The Carex family contains approximately 1000 species of grass like plants growing in temperate and arctic regions. This is a tough plant but different species thrive in different kinds of garden situation.
In general, Carex occur in damp woodlands, bogs, or water margin situations and will perform best in this kind of garden setting.
They are also very useful pot or container gardening plants particularly if you’re looking for a waterside container or a container that sits in the shallow water of a small pond.
Carex will grow in full sun or shade as long as the moisture levels are right. If you try growing this plant in the full sun in dry soils, you’ll be disappointed in the outcome.
Carex buchanii and yes, this is its normal coloring
Division in the early spring is the easiest although they do self-sow or you can sow seed in damp areas. Not particularly tough to start from seed but very easy with a spring division.
Soils and Moisture
As was indicated above, it is a really good idea to keep this plant in damper soils. It will grow in heavy clays but not with much enthusiasm. Again, if you allow the clay to dry out, you’ll stunt this plant.
Plants to Look For
- Carex buchanii is a popular plant even though it does look dead all the time. It has brown foliage that reaches up to 30-inches tall (mostly shorter in my garden). It is a rhizome producing plant and divides easily in the spring. I’ve also started it from seed and it isn’t a problem. I’ve had it survive nicely in USDA zone 4 even though it is a New Zealand native.
- C. ciliatomarginata ‘Shima-nishiki’ (Island Brocade Sedge) has wide grassy leaves edged in a gold-yellow. 15-20cm or 8 inches tall. Excellent plant and readily available.
- C. comans‘Frosted Curls’ is a small “mop-headed” plant with brownish leaves. Only reaching 20-30 cm (8-10-inches) it is a delicate plant that will be a little tender for USDA 5. I’ve lost it repeatedly in USDA 4.
- C. flacca (Blue Creeping Sedge) is a creeper with blue-green mounding leaves. Only 6-8 inches tall, it is hardy into USDA 4.
- C. morrowii ‘Fishers Form’ is known as the Variegated Japanese Sedge and is a more upright, green and white leaved variety. Standing 30-40 cm (10-12 inches) it has been hardy for me in USDA 4 (but not reliably)
- C. nigra ‘Variegata’ or Variegated Black Sedge has low grass-like foliage that is a light green edged with a soft-yellow stripe. 15-25 cm (5-8 inches) and hardy to USDA 4/5.
- C. pendula is also readily available and this tuft forming (it doesn’t creep like the C. buchanii but makes a clump) plant reaches 24 inches tall. Good green foliage
There are also some hybrids appearing on garden shop shelves
- Carex ‘Golden Falls’ (Golden Falls Sedge) has cream-yellow and green leaves in the early spring but it fades to green as the season progresses. 15-20cm or (5-7 inches) tall. Hardy to USDA 5/6
- Carex ‘Ice Dance’ (Variegated Japanese Sedge) has green leaves edged with white. Growing 20-30 cm (8-10 inches) it is hardy to USDA zone 5
In summary, if you follow a few basic rules (mostly dampish soils) with this plant and watch the hardiness rating, you should be fine.
Shopping Resources for This Page
Carex seeds and plants can be found here – note, I’ve usually started with plants as seeds can be a bit tricky – but your results may vary
Ornamental grass seed and plants can be found here