As members of the sedge (Cyperaceae) family, carex resemble grasses, but there are distinct differences. Carex stems are solid and triangular with ridges running their length, while those of grasses are round and hollow. As the green or brown “flowers” are seldom showy, carex are primarily grown for their foliage, which is highly diverse in color -- including greens, blues, yellows, browns, copper-bronzes and bold variegations. Carex come in a wide range of sizes, from a few inches high up to 5 feet. While some carex provide fountains of fine foliage, others are broad-leaved and upright. The combination of their growth habit, foliage texture and color make them ideal species for borders, containers, rock- and water-gardens.
REQUIREMENTS: Zones 4-9, 14-24. Partial shade inland, full sun near the coast. Most prefer consistently moist soil (drip irrigation highly recommended), but a few will require dry conditions, especially the New Zealand Sedges: C. testacea, buchananii, etc.
While the flowers and seed heads of many Carex species can add interest to a garden, it is their textures, forms, and foliage colors that will eventually determine your design decisions. When choosing a sedge it is also important to consider whether or not the plant has a clumping or spreading habit. A clumping-type sedge will spread out over time but will generally remain confined to its original location in the landscape. Spreaders, on the other hand, will continually spread throughout the landscape, often with underground rhizomes, and sometimes aggressively. In the descriptions of the individual sedges below we have indicated whether or not a particular species has a clumping or spreading habit. At El Nativo Growers, Inc. we grow a wide selection of Carex species and hope the provided information will help you select the best Carex for your project.