Gardening — Wisconsin Native Sedges
Border Plant. Line a path or walkway with arching sedges, or low-growing tufts. Frame
your planting area with a mounding sedge species.
Accent or Specimen. A large arching sedge offers great architectural form.
Groundcover or lawn replacement. A single species such as Pennsylvania Sedge can be
used as a lawn-like groundcover, but why not include a variety of compatible sedges and add
Usefule in Wetlands Sedges are predominant plants in vegetation of many wetlands and
are useful to plant in moist or wet areas of your garden.
Rain garden or dentention area. Some sedges are especially well suited to deal with water
runoff and are excellent choices for the rain garden. Awl-Fruited Sedge, Fox Sedge and Palm Sedge are all good rain
Filling-in. Fill those empty spaces or “holes” in an existing planting with the right sedge.
Native woodland sedges can be added under trees in the root zone, or around the base of shrubs
and taller plants. Sedges intermingle beautifully in any setting.
There are over 100 species of sedge plants. These grass-like plants are drought tolerant, easy to
grow and practically maintenance free. Native sedge plants offer the opportunity to replenish and
renew natural landscapes while giving the gardener a hardy plant made for the region. Whichever
species you opt for, growing sedge plants in the garden brings texture and movement to any area
of the landscape.
Sedges and grasses also occupy a very important ecological role in communities where they are
native. They are food plants, shelter plants, and soil stabilizers. They can even serve as a growth
surface for other plant species. Sedges tent to crowd out invasive species.
Many different kinds of birds will nest in and around grasses and
sedges as well. Some species are pivotal in the succession of different habitat types.
Sedges occupy a very important ecological role in communities where they are
native. They are food plants, shelter plants, and soil stabilizers.
Sedges are predominant
plants in wetland vegetation.
At first glance, one might assume sedges are grasses. They are not and are held in the genus Carex. They are useful in moist areas, such as around ponds, but there are also types of sedge
that thrive in dry regions. Both ornamental and native sedge plants produce tiny seeds which feed some
bird species, and many animals use the foliage to line and create nests. Sedge plants have the
characteristic strappy leaves similar to many grasses, and just like grass, they reproduce from seed and
Like grasses, sedges tend to form in either dense clumps or tufts. Unlike grasses, they usually have
three-sided stems (although Bulrush sedge (Schoenoplectus) has cylindrical stems) and leaves —
in the form of true leaves, flaps or sheaths — that are borne in threes in spiraling vertical positions
up the stem.
Sedges have thick, fibrous roots or underground stems. the seed heads of sedges are usually produced
at the end of a single erect, usually tufted stem. Numerous, almost inconspicuous flowers (florets) are
arranged in either individual or groups of “spikes” at the top of the stem.
Most sedges are bisexual and more rigid in form than grasses and so are less adept at catching the
pollen as it passes through the air. Once pollinated, the ovary in most species of sedge forms a tiny,
single-seed, nut-like fruit which is dispersed either on the wind, by flotation or by sticking to passing
Most nurseries have some varieties of sedge on hand. If you are looking for a particular species, you
may need to order seed or starts. Seeded plants will take a couple of seasons to get to useable size
but they grow as easily as grass seed.
It is best to source native varieties through a grower, as some of these plants are endangered and
harvesting from the wild is prohibited. The majority of sedge types grow in either sun or shade. Some
varieties are xeric or require dry locations, while others are hydric and
need to be constantly moist. Sedges that are mesic have the broadest tolerance of both
dry and moist conditions.
Sedge plant care is minimal. They rarely need fertilizer, the plants can be easily moved and they grow
rapidly and can even be used as a turf. Sedge plants take to occasional mowing in lawn situations and
have the advantage of requiring little further attention, unlike traditional turf grass, which needs plenty
of added nitrogen and may get weedy.
When fertilizing, feed the plant in early summer with a light nitrogen plant food. Irrigate plants in the sun
at least 3 times during the month. For those plants in shadier areas, irrigate just once per month unless
your region is in acute drought, in which case water 2 times per month. Suspend watering in fall and
winter. If you wish, cut back sedges after they have bloomed to preserve a more tidy appearance. You
can mow the plants but use a sharp blade and mow no lower than 2/3 of the plant’s height.
If the plant starts to die out in the center, divide the sedge between spring and early summer to make
even more plants. If you don’t want the plant to seed, cut off the seed heads in early spring.
Wisconsin Native Sedge Plants Catalog
||2 - 3 feet
|Common Wood Sedge
||2½ to 3 feet
|Eastern Star Sedge
||1 - 2 feet
||1 to 3 feet
||2 to 3 feet
|Golden Star Sedge
||2 - 3 feet
||6 to 12 inches
|Plaintain Leaved Sedge
|White Tinged Sedge
L = Loam
A = Acid
C = Clay
S = Sandy
R = Rocky
D = Dry
M = Medium
Mo = Moist
W = Wet
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