'Evergold' sedge. Photo: Proven Winners

Sedge (Carex) is an ornamental perennial that is grown for the strappy or thin grass-like foliage. This cool-season plant is in the sedge family, Cyperaceae, which is characterized by triangular-shaped stems.

The vast genus of Carex comprises over 2,000 species of sedge, which can be found across the world growing in wetlands, bogs, along stream banks and ponds, and other wet areas. Though there are many types of sedges, Carex is regarded as the only true sedge.

Sedges are often referred to as ornamental grasses even though they are not true grasses. These small to medium-sized grass-like plants add fine texture and structure to the landscape, and are often used as a low-maintenance alternative to traditional turf lawns.

Sedges are tolerant of a range of growing conditions and is a versatile low-maintenance plant for beds, borders, and containers. Learn how to grow and use sedges in your landscape.

On this page: Basics | Planting | Care | Pictures | Frequently Asked Questions | Landscaping Ideas

On this page:


Botanical name:

Carex spp.

Plant type:

Perennial that grows from rhizomes, stolons, or clumping tufts


3-9, depending on the species


Partial shade to full shade, with some species tolerating full sun


Compact, upright, arching, clumping or spreading habit


6 to 36 inches tall, 12 to 36 inches wide, depending on the variety

Bloom time:

Mid-spring to early summer


Short flower stalks produce brown or beige seed heads that are most often inconspicuous, with some being showier.


Sedges are grown primarily for the ornamental foliage. Leaves can be thin and wire-like or wider and lance-shaped, occurring in shades of green, blue, gold, chartreuse, orange, brown, or variegated. Fall color is insignificant.

Wildlife benefits:

Seeds and pollen of Carex plants are a food source for small mammals, birds, pollinators, and other beneficial insects, and a larval food source for caterpillars. Foliage provides shelter and nesting sites for birds and other wildlife.

Is sedge toxic?

Sedge is not toxic to humans or pets, though ingestion may cause mild digestive upset.

Are sedges deer resistant?

Sedges are resistant to deer browse, though deer may graze on plants if other food sources are scarce.


When to plant:

Plant sedge during milder months in spring or fall to avoid stress from extreme heat or cold.

Where to plant:

Choose a site with partial shade to full shade and rich, well-draining soil. Some sedges are tolerant of full sun, so research individual light needs before planting.

How to plant:

Loosen soil in the planting area and amend with compost or other rich organic matter, if needed. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth than the root ball. Remove plant from the nursery container and tease out roots if potbound. Place in the hole so the top of the root ball is level or slightly higher than the surrounding soil. Fill in the hole with soil, tamp down gently, and water thoroughly to remove air pockets. Water regularly until plants are established.


Space plants 1 to 3 feet apart, depending on the variety. For mass plantings, measure out spacing before planting and use a staggered row placement.


'Ice Dance' sedge. Photo: Proven Winners


Carex are tolerant of different soils, but prefers rich, well-draining soil with a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. For containers, use a high-quality all-purpose potting mix.

Amendments & fertilizer:

Sedge needs little or no supplemental fertilizer. In late winter or early spring, apply a slow-release, all-purpose fertilizer according to instructions. A thin layer of organic matter such as wood mulch or pine straw can be spread around the base to add nutrients, suppress weeds, and retain moisture.


Some sedges prefer moderately to wet soil, while others are more drought tolerant. Research each variety to determine individual watering needs. Water more often during prolonged heat or dry spells. Container specimens will need more frequent watering than those in the ground.


Most Carex are semi-evergreen or evergreen and need little pruning. Plants with damaged or discolored foliage can be cut back by up to two-thirds of their size in late winter or early spring to rejuvenate. In colder climates where sedges are not evergreen, cut the dead growth back to the ground in early spring before new growth emerges. Sedges are slow growing and take time to recover from pruning.

Pests and diseases:

When given optimal growing conditions, sedge is free of most pests and diseases. Pests include aphids, fungus gnat larvae, mealybugs, spider mites, slugs, and snails. Diseases include anthracnose, leaf spot, rust, and smut.


Swipe to view slides

Photo by: Proven Winners.

EvergoldBuy now from Proven Winners
Carex hachijoensis

Zones: 5-10
Habit: Upright arching habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 18 inches tall, 12 to 16 inches wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom time: Spring

This award-winning Japanese sedge is a cool season plant with a graceful arching growth habit, variegated foliage and coffee-colored flowers. The narrow strappy leaves are creamy yellow with dark green margins, creating dramatic contrast. Foliage coloring is best in partial or filtered shade. Use in containers, mass plantings, or woodland borders.

Photo by: Proven Winners.

'Bowles Golden'Buy now from Proven Winners
Carex elata

Zones: 5-8
Habit: Upright arching habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Partial shade to shade
Bloom time: Late spring to early summer

This striking golden sedge has a graceful arching habit and bright yellow semi-evergreen foliage with narrow green margins. Use this elegant variety to brighten darker areas alongside other shade lovers such as hosta, astilbe, ferns, and hydrangea. Plants prefer average to wet soils and don’t like to dry out. Plant in a rain garden, woodland border, or mass in the landscape.

Photo: Emmanuelle Ares / Millette Photomedia

'Everillo' Japanese Sedge
Carex oshimensis

Zones: 5-9
Habit: Clumping arching habit
Height/Spread: 12 to 18 inches tall and wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom time: Late spring

Native to Japan, ‘Everillo’ is a semi-evergreen or evergreen sedge with chartreuse new foliage that turns golden yellow in summer. Coloring is better in semi-shade than in full sun. Use in a woodland border, rain garden, as a container accent, or as edging along a pathway or bed. Prefers moderate to wet soil; don’t allow to dry out.

Photo: Tatkatut / Shutterstock

'Ice Dance'
Carex morrowii

Zones: 5-9
Habit: Compact spreading habit
Height/Spread: 9 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 24 inches wide
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Bloom time: Late spring

Strappy semi-evergreen leaves are green with creamy white margins along the edges. Use to brighten up shady areas; coloring is best in semi-shade. Plant in containers, rock gardens, woodland borders, or mass in the landscape. Spreads by rhizomes, but is not invasive. Plants prefer moderately moist to wet soil; don’t allow soil to dry out completely. Moderately drought tolerant once established.

Photo: Proven Winners

Leather Leaf Sedge
Carex buchananii

Zones: 7-10
Habit: Compact habit
Height/Spread: 12 to 24 inches tall, 12 to 14 inches wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom time: Summer; flowers are insignificant

Native to New Zealand, this ornamental sedge is grown for the fine tufts of coppery brown foliage that creates soft texture and movement in the landscape. This versatile evergreen pairs well with many other plants, including flowering bulbs and other perennials. Use in containers, mass plantings, and mixed borders. Does not tolerate wet winters or extreme wet or dry conditions, and is tolerant of full sun.

Photo: Clarence_Ph / Shutterstock

Seersucker Sedge
Carex plantaginea

Zones: 4-8
Habit: Clumping arching habit
Height/Spread: 8 to 12 inches tall, 10 to 22 inches wide, with flower spikes up to 24 inches tall
Exposure: Partial sun to shade
Bloom time: Spring

Also known as plantain-leaf sedge, this semi-evergreen perennial has a graceful arching habit with purple-brown flower spikes and bright green foliage. New growth emerges from maroon leaf sheaths in spring, producing broad lance-shaped leaves with a shiny sheen and puckered texture. Use to create a lush look in shady woodland borders, or as an underplanting for shrubs. Tolerant of wet or dry soils and shade. Leaves may turn brown with too much sun.

Photo: Tatyana Mut / Shutterstock

Blue Sedge
Carex flacca syn. C. glauca

Zones: 4-9
Habit: Mounding spreading habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, 12 to 18 inches wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom time: Early summer

This Mediterranean native is an attractive low-growing ground cover, adding soft texture to beds, borders, and rain gardens. Plants produce strappy blue-green foliage with a lighter blue underside. Adaptable to sun or shade, and wet or dry soils. Plants are evergreen in warmer climates. Blue sedge can tolerate some foot traffic, making it a low-maintenance alternative to a traditional turf lawn.

Photo: Michael G McKinne / Shutterstock

Pennsylvania Sedge
Carex pennsylvanica

Zones: 3-8
Habit: Mounding arching habit
Height/Spread: 6 to 12 inches tall, 12 inches wide, with flower spikes up to 24 inches tall
Exposure: Partial shade to full shade
Bloom time: Mid-spring

Also known as oak sedge, this semi-evergreen perennial is native to eastern and central North America, where it is commonly found growing near oak trees. Fine tufts of arching green foliage add graceful movement and soft texture to the landscape. This sedge may be used as a lawn substitute in shady areas, but does not hold up well to foot traffic. Use in native gardens, as an underplanting, or along a slope for erosion control. Tolerant of sun or shade, and wet or dry soils.

Photo: Sojibul / Shutterstock

Palm Sedge
Carex muskingumensis

Zones: 4-9
Habit: Dense clumping habit
Height/Spread: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Bloom time: Late spring through summer

Named for the feathery leaves that resemble miniature palm fronds, this midwestern U.S. native adds multi-seasonal interest to beds and borders with fine green foliage, spikes of tan flowers that persist through summer, and coppery brown or yellow fall color. Grow this water-tolerant variety in a rain garden, bog, or native wetland.


What is the difference between a sedge and a grass?

Sedges are distinguished by their solid triangular stems, while grasses have hollow rounded stems.

Is sedge invasive?

Varieties with a rhizomatous growth habit can be rapid spreaders, but are not generally considered invasive. Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi) has become invasive in coastal areas of the eastern U.S.

Do sedge plants spread?

Sedges can have a spreading or clumping habit, depending on the variety. Those with rhizomatous roots tend to spread the most.

What are sedges good for?

Sedges have a number of benefits. They can be used for erosion control, as a turf lawn substitute, in challenging shady areas, and to provide food and shelter for wildlife.

What about nutsedge?

Nutsedge (Cyperus) is a grass-like plant that grows in warmer regions. Outside of its native habitat, some species of nutsedge can be invasive. Yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus) and purple nutsedge (C. rotundus) are commonly found in the U.S., and are listed as noxious weeds in some states.


Photo: Proven Winners

For borders and landscapes:

Use sedge as a lawn alternative, to edge pathways or borders, in mass plantings, as a ground cover, along a stream or pond, or as a underplanting for trees and shrubs.

For slopes and hillsides:

Mass sedge along a slope or hillside to help stem erosion.

For containers:

Plant sedge in a container by itself or in combination with other plants that have similar growing needs.

There are many ways to use sedges in your landscape. Here’s how:

  • Use as a low-maintenance alternative to a traditional turf lawn.
  • Naturalize in a semi-shaded woodland border.
  • Include in a wildlife-friendly garden to provide food and shelter for birds, beneficial insects, and other wildlife.
  • Place sedges along a stream bank, pond, or in a rain garden with other moisture-tolerant ornamental plants.
  • Use gold or variegated sedges to brighten up shady areas.
  • Include native sedges with other local native plants as part of a meadow garden or other eco-friendly landscape.
  • Plant sedge in a decorative container and use as an engaging focal point in the landscape.
  • Edge a pathway with sedges for easy-care multi-seasonal color.
  • Use as an underplanting for trees and shrubs.
  • Plant a cascading variety in a classic urn for understated elegance.
  • Mass in a challenging shady area where little else will grow as a low-maintenance solution.
  • Create an attractive mass planting along a slope to help stem erosion.

Companion plants: Sedges combine well with many other plants astilbe, bugleweed, coneflower, coral bells, ferns, hellebore, hosta, hydrangea, iris, Japanese forest grass, lamium, milkweed, phlox, Siberian bugloss, spirea, and sweetspire.

20 Great Plants for Shade
18 Types of Ornamental Grasses

JOIN 100,000 GARDEN LOVERSSign up for weekly gardening inspiration and design tips

Get plant information, gardening solutions, design inspiration and more in our weekly newsletter.

* Required Fields
We will never sell or distribute your email to any other parties or organizations.

More about the newsletter

Follow Us Garden Design Magazine Facebook Garden Design Magazine Twitter Garden Design Magazine Pinterest Garden Design Magazine Instagram Garden Design Magazine Youtube