Versatile Sedges for Lawn and Garden

At Prairie Nursery we’ve been growing and selling native sedges for more than 20 years, and finally these gardenworthy perennials are receiving the attention they so richly deserve. Sedges (Carex sp.) can be found growing naturally in just about any environment from woodlands to swamps and marshes – even on dry sand. While many sedges tend to dwell in very specific habitats, there are also “generalists” that tolerate a wider range of conditions, and they do especiallly well in tended landscapes.

car-rad

Arching, spikey, or mounding. Fine or thick leaves. Compact, or airy and open. The ornamental qualities of sedges are fit for utilization in a variety of gardening niches, with aesthetically appealing results. Some species call more attention to themselves, while others serve as supporters. Sedges green-up and bloom early, which is in contrast to so many large grasses that take the full season to mature. Think of sedges as an early-season grass that looks good all summer!

  • Base or matrix plant. In a mixed “plant community” sedges can provide the necessary continuity, throughout a large planted area, that “ties it all together.”
  • Border Plant. Line a path or walkway with arching sedges, or low-growing tufts. Frame your planting area with a mounding sedge species.
  • Specimen Plant. In a traditional garden, a large arching sedge makes a statement and adds sophistication.
  • Groundcover or lawn replacement. A single species such as Pennsylvania Sedge makes a lawn-like groundcover, but why not include a variety of compatible sedges and add some dimension!
  • Rain garden or dentention area. Some sedges are especially well suited to deal with water runoff and are excellent choices for the rain garden. Fox Sedge, Palm Sedges and Copper Shouldered Oval Sedge are all good rain garden species.
  • Filling-in. Empty spaces or “holes” in an existing planting can be filled with the right sedge. Native woodland sedges can be addes under trees, in the root zone. Or add sedges at the base of shrubs and taller plants. The more ground you cover, the less mulch you’ll need!

Low-Growing Sedges


car-pen1
Pennsylvania Sedge (above). The fine textured leaves, 6″ height and a creeping habit make this a great lawn alternative for dry soils in wooded areas. Planted one foot on center, it will fill in to form a dense low-growing, maintenance free groundcover. Requires a well-drained soil, in light to full shade.

car-pla
Low-growing, Plantian Leaved Sedge (above) combines well with other woodland plants in a naturalized groundcover. Or use it to fill-in spaces beneath shrubs and around larger plants. It’s a good one for planting at the base of trees and has great fall color, too.

ivory-sedge-setting

The low, tufted form of heat-and-drought-tolerant Ivory Sedge (above) are perfect for dry sandy, gravelly soils and rock gardens. They grow well under junipers and can be used to create “lawn look” groundcover in dry shady spots with low foot traffic.


Ornamental Sedges


car-vul3
FOX SEDGE (above). Fox sedge is a wetland species that will grow in any garden soil with sun. It looks very much like Prairie Dropseed but is a better choice for clay or poorly-drained soils. Often Prairie Dropseed is planted for its soft, mounding shape, but if you garden in a nutrient rich or clay soil, Fox Sedge is for you. This gorgeous sedge is perfectly rounded in overall form, about 30 inches tall and two-plus feet across.

car-mus-kingsbury
Palm Sedge (above) is a versatile, adaptable wetland species that makes an excellent garden plant. It tolerates sun or shade, dry or wet. Prized for its texture, it offers a fine-textured contrast to broad-leaved plants. Combine it with Sensitive Fern, or another large-leaved plant such as Canada Anemone. It’s a good choice for rain gardens and it tolerates tough clay very well.

carexgray1-botany.cz
Bur Sedge (above) is a terrific ornamental sedge. A beautiful vase-shape with arching leave blades and really cool spiked flowers make this sedge a highlight in the garden. Growing up to three feet high, it can definitely stand out in a crowd.

car-bic
The thin spikey stalks of Copper Shouldered Oval Sedge (above) offer a good contrast to the Bur Sedge in the previous photo, or Long Beaked Sedge, below.


Long Beaked Sedge is a medium-sized workhorse that will grow just about anywhere. It looks good in combination with any of the other sedges.

Here’s a quick comparison list… happy gardening!

Sedge/Name Ht Soil Sunlight  Range
C.bicknellii
Copper Shouldered Oval Sedge
1’-3’ Medium to Moist;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full to Partial Sun  Map
C. comosa
Bottlebrush Sedge
2’- 4’ Moist to Wet;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full Sun Map
C. eburnea
Ivory Sedge
6”- 1’ Dry to Medium;
Sand, Loam
Partial Sun
to Shade
Map
C.grayi
Bur Sedge
2’- 3’ Medium-Wet;
Loam, Clay
Full to Partial Sun Map
C. Hystericina
Porcupine Sedge
3’ Moist to Wet;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full Sun Map
C. muskingumensis
Palm Sedge
2’-3’ Medium to Moist;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full to Partial Sun Map
C. pensylvanica
Pennsylvania Sedge
6”-1’ Dry to Medium;
Sand, Loam
Partial Sun
to Shade
Map
C. plantaginea
Plantain Leaved Sedge
6”-1’ Medium to Moist;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Partial Sun
to Shade
Map
C. radiata
Eastern Star Sedge
1’-2’ Medium to Moist;
Sand, Loam
Partial Sun
to Shade
Map
C. rosea
Golden Star Sedge
1’ Dry to Medium;
Sand, Loam
Partial Sun
to Shade
Map
C. sprengelii
Long Beaked Sedge
1’-2’ Dry to Moist;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full Sun to
Shade
Map
C. stipata
Awl Fruited Sedge
4’ Wet;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full to Partial Sun Map
C. vulpinoidea
Fox Sedge
1’-3’ Medium to Wet;
Sand, Loam, Clay
Full Sun Map