Spike Sedge

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Spike Sedge - Carex nadina

Spike Sedge is an herbaceous, grass-like, evergreen perennial. It is a member of the sedge family, which includes almost 2,000 species world-wide. Sedges look like grasses, with long, narrow, parallel-veined leaves growing from a central point, but their stems are triangular in cross-section rather than round. Inconspicuous flowers are produced in the spring on straight stems. Male and female flowers may grow on the same stem but in different places, or on separate stems. The flowers are followed in July and August by seedheads which form attractive tufts. The flowers and seeds may draw insects and birds.

Most sedges grow in wetlands and Arctic and alpine (high mountain) tundra. The majority of garden sedges thrive in moist shade, an environment where grass does not do well. Sedges can thus provide the open, airy, vertical look of ornamental grasses in shade plantings. Plant breeders have created varieties with interesting growth habits, leaf colors, and markings. Native sedges go well in natural landscape plantings. Sedges can make excellent container plants for patios and terraces.

Spike Sedge is native to the mountainous areas of the western US and Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and Canada in hardiness zones 2 to 6. Unlike most other sedges, it prefers sun and dry sandy soil. It grows naturally in areas with limestone outcroppings, making it suitable for rock gardens with limestone ledge or boulders. It prefers rich soil (pH > 7.2). It grows 1 to 3 feet tall with fibrous roots. In hot areas, it may go dormant during the summer.

Sedges are easy to maintain as long as they have enough water. They seldom need fertilizer. Deer and rabbits leave them alone, and they have few pests or diseases. When plants look tattered, they can be cut back by about 1/3. Divide if the center starts to die out. Sedges can be propagated by seeds or division.

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