Looking for strategies to boost your landscape’s ecological impact? Join us for a look at plant-based solutions to common landscape challenges. Rather than oceans of mulch and vast expanses of turf grass, try using use native grasses and sedges. These extraordinary plants help preserve and build the soil, outcompete weeds, and offer a host of ecosystem benefits. Discover how greener grasses help build better landscapes and communities.

Shannon Currey is a horticultural educator with Izel Native Plants. Shannon is based in Durham, North Carolina and loves exploring the incredible plant diversity around her.

Native Grasses and Sedges Step: Smart Choices for Better Landscapes

Shannon Currey, Education and Outreach, Izel Plants

Plant and Resource List

1) Cover the Ground

  1. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)
  2. Carex texensis (Texas sedge)
  3. Carex bromoides (brome sedge)
  4. Similar sedges (narrow, green, clumping): C. albicans, C. appalachica, C. radiata, C. rosea, C.
  5. socialis
  6. Carex laxiculmis (blue wood sedge) and ‘Hobb’ Bunny Blue® (blue wood sedge cultivar)
  7. Carex flaccosperma (thinfruit sedge)
  8. Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge)
  9. Eragrostis spectabilis (purple love grass)
  10. Sporobolus heterolepis (prairie dropseed)
  11. Companion perennials for covering the ground: Chrysogonum virginianum, Heuchera americana, Heuchera villosa, Phlox divaricata, Packera aurea, Polystichum acrostichoides, Phacelia bipinnatafida, Sedum ternatum, Erigeron pulchellus

2) Manage Water Where It Falls

  1. Carex amphibola (eastern narrowleaf sedge)
  2. Carex cherokeensis (Cherokee sedge) and Carex laxiculmis (blue wood sedge)
  3. Wetland sedges – Carex grayi, C. comosa, C. crinita, C. frankii, C. lurida, C. squarrosa, C.
  4. stricta, C. vulpinoidea, and others.
  5. Juncus effusus (soft rush)
  6. Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) – many cultivars available
  7. Companion perennials for rain gardens: Eupatorium perfoliatum, Eutrochium maculatum, Vernonia noveboracensis, Veronicastrum virginicum, Monarda didyma, Monarda fistulosa, Rudbeckia laciniata, Phlox paniculate, Phlox pilosa

3) Resilience and Good Looks

  1. Panicum virgatum (switchgrass) – many cultivars available
  2. Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) – many cultivars available
  3. Muhlenbergia capillaris and cultivar ‘White Cloud’ (pink muhly grass)
  4. Muhlenbergia reverchonii (seep muhly, rose muhly)
  5. Companion perennials for erosion control: Packera aurea, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’, Monarda bradburiana, Monarda didyma, Monarda fistulosa, Asters (Symphyotrichum, Erybia, etc.), Pycnanthemum muticum, Pycnanthemum tenuifolia


  • Plant info and sourcing: izelplants.com (with more content in the works!). Check out our Resources page (izelplants.org/resources) and blog posts (izelplants.com/blog/)
  • Mt. Cuba’s report Carex for the Mid-Atlantic Region: https://mtcubacenter.org/trials/carex-for-the-mid-atlantic-region/

Books that include grasses and sedges, and/or approaches that use them:

  • The Encyclopedia of Grasses for Livable Landscapes, Rick Darke, 2007, Timber Press
  • The Living Landscape, Rick Darke & Doug Tallamy, 2014, Timber Press
  • The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden, Roy Diblik, 2014, Timber Press
  • Easy Lawns, Brooklyn Botanic Garden; Handbook #160 edition, 2001.
  • Planting in a Post-Wild World, Thomas Rainer & Claudia West, 2015, Timber Press
  • Garden Revolution, Larry Weaner, 2016, Timber Press
  • New Naturalism: Designing and Planting a Resilient, Ecologically Vibrant Home Garden, Kelly D.
  • Norris, 2021, Cool Springs Press
  • Prairie Up. An Introduction to Natural Garden Design. Benjamin Vogt, 2023, University of
  • Illinois Press.

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