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Caring for Carex

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Caring for Carex is fairly easy.

Caring for Carex doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, it’s easy. But maintaining these grass-like plants isn’t the same as caring for other ornamental grasses. However, if many Carex species are left untended, they may not perform well in your garden.

Is your plant actually a Carex?

Before you start using these tips for caring for Carex, be sure you know that your plant IS a Carex. If you aren’t sure what that grassy looking plant in your garden is, get more help differentiating ornamental grasses and lookalikes here.

Are Carex actually grasses?

While Carex plants look like grasses, they aren’t true grasses. So while grasses respond well to being cut hard, Carex may not. Simplified, grasses essentially evolved growth responses to being grazed. And Carex likely did not. That’s one of the key reasons caring for Carex differs from ornamental grass maintenance programs.

Caring for carex begins with understanding how they grow.

Sedges put on a summer bloom that isn’t very ornamental. In fact, some would call it “insignificant.” And that’s true, until those blooms become messy.

Caring for Carex like C. testacea

Combine Carex testacea, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ & a dry stream bed with a dish of water for the birds into your thirsty garden

So, what can make Carex messy?

When Carex blooms, it grows extra-long stems. In fact, they’re kind of a hairy strands tipped with with seedy pods. And, those long strands get tangled up. Plus, leaves and anything else that blows by gets caught in the mess. So, it’s time to clean things up.

Here’s how to easily maintain these plants in your garden:

First, put on gloves so the Carex edges don’t cut you as you work.

But, when you do begin cutting, don’t cut your Carex to the ground. That’s because it’ll probably kill your plant if you shear it low.

However, if the middle of your plant seems to have rotted out, pull out any rotted parts. And, yes, if they get soggy in the center, Carex will most likely completely rot and die.

Secondly, with gloves on, run your fingers through the tangled Carex “hairs” to pull out the long seedy ones. When you do this, you’ll likely remove other debris like trapped leaves as well.

Third, after you’ve combed out all you can, gather the remaining stems in your fist, and trim off the “dead” ends. And, by that, I mean just cut off a few tip ends. This is sort of like trimming your hair but maintaining length and health.

Lastly, you may want to do a little more combing to finish your caring for Carex work. And that’s it. Now your Carex should be refreshed!

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25 comments on “Caring for Carex

  1. Garden Mentors on

    Christine, Sorry to hear the birds tore your Carex apart. Often we’ll see them gathering the easy to pull dead leaves, but hearing about birds shearing a living plant is a new one on us. If the plant is dead, then it’s dead. If there are living bits, you might try digging it up. Then separate out the dead parts to compost. And if you find living shoots, replant those. There might actually be several plants in there. Little ones, but maybe more than one. Good luck!

  2. Garden Mentors on

    Jimmy, Thanks for writing in. If your plant has rust, applying a fertilizer to “feed” them isn’t likely to help. Better to fully identify what the problem is. Once you have a diagnosis, you’ll be better armed to start turning it around. Just throwing magic fairy “dust/liquid/granular/etc…” at a plant often isn’t going to resolve the issue…especially if you’re guessing at it.

    A nursery near you might offer plant disease diagnosis workshops to help. Or a local extension office might. Or you could try hiring a professional to help you.

    Good luck & let us know how it goes!

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Some varieties of Carex make wonderful additions to mixed container plantings & likely would do fine in a container for some period of time (nearly all container plantings need refreshing at some point). Have fun!

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