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Products > Cortaderia selloana 'Silver Comet'
Cortaderia selloana 'Silver Comet' - Silver Comet Pampas Grass

Note: This plant is not currently for sale. This is an archive page preserved for informational use.  
Image of Cortaderia selloana 'Silver Comet'
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Grass
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grasses)
Origin: Argentina (South America)
Evergreen: Yes
Variegated Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: Creamy White
Bloomtime: Summer/Fall
Height: 4-6 feet
Width: 4-6 feet
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 15-20 F
Cortaderia selloana 'Silver Comet' (Silver Comet Pampas Grass) - A smaller, finer-textured cultivar of Pampas Grass that grows to 5 to 6 feet tall with white longitudinal variegation, mainly on the edge of the leaf. In late summer the flower plumes typical of the species appear but barely rise above the foliage and are best removed to enhance the dramatic look of the variegated leaves.

Plant in full to most part day sun where it grows best in well-draining, fertile soil with a regular to occasional watering. It will grow slower in poor, dry soils. It is drought resistant and hardy down to 15 -20 degrees F. As with the other Cortaderia selloana cultivars, 'Silver Comet' is tolerant of both heat and cold. It is absolutely the showiest of the variegated Pampas Grasses but as with the other cultivars , its placement in the garden is important as the rough leaf margins cut like a knife.

The native distribution of Cortaderia selloana ranges through southern South America including in the fertile grassland plains or Pampas region that extends from Argentina into Brazil an Uruguay from which this plant gets its common name, but also into parts of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay. Despite its name and the thought that this grass is a major component of the Pampas region, it is most commonly found in riparian and other wet habitats such as poorly drained depressions rather than out on the drier grassland plains. In current times it has become distributed throughout the world as an ornamental plant and an invasive species. The name for the genus comes from the Argentine Spanish name 'cortadera' which means "cutter", referring to the sharp leaf margins and the specific epithet honors the German botanist Friedrich Sellow (17891831) who collected and studied the flora of South America. The common name comes from the word 'pampa' which means "plains" in the Quechua language of the indigenous Andean people.

Cortaderia selloana was introduced into horticulture in 1839 by John Tweedie, a Scot resident in Buenos Aires who had been head gardener at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, who sent seed collected in Argentina back to the UK. Pampas grass was reportedly introduced into California about 1848 with records indicating it was sold as an exotic ornamental in nurseries in the San Francisco Bay area by the 1850s (back then it was considered to be a species of Arundo). The pioneering Santa Barbara area nurseryman Joseph Sexton received seed or a plant of it in 1872. Sexton realized that the prettiest plumes were produced by female plants of this dioecious species and that plumes harvested just before it opening that were laid out in the sun would expand and remain puffed out. This discovery led to commercial production of cut flower pampas grass plumes from about 1874 until the end of the century. Sexton had 5,000 plants of Cortaderia selloana in production at his Goleta Valley ranch at the height of the pampas plume industry in 1889 from which he exported nearly 500,000 plumes.

We originally spotted this showy cultivar in the late 1980s growing at the amazing Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, CA where it lit up the section of their garden. Our thanks go out to Northern California horticulturist Bob Hornback for giving us the stock plants in the mid-1990s from which we built our crops of this beautiful grass that we sold from 2001 until 2010. Although we have never had any seedlings of this plant appear in our garden from this plant and this cultivar itself has not been identified as a weed pest, after the wildly invasive species Cortaderia jubata was declared a noxious weed with more recent studies also determining that Cortaderia selloana was naturalizing, this led to the general concern about the planting of any Pampas Grass. Because of this we discontinued production of all Cortaderia cultivars in 2010. While it might still be a useful plant in urban environments, care should be exercised when planting any plant like this in locations where seed may spread into the wild and sensitive habitats. 

This information about Cortaderia selloana 'Silver Comet' displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.