Sedges for Rain Gardens

There’s a lot to love about Carex. Commonly called sedges, they’re go-to plants for all kinds of projects. With this post, we begin a series on sedges. You’ll learn about sedges for a range of uses, from rain gardens to colorful containers. You’ll understand why they make sense for your growing program and for anyone interested in green infrastructure and the ecological landscape market.

Rain gardens (and the larger sites called bioretention) are designed to provide storage, evapotranspiration, and treatment of storm water runoff. Carex have branching, fibrous roots, and many form dense crowns. Those features help hold soil, slow runoff, and increase the amount of water that soaks into the soil. Some species spread and build a vegetative layer that helps reduce weeds.

Tussock Sedge in a bioretention cell
Tussock Sedge in a bioretention cell

Plants in rain gardens need to handle both wet and dry conditions. The lower zones of these sites often have standing water, but the level fluctuates a lot. The middle and upper zones of the site are drier but still have periods when they are wet.

Quite a few sedges fit the bill. Carex muskingumensis (Palm Sedge) thrives and forms colonies in wet conditions but can tolerate periods of dryness. It has feathery, palm-like foliage that resembles bamboo. It’s happiest in the lower zones of a rain garden. Gray’s Sedge (C. grayi) also loves the lower zones. It has showy, star-like seed heads that are fun and appealing. It, too, will spread to form large stands.

C. stricta (Tussock Sedge) forms dense tussocks under wet conditions. On drier sites, it can become rhizomatous and spread itself around. Squarrose Sedge (C. squarrosa) has a bunching habit and showy, spiky seed heads.

These are just a few of the possibilities, so check out the list of sedges for rain gardens on our website.

The demand for green infrastructure features like rain gardens is growing. Sedges make sense if you’re looking to grow, too.

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