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Midwest Regional Reports

Essential Sedges for the Midwest

From sprawling ground covers to tidy borders, these grasslike plants provide structure and interest to your garden

The dangling seed heads of fringed sedge sway in the breeze. Photo: Erin Presley

If ornamental grasses were the underutilized landscape plants to finally reach popularity after the year 2000, sedges are their shady sisters that have been deservedly recognized in the last decade. These grasslike plants, in the family Cyperaceae, are among the most diverse and ecologically important plant groups in the world. The largest genus in the sedge family, Carex, is estimated to tally over 2,000 different species. Sedges are particularly abundant in wetlands but are present in almost every Midwestern plant community. Their diversity of forms and adaptability to a variety of conditions has given them a reputation as versatile garden plants. Greening up quickly in spring, smaller sedges make an excellent living mulch, while larger species can provide the foundation for matrix plantings and functional elements such as bioswales and rain gardens. Many sport showy flowers and seed heads to boot. In general, the following sedges appreciate partial sun and…

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