Carex–or sedges–are low-growing grass look-alikes in the Cyperaceae family that are workhorses in the landscape. Useful for a range of landscape needs–everything from replacing lawns to replacing mulch as groundcover–carex is considered one of the most valuable plants in the garden. Rightly so. Check out the following list of uses and characteristics for sedges in the landscape.

  • Accents
  • Borders
  • Containers
  • Deer and rabbit resistant
  • Drought or wet tolerant
  • Erosion control
  • Evergreen to semi-green
  • Green infrastructure
  • Groundcover
  • No-mow lawn
  • Erosion control
  • Evergreen/Semi-evergree
  • Groundcover
  • Meadow plantings
  • Rain gardens/Bioretention
  • Shade tolerant

Carex’s burgeoning popularity comes from its ability to spread, its semi-evergreen to evergreen characteristic, and wide range of textures, colors, and adaptability. While you may not need a rain garden or have space for a meadow planting, many residents of Western North Carolina do need groundcovers that will grow in the shade, especially in areas where erosion is a concern. And, if it comes with a pop of color that doesn’t require mowing, even better. Here are our top five choices. Please ask staff for help determining which sedge is best suited for your needs.

For highlights on how B.B.Barns Landscape Services has been using carex in the landscape, read here, here, and here.

And just FYI: I am buying all the ‘Golden Bowles’ sedges for my yard since it flooded five times this year with all the rain. The Bowles sedge loves standing water. If you can’t beat them, plant for them.

Carex cherokeensis

Carex cherokeensis

  • Zone: 6-9
  • Native: Yes
  • Evergreen: Semi
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Spreads: Clumper
  • Height: 12′-18,” Blade: 1/4″
  • Light: Sun to part shade
  • Moisture: Average to wet
  • Uses: Pond, bog, rain garden, meadows, woodland, groundcover, accents
  • Tolerates: Shade, wet, deer

Carex pensylvanica

  • Zone: 4-8
  • Native: Yes
  • Evergreen: Semi
  • Foliage Color: Green
  • Spreads: Rhizomes
  • Height: 6″-12,” Blade: < 1/2″
  • Light: Part sun to full shade
  • Moisture: Dry-Moist
  • Uses: Groundcover, lawn substitute, no-mow lawn
  • Tolerates: Shade, drought, deer

Carex ‘morrowii ‘Ice Dance’

  • Zone: 5-8
  • Native: Japan
  • Evergreen: Semi
  • Foliage Color: Green and cream variegated
  • Spreads: Rhizomes
  • Height: 12,” Blade: 1/2″
  • Light: Part shade to full shade
  • Moisture: Moist
  • Uses: Slow spreading groundcover, accent
  • Tolerates: Shade, deer, erosion

Carex oshimensis 'Everillo' - Zone:  6-8Native: JapanEvergreen: Semi Foliage Color: Lime GreenSpreads: RhizomesHeight: 12

Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’

  • Zone:  6-8
  • Native: Japan
  • Evergreen: Semi
  • Foliage Color: Lime Green
  • Spreads: Rhizomes
  • Height: 12″ Blade: 5/16″
  • Light: Part-shade
  • Moisture: Moist to dry
  • Uses: Groundcover, accent, containers
  • Tolerates: Deer


Carex flacca ‘Blue Zinger’

  • Zone: 4-8
  • Native: Europe, N. Africa
  • Evergreen: Semi 
  • Foliage Color: Blue/Green
  • Spreads: Rhizomes
  • Height: 8″-10″ Blade: 5/16″
  • Light: Sun to part shade
  • Moisture: Dry
  • Uses: Groundcover, accent, containers
  • Tolerates: Shade, deer

Thank you to Hoffman Nurseries for the use of the photographs.

Written by Cinthia Milner, Landscape Consultant, and blog writer.

B.B.Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.