Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wildflower Wednesday: Seersucker Sedge

A cold winter has taken its toll on the Seersucker sedges, many of the leaves are brown and it appears more semi-evergreen than evergreen. But, it would take more than a few brown leaves to detract from the over all effect of the rippled and dimpled leaves or the bright spot of color this sedge brings to a landscape.
Also known as Plantained-leaved Sedge
Carex plantaginea has been in my garden for almost a decade, but it wasn't until I saw how beautifully they looked massed along a path (above and below) in Peter and Jasmine Gentling's garden during Asheville Spring Fling that I decided to plant them along the path to the front porch. It's planted with Christmas fern and Camassia bulbs and I think it will make a good show each spring. I don't know about you, but, I am always looking for plants that pop in my woodland shade garden and this sedge does. It looks good year round.
Seersucker Sedge massed in Peter and Jasmin Gentling's garden
Sedges, especially native sedges, have been lumped into the weed category for years! Granted, some are rather weedy and I have a few of those in the wetter parts of my garden, but, I appreciate that they bring more diversity to Clay and Limestone. Native sedges are part of my woodland eco-system, they were here before I started gardening and their seeds and flowers continue to provide food for butterflies, birds, and mammals. 
male and female flowers on a sedge in my garden
Fortunately for us, Seersucker Sedge has been discovered! It's now available at several online nurseries, but  you'll not likely to find it or many other native sedges at your local independent garden center. Once again our natives are overlooked for the showier exotic from the other side of the world. Yes, I will agree, those exotics are lovely variegated beauties, but, I want more than beauty from plants that I add to my garden. I expect plants to feed the critters while they feed my soul. (Gardening For Wildlife)
Male and female flowers on Seersucker Sedge
Sedges are almost always associated with wet, boggy/marshy places, but some do grow in dry, poor soil. Seersucker sedge is not one of those! It's a Goldilocks of a plant and prefers a rich woodland soil that's not too wet or not too dry. Finding the right spot for them in a garden that is often too wet or too dry wasn't nearly the challenge I thought it would be! The soil along the path has been enriched with leaf mold for years and is the perfect medium. The ferns and other natives that are planted with it should make that part of the garden glow this spring. (Not The Climate For Xeric)
I'll clip off the old leaves
It's easy to see why Carex plantaginea is called Seersucker Sedge with those wide, rippled and dimpled, deep-green leaves, it looks just like seersucker material, only green! The first time I saw them at GroWild  I knew it was a keeper! If you're looking to jazz up your shade garden you can't beat the texture that Seersucker Sedge adds to a garden. Just give it good soil, some shade, plant it with ferns, ephemerals, Oakleaf hydrangeas or at the base of a Hamamelis vernalis. You won't be disappointed, I guarantee it.


The particulars:

Seersucker Sedge is found growing in meadows and rich woods in the Eastern USA from Minnesota to Maine and south to Alabama and Georgia (Zones 4-8). An evergreen plant with showy foliage, it makes a great texture plant for moist shady places. It will slowly spread to make a nice ground cover; you can speed that process along by dividing your plants every couple of years. Although, the purplish/black flowers aren't  showy, they are interesting when back lit by the setting sun. A very low maintenance plant requires only the removal of the dead leaves in late winter.
Photo by Jacqueline Donnelly (her blog)

Thank you for stopping by and welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I don't remember seeing this sedge. It is a beauty. Now where can I plant it. Something to look forward to.

  2. Okay, I am sold but I don't want one. I want 21!

  3. What a cool plant, one I've never heard of. I think the flowers are cool, and I like the wide leaves. I wonder how it would do here in the PNW. Only one way to find out, I guess!

  4. The drought we had in the summer of 2012 wiped out some of the native Ferns growing in a naturalized, deep shade section of my garden under a large Oak tree. It's a dry shade area, so a very difficult spot. This autumn, I sowed Pennsylvania Sedge and Virginia Bluebell seeds (both native here) around the base of the tree. I've heard both can be difficult to start from seed, but I thought I'd give it a try. I'm appreciating Sedges more these days. Great post. I agree--the flowers are fascinating, and beautiful when backlit by the sun!

  5. I love the look of the leaves and the cute common name. I appreciate your emphasis on the plant's needs so I can enjoy the info while knowing it won't work for me.

  6. I wonder if I already have that growing wild here? I will have to look for it come spring. I certainly have wet areas around here.

  7. Hi Gail, now i am early in linking, lol. I am amazed at the thick layers of dried leaves and they can still grow! And they provided a live contrast to the surroundings.

  8. I'm rather attached to the reedy grassy sedgy things that mange to volunteer in my hot summer garden. But ours do prefer the kinder cooler weather.

  9. Oh, wow, I know this one as "plaintain-leaved sedge" and grow it here, too. It's a very sturdy plant when it's happy...keep thinking I should get a few more.

  10. I can see why you were drawn to these in the Gentling garden, Gail; they look lovely massed like this. I wish they liked really dry soil--I would have the perfect place for them under a big evergreen here. The only sedges growing in my garden, I'm afraid, are the weedy kind:)

  11. I don't think I've heard of that one before. I am glad that nurseries do seem to slowly be adding more natives to their offerings, thankfully, but it is a slow process. I have seen plants lately in big gardening stores that I couldn't find hardly anywhere just a few years ago. I am assuming that new propagation techniques are helping with that. And of course, if us consumers keep looking for them and spending our money on them, nurseries will stock more natives!

  12. I also love sedges and hope to plant more myself...this is a perfect fit for parts of my garden...adding it to the list as I keep planning this year.

  13. My resolution is to learn more about sedges this year. This looks beautiful and I think hardy in Heath.

  14. Gail, I am going to have a plant want list a mile long. I am in love with this sedge...and then I saw it wanted moist. But you know, I might be able to give it that one day...a special place in a watered garden.

    Thanks for the mention on FB, that was sweet of you.


  15. You really spoke to me when you said you were always looking out for plants that pop in the woodland shade garden! I really like that Seersucker Sedge is a native that appeals to wildlife. I haven't seen it in local nurseries, but it seems it may be worth finding it online. Thanks!

  16. How have I not heard of this sedge? I love the patterning on the leaves, almost as though they are checkered.

  17. I was late but I did put up my post. Sedges are something I am just learning about, especially their place in a garden.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson