Carex – Spring Blooming Grass

I use ornamental grasses quite extensively in my garden as many are great drought tolerant specimens. I also find them to be easy care and pest and disease free. Most of the grasses I grow are fairly large types that bloom in the fall, ripening off into gorgeous colors which I leave standing for my winter garden and the birds.

Carex / Sensible Gardening and Living
Carex / Sensible Gardening and Living

I do grow a smaller grass around a dry rock area which is a real beauty in the early spring. Carex is a clump perennial with evergreen foliage growing to just over 1 foot. The attractive flowers bloom in April to May and ripen off in June to July. Suitable for sandy or heavy soils, it grows in semi-shade and prefers moist soil. It does however grow very well for me in dry soil.

Sensible Gardening and Living
Sensible Gardening and Living

Although Carex is a sedge and not a grass, it is usually grouped together with the ornamental grasses. Sedges have triangular rather than rounded stems, and they are not hollow like grasses but have a pithy center. I give mine a quick bowl haircut in very early spring and take a hand rake to comb out any dried or dead stems. A general clean up is all I do and leave it alone after that for the rest of the year. It will eventually center out a bit as it ages but it take a long time, at least in my climate it does.

To replant an old specimen, dig out the entire clump and cut off a new, fresh piece from around the outer edge and replant. You could say this a plant that never stops giving! There are many different cultivars on the market each with their own stem colors or variegation. Many of the green and white variegated types are very attractive, or you might prefer the bronze tones or yellows. I prefer the solid green clumps as the flowers which is what I really like show up so well without competition from the foliage.

A few to look for are:

Carex comans ‘Bronze Form’  or ‘Frosty Curls’ – The leaves of ‘Bronze Form’ are a bronzed tan and the curly leaves of ‘Frosty Curls’ have white tips. Zones 7-9

Carex conica ‘Variegata’ – A clump forming evergreen sedge with deep green leaves edged in white. Zones 5-9

Carex morrowii ‘Aureo-variegata’ – Clump forming evergreen leaves striped silvery white in ‘Variegata’ and creamy yellow in ‘Aureo-variegata’. Zones 5-9

Carex sticta ‘Bowles’s Golden’ – Spring tufts of bright yellow leaves with light green edges deepen to a uniform green later. Dark brown flowers on spikes. Zones 5-9