Will pampas grass survive a hard freeze?

Answered by James Kissner

Pampas grass, also known as Cortaderia selloana, is a popular ornamental grass that is native to South America. It is often grown for its tall, feathery plumes that add texture and interest to the landscape. However, one of the challenges of growing pampas grass in North Florida is its sensitivity to freezing temperatures.

Pampas grass is not particularly cold hardy and can be damaged or even killed by hard freezes. When temperatures drop below freezing, the leaves of pampas grass can turn brown and become damaged. This is especially true for the older leaves at the base of the plant.

Fortunately, pampas grass has a remarkable ability to recover from freeze damage. Once spring arrives and temperatures begin to warm up, new leaves will start to sprout from the base of the plant. These new leaves will replace the damaged ones and help the plant regain its lush appearance.

To help facilitate the regrowth of pampas grass after a hard freeze, it is important to prune away the brown leaves and other dead material that has accumulated at the base of the plants. This dead material can provide a breeding ground for pests and diseases, so removing it is essential for the overall health of the plant.

When pruning pampas grass, it is best to wear protective gloves and long sleeves, as the leaves have sharp edges that can cause cuts and scratches. Use a pair of sharp pruning shears or a pruning saw to cut away the dead leaves as close to the base of the plant as possible. Be sure to dispose of the pruned material properly to prevent the spread of pests or diseases.

After pruning, it is a good idea to apply a layer of mulch around the base of the pampas grass plants. This will help insulate the roots and provide some protection against future freezes. Organic mulch, such as shredded bark or straw, works well for this purpose. Apply a layer of mulch about 2-3 inches thick, being careful not to heap it up against the crown of the plant.

In addition to pruning and mulching, it is also important to provide proper care for pampas grass throughout the year to help it withstand freezing temperatures. This includes regular watering, especially during periods of drought, and ensuring that the plants are grown in well-draining soil. Pampas grass is generally drought-tolerant once established, but it will benefit from supplemental irrigation during dry spells.

While pampas grass may not survive a hard freeze unscathed, it has the ability to recover and regrow new leaves in the spring. Pruning away brown leaves and dead material before spring growth begins is crucial for the overall health and appearance of the plant. Providing proper care, including regular watering and well-draining soil, can also help pampas grass withstand freezing temperatures. So, while it may require some extra attention in colder climates, pampas grass can still be successfully grown in North Florida with proper care and maintenance.