can aggressively colonize and evidently it is doing just that. I suspect none of the phragmites growing around me is native any longer as mine came from somewhere and popped up last year. It may have some of the native dna but it defintitley isn't native. Well, at least mine isn't native. The phragmites growing by me is a big problem unfortunately but not for long as it is being professionally removed real soon. Fortunately for me, I don't think I have the narrow leaf cattail (knocking on wood to the point that my fist is going through the table) but who knows what will be found the next time my property is visited which is right around the corner here the second week of April. I think I have had about all I can take right about now as far as further enlightenment as to what is growing over here that will need to be dealt with at some point in time in the future.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 1:16PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

I'm pretty sure I saw narrowleaf cattail growing on your property.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 4:01PM
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OK- I'm numb. How much trouble is this narrowleaf cattail going to be? What's the botanical name on this. Shall I add this to the list along with crack willow? Is this one of those things that is easily identifiable by someone like you who knows what they are doing or am I going to have to send it off to a lab again for $250? Will the guy from the DNR be able to positively ID this cattail?

Laura who is slightly freaking out

    Bookmark   March 29, 2004 at 8:33PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

You spent $250 to have the phragmites tested? What lab provided this service? I think you can send a sample to Cornell for free. Research is still ongoing so there would seem to be no definitive test for determining the nativity of phragmites other than genetics of certain strains.

Narrowleaf cattail is Typha angustifolia. It can spread aggressively because of disturbance but is generally considered native. I wouldn't freak out over it since marshes normally have cattails. Just so happens that cattails like ditches too. Identification is pretty simple based on the catkins. On narrowleaf you'll see a separation between the male and female spikes. The catkins also tend not to stand out much higher than the foliage and the foliage is a deep green and relatively narrow (compared to broadleaf). With something this simple you would think anyone could do it but I have yet to meet a person who can get it right. Narrowleaf is by far the most common cattail found around here but everyone thinks they have broadleaf. Have no idea if you're DNR guy will get it right. I actually do have broadleaf but I planted it! Have also seen it growing up in WI and it seems to be slightly less aggressive than narrowleaf. Muskrats do a pretty good job of controlling it...I suspect that cattails and muskrats are important associates in native marshes. Fire helps control cattail too.

Your crack willow is probably Salix alba or a hybrid of it and S. fragilis. I've been reserving saying this for awhile but...relax! Seems like you're getting alot of paranoid advice and some of it is factually questionable. Start focusing on putting stuff in. Ultimately it is the plants that you restore that are going keep all the exotic species at bay. Garlic mustard, buckthorn, and purple loosestrife are going to be the main challenges and I would address those problems first. As bad as reed canary grass can be, a good stand of native sedges and grasses will withstand invasive from it.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2004 at 3:59AM
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Hi lycopus, I sent off 5 gathered samples from the local area to Dr. Xiao Chen. She then sent them out from her lab as a favor to get better pricing. I e-mailed her to ask her for the name of her lab but right now all I have are my notes of what she told me over the phone which she watered down to enable me to better understand what I had here. All I got out of our conversation is that it wasn't native. I thought her price was really great considering there were 5 samples but I sure do wish I would have known Cornell was doing this for free. I have sent samples of ringworm to Cornell before to be cultured but was always charged $100 a pop. I have never dealt with them for anything that wasn't animal related but free is free. They did a great job getting fungus to colonize for identification. I would feel very comfortable dealing with Cornell. Wanna have a good laugh... I have a Swift biological here that I am having difficulty using. My girlfriend tried to explain to me how to look at the phragmites under the microscope but I couldn't even get it focused. You are welcome to borrow it to play as nobody over here has the ability to use it properly and you probably do. Sad, huh?

I definitely have/had muskrats here. I think the coyotes must be getting a few here and there as I don't see any of their telltale little huts. Funny, I never noticed they were missing until today. I went out early this evening while there was still light and looked at more cattails than I care to admit having looked at. I found a stand over by a neighbor that had all split segments which would be indicative of Typha angustifolia you gave me the name of. I looked at photographs on the Internet and it is distinctly double segmented. The cattails I have did not all appear to have the double segments but then I can't really tell as they are weathered and poofed out from having withstood winter winds. The problem is that they are windswept. I distinctly remember having seen the double segmented type here last fall as I recall having thought it was odd that cattails had two cattails while others had only one. I might have a mix here. Looks like I will want to know your source for broadleaf cattail to start getting some going over here in the year 2010... right after I get a blow torch and burn the narrowleaf down. As far as whether the DNR guy will get it right or not... I will send you that information via the GardenWeb mail.

Relax... tee he! Easy for you to say! Every time I turn around over here somebody discovers something else. You have experience in dealing with all this crap and knowing how to prioritize. I am still struggling with trying to figure out what ickie goes first and how it goes. Just when I think my ducks are in a line- up pops another nasty. Last month it was crack willow or its hybrid. Last week it was Bittersweet Nights and gypsy moth egg sacs. This week it was narrowleaf cattail. Ickies and nasties, nasties and ickies. Below is a photograph of about 5% of our buckthorn battlefield. Those are only the tops of the buckthorn laying in the ground and the entire yard (I do mean our entire yard) is coated with buckthorn bodies. We have taken out a few hundred to date. There are many hundreds more to go. We did finally determine we were going to have to redirect our energy to the fruiting female buckthorns in order to get a chance to focus on planting the bare root trees and shrubs and all of the other plant materials that will start being delivered here by the hundreds within about 4 weeks. By the way, many plants I ordered were your suggestions. Also too, you told me to go for the buckthorn first and that is exactly what we are doing. We let it lay on the ground to dry a little and then we burn it. The garlic mustard is emerging so I bought 12 stamp licker bottles from Office Depot and I have been going after that. Larger areas of GM will go under plastic to smother and kill it so I can avoid using chemicals. The PL, the RCG, and the phragmites are being contracted out. Let somebody who knows how to deal with wetlands get those. After we get the new plant material in the ground, we'll start in on the JH and Rosa multiflora and then go back to the buckthorn again. Next year, we will repeat the process. It may not be much of a game plan but at least we are moving forward.

My biggest problem is feeling so unclean and filthy dirty over here. I feel as if our house was built on top of a toxic waste dump that plant mutations are growing out of. I want it all gone yesterday and I have been slow to arrive at the conclusion this isn't going to happen. Patience has never been one of my virtues. You flow with things much better than me. I had days where I wanted to take a bulldozer to this entire place and then I remember the trillium that poked up last year, the monarda, the sedges, the hickories, the oaks, and those black cherries intermixed in this mess trying to survive and I think only a few more years... lycopus, your information is always a Godsend! You are probably the main reason I didn't have a bulldozer hauled over here as you make it all seem doable. It is.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2004 at 11:57PM
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lycopus(z5 NY)

This is a great time of year to hit things with herbicide. I sprayed queen anns lace, garlic mustard, bull thistle, and prickly lettuce today, being careful not to hit anything desirable that might be emerging. There is some irony in that the early emergence that gives these plants a competitive advantage also makes them vulnerable to early treatment.

You might not want broadleaf cattail, at least not yet. Note I said it is slightly less agressive than narrowleaf. It'll still want to take over unless there are more conservative native species present. You may already have hybrid cattail (Typha x glauca) if the catkins don't all have the separation.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 1:03AM
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Eeek... the continuing saga of the mutated plant invaders from hell! The wild parsnip is what I want to have a go at. I can live with the others you mentioned above for a while but we are working around here and that wild parsnip is 10x as bad as posion ivy or poison oak. The spot on my cheek finally healed last fall after months. I can't for the life of me remember where that was around here but iiiiiiiittttt's heeeeeeere!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 9:52AM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Lycopus ....

I always learn so much from you! Thanks for posting. I'm going to school this fall to get a degree in Natural Areas Management. Hope to learn as much as you've forgotten, Lycopus!

Sunday I sprayed evening primrose, dame's rocket and buckthorn at my house. I had one evening primrose plant 3 years ago, and the dang thing and it's descendants have seeded all over hell and the high part of Kentucky. To say it's an aggressive self seeder is a major understatement.

Laura, are you sure it's not Water Hemlock?

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 1:56PM
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What... water hemlock??? Do I have water hemlock too? No, don't answer that. Ignorance is bliss right about now. Hush child hush! Seriously, if you are thinking I have mistaken wild parsnip for water hemlock- nope. I may not know my water hemlock but I know my wild parsnip. Hard to tell where it is at this time of year as it isn't in bloom though. I do believe I was able to remove a good 90% or more last year. Yippee!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2004 at 7:29PM
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