Sedges can be a very useful group plants in the landscape. The can be economical, low maintenance ground covers. It is important to know which species does best at any partciluar site. To know this you need to know the species and where it grows. That is the point of this page. In future we will have individual infomation sheets on each species, for now I'll post the comparsion chart and write a brief paragraph on each species.
The list and any information below is only applicable to the sedges we grow which have been properly indentified. If you don't know what species you are planting you can't know if it will survive where you want to plant it. The sedge species that likes shade won't survive in the sun, those that like sandy, well drained soil won't last on clay. The species that likes lowland understory sites will not survive on rocky, exposed slopes. It 's my experience that every sedge I have seen for sale is mis-indentified. You can't just look at sedge and indentify it. The characteristics you have to compare are the those of flowers, seeds and the structures surrounding them. When you do this you have to examine them under a microscope because they are to small to see with the naked eye.
There are some general habits sedges have. They are green in the winter and bloom in the spring and early summer. They will do a lot of growing in the cool months so it is a good idea to feed your sedges in the fall so they grow well all winter. They will go dormant in the summer if it is very hot, very dry or both. In a normal summer months it will rain once or maybe twice each month. I would water the weeks is doesn't rain. In a normal year then you might have to water 6-10 times per summer (May through September). If the plants are well established they shouldn't need any more water the rest of the year. Many of the sedges can grow in the sun but they will need a little extra water during the summer months. Irrigating any more than 3 times a month would be excessive. Just like all plants if you water to much your are just inviting fungus and other diseases into your landscape. If you use as little water as possible you not only save money but will lose less plants.
Sedges will bloom in the spring and when they are finished some species can look untidy. This is a good time to cut them back. Many of the sedges grow from seed so you can get a thicker stand by leaving the cut matieral on the ground and the seed will germinate and grow. A light feeeding at the begining of the summer helps them recover from the energy they expended blooming and lost in being cut. Some folks will want a more manicured look with the sedges. You can have that look if you mow. But don't mow lower than 2/3 the plants height, use a mower with sharp blades and don't mow more than 4 times a year. You water, mow and feed much less than a turf grass. In our area truf grasses turn brown in the cool part of the year. The advantage of sedges is they are green during the bleakest time of the year.
In central Texas we have many dry and rocky sites. Make sure you find the right species to use for those areas. If they are really dry and sunny, grasses rather than sedges may be more suited.
The column you see that says habitat uses three terms, hydric, mesic and xeric. Hydric is wet. That ranges from standing water to moisture available in the soil most of the time. Xeric is of course dry. It's range from desert dry with no moisture in the soil most of the time, to occasionally moist. Mesic has the broadest range it goes from the soil being sometime moist to sometime dry.
Another attribute that this three terms cover is soil depth. Hydric would be the deepest soils, mesic the intermediate depths and xeric would be shallow soils. Those three terms will also describe the soil character. Hydric soils will be heavy clays, mesic more loams and xeric sandy or rocky soils. Those three terms will let you know the the type of soil preference of each species and the amount of moisture they require. You can also figure out that hydric soils going to be in the wetter riverbottoms, xeric soils wil be drier hilltops and mesic soils are those on the intermediate sites between the others. That will give you a good idea of where and how to plant them.
Creek Sedge, Carex amphibola.
This sedge has medium to thin leaves that are dark green. It makes strong, distinct clumps. It tends to be small half globe about 8-10 inches around. It grows in areas that have deeper, moist soil like creek banks and woodlands. It likes good garden soil with plenty of organic matter. It can take some sun but it will also want more water during the summer. If planted in the right place there would be no need to water it once established. It can make a single species ground cover but is most valuable in a mixed grassy meadow. If you planted 4" pots on 14-18 inch centers and gave the water and nutrition it needed it will grow to cover 100% in 4-6 months of warm season.
Stream Sedge, Carex blanda.
Stream sedge can be found with Creek sedge in the same habitats. The difference is Stream sedge has much broader leaves and resembles liriope. It's leaves are big, broad and have a distinct fold down the center of the leaf. It's clumps are little bigger than Creek sedge but in care and locations and spacing you want to treat it like Creek sedge.
Moss Sedge, Carex caryophylla.
This is a new sedge. We have grown it enough years now to know it's characteristics. This is hands down the smallest sedge I have ever seen. It can be as little at 2 inches tall and 3 inches across. This makes it perfect for the smallest nooks and crannies, amoung rocks and in joints in stone work and walkways. Another exceptional characteristic is it's shoot density. This sedge spreads like a turf grass from rhizomes. The rhizomes are so short it looks like a clumping sedge. A full grown 4" pot may have 30+ shoots in it.
This makes it one of the thickest ground covers you can plant. When it fills in there are so many shoots that it looks like a moss. Because it is so dense it is also feels very, very soft to the touch. There is only one draw to it's small size and that is you have to plant quite a few to get them to fill in in a reasonable amount to time. You can't really plant them on more than 12 inch centers because they will take multiple years to fill in. To avoid that problem just plant small areas of them near areas of high use. This species does appreciate better prepared garden soil. I woulds not use it if you didn't amend the soil to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil and to make sure the soil drained well. Planted in the shade and not cut back to often it should not need much supplmental irrigation. In the summer one or two watering should be enough during a normal year. In a dry a little more, a wet year a little less.
Cherokee Sedge, Carex Cherokensis.
This one of the biggest sedges. It's a woodland sedge so it like deeper soils that have more organic matter in them. It looks better in the shade than in the sun where it can get brunt leaf tips in the hot days of summer. It is a light to medium green with some yellowish tint to it. The leaves are short and some what stout for a sedge. It grows into a clump about 3 feet across but it is low to the ground at about 12 inches tall. The bloom spikes come out in late spring and can get up to 2 feet tall. The Seed cluster nods so it looks like a fish on a fishing pole. It is one of the more attractive bloom spike for a sedge. After last season I can say you can grow this sedge and it will survive with less than 18 inches of rain if it is growing in 2-3 feet of soil. In a year when we have move evenly distributed rain in the a normal amount around 30 inches, you should not need to give them any extra water.
Emory Sedge,Carex emoryi.
This is a water sedge. It does best in constant moisture on creek and pond sides. Around water can be difficult because there is nothing to stop the weeds and they can take over. This sedge is about 30 inches tall, spreads from rhizomes and makes thick colonies. It is so competitive it out grows the weeds and chokes them out. Emory Sedge is a nice dark matte green that looks fresh year round. It's tall enough to choke out weeds like Bermuda grass and nut grass but not so tall it blocks the view. The shoots grow upright out of the water and the leave ends will weep some. This arching habit can hide debris floating on the water surface.
This is the best erosion control plant I have seen. I have seen it growing on creeks in Central Texas on where the beds of the creek are solid limestone. During floods mature trees like Bald Cypress and American Elm can't hold onto solid creek bed limestone and get bowled over. Emoryi sedge forms mats on top of the bed rock and won't wash away. There is no better or more attractive sedge for landscaping or erosion control in our area.
Emoryi sedge can grow in the sun or shade. Onion creek where I originally collected it went dry for over a year during the last two years of drought. In those cases it dies back to the roots and when the water comes back it resprouts from the roots. It spread pretty rapidly so you can plant small plants like 4" on 24" to 36" centers and have it fill in the first season. It will grow up a bank of a creek or pond till it reaches dry soil and it will stop. In the ground I never feed it there is enough nutrition in the runoff into the creeks and stream they don't need feeding. It can grow into water about 6" to 8" deep and under some conditions it might grow in water a little deeper. It is a much better choice than big species like any of the big bull rushes, arundo, phragmites or cattail. Each of these will choke out every species on the site, weeds or planted plants. Emoryi Sedge will only eliminate those species that are shorter which means you can have a good mix of species instead of a mono stand.
Frank's Sedge,Carex frankii.
This sedge isn't a garden or landscape sedge. It's real use is as a wetland plant. It works well planted to control erosion and to stabilize banks at edge of creeks, pond and constructed wetland features. Frank's sedge is a clump forming sedge that can get 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide. It has broad leaves that look partially folded in the middle. I grows mostly in full sun but can grow decently well in light shade under tall trees like Cypress Pecans and sycamores. Since it doesn't spread it has to get planted on spacing that allow for it to cover the ground. At 3 feet wide you can plant smaller 4" or 1 gallons on 20"-30" spacing and have full coverage within a growing season. It is a bright medium to light green and stay that way all season. There might be some browning of the leaves over the winter. Over a few seasons there might be a build up of dead leaves. If this is planted in a landscape area like a pond you can cut the plant down very 3-4 year to reinvigorate it.
Blue Sedge,Carex flacca.
The first thing you will notice about this sedge is it's blue gray foliage. That's the reason to plant it. Since it is not one of our natives it is a little less tough in our climate. You need to make sure the soil you use is decent garden soil with good levels of organic matter and nutrients. Good drainage is an absolute necessity so make sure the soil doesn't has to much clay in it. Raised beds work really good with this species. It also likes even moisture so it will need a little water in the summer. Don't water it to much during the warm season or it can succumb to various soil diseases. It like shade and resents the summer sun. It spread some as the clumps get bigger, till it reaches it's mature size of about 16 inches around. The best spacing is about 16 inches in centers. It is nice and compact never more than 12 inches tall. Like all the sedges it grows well with other plants and the blue gray color look great with brightly colored blooming bulbs.
I like the ox blood lilies because the dark red look good in contrast to the light foliage.
Lawn Sedge,Carex leavenwothii.
This is our newest sedge. We have grown it for a few years. It was mixed in with some carex perdentata we had dug up in the wild. I noticed that the blocks of meadow sedge were blooming at different times and after a couple of years we pulled the new sedge out and I identified it. We started growing meadow sedge as a replacement for cedar sedge ( carex plano-stachys) because the difficulties we had growing sufficient number of Cedar sedge. Central Texas has a group of upland sedges that are fairly drought tolerant and meadow sedge was the first species we selected as a replacement for cedar sedge.
What we found growing Lawn sedge was it is a much more refined plant than say meadow sedge. Lawn sedge is thicker, fuller and stays more green throughout the year. The leaf blades on lawn sedge are finer and does not look as coarse as meadow sedge does close up. It has all the good characteristics of meadow sedge, of drought hardiness and fast growing in less than perfect conditions and doesn't require much care in our climate.
An individual plant gets about 12 inches tall and about 18 inches around. The best spacing for 4" is 16-18 inches apart. If planted that way in the spring it should cover the ground by fall. If demand calls for it or you have a large area to do we can custom grow 1/2- 21/2 inch plugs that would be more economical. Like most sedges Lawn sedge will grow to it peak in the shade but it does tolerate a half day of full sun. Lawn sedge can grow well in unimproved soil in all parts of the area except the thinnest rocky soils on hill top. Of course they will do better will some amending the soil. Most soils in central Texas lack organic matter so adding compost always helps. After they are established you can keep them looking good all through the hot, dry season with just 1-2 deep waterings per month. You can also mow these sedges but don't cut lower than 4" and more than 6 times a year could thin them out. if you did mow optimally mow once in the late spring like end of May, and in mid November. I would feed the area after both cutting and make sure especially in May to water deeply and thoroughly.
Meadow Sedge,Carex perdentata.
Meadow sedge is one of the toughest, sun and drought tolerant sedges there is. For many years folks have seen Carex plano-stachys or cedar sedge form colonies in cedar breaks and wanted that look in other dry, inhospitable areas in the landscape. We tried for years to grow Cedar sedge but along with that toughness came a very slow growth rate. It took years for a seedling to get to a size big enough to sell. I searched around and found the next toughest sedge that could be used as a replacement. That plant was Carex perdentata which we called meadow sedge. It grows in dry woodlands of cedar elms, Texas persimon, mesquite and hackberries. It also grows out in the full sun on the open prairies with Cedar Sedge, which is how I found it.
Though meadow sedge is not quite as tough as Cedar sedge it is much greener and faster growing so you can get it to cover in less than a decade it would take for cedar sedge to make a full ground cover. Meadow sedge clumps are bigger, up to 2 feet across and 12 inches tall. It makes more seed which will germinate reasonably well and help thicken up a stand over the years. You can plant meadow sedge in very harsh places it does it's best with if the soil is amended some with organic matter like compost before planting. It will survive the worst droughts we have but again it will looks better if you water it once or twice a month only in the summer.
Like all sedges it will tolerate mowing as long as you don't mow to short. Keep the mowing above 4" and just mow once a season. We found 2 mowing a year don't hurt the sedges and allows for some care of the sedge areas. If you mow once in late spring like the last 2 weeks of may you will spread the ripe seed around. One mowing in the fall thins out the old foliage to keep the clumps thick and full. Make sure to water and feed the area each time you mow. A couple of weeks after mowing is the time to go in and pull and weeds that might get started due to the thinning the sedges.
This is the very best sedge to use for unimproved or naturalistic areas where you need a tough plant to grow well and compete against weeds under the harshest conditions.