Mother Earth News Blogs > Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening

Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.

Try Shade-Loving, Evergreen Cymophyllus Sedge as a Hosta Replacement

By Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens

Tags: ornamental plants, shade gardening, garden planning, native plants, landscaping, seed starting, spring, groundcover, Barry Glick, West Virginia,


Many years ago, when I was just getting my nursery off the ground, there was buzz about a very rare, very mystical, very difficult to grow sedge. A sedge like no other sedge, so different that sometime in the 1940s, it was removed from the genus Carex and given its own monotypic genus - Cymophyllus!

Somewhere along the line, I was fortunate enough to barter with a colleague for 10 one-quart plants. They were immediately bumped up into gallons and placed out in the woods and forgotten about. Yes, I forgot about these "difficult-to-grow”, really rare plants. I forgot about them, not just for a week or two, or a month or two, or even a growing season. I forgot about them for 10 years!

Now, during that decade of neglect, they didn't put on much growth, what with no one providing any additional water during dry spells, no fertilization, no weeding etc. But, they did survive.

Imagine my joy at rediscovering these precious sedges and at their still being alive. I immediately rescued them from their life of despair and repotted my treasure in fresh soil. A hearty meal of 21-7-7 Peters Acid Special Fertilizer was much appreciated, I'm sure. They were very happy. I was very happy. My wayward little plants soon filled their new home with roots, and it being spring, found a permanent home in one of my woodland trial beds. Boy, were they excited to get their feet into the earth with real soil instead of that commercial potting mix.

In the following year, they doubled their size and flowered profusely in early spring. I collected the seeds, sowed them immediately and was rewarded with nearly 100 % germination. The young seedlings filled 2-inch pots in one growing season and 4-inch pots the next.

Meantime, many years later, the parent plants have octupled in size and are now surrounded by seed beds of many subsequent generations. Average size at maturity is about 24-36 inches and I've seen some individual leaf blades attain lengths of up to 24 inches long and up to 2 inches wide. The unique white flowers last for weeks and the entire plant is evergreen. I'm sharing this long story with you to illustrate how easy Cymophyllus fraserianus is to grow and to save you from being intimidated when you hear that a particular plant is difficult to grow. Cymophyllus fraserianus is the perfect Hosta replacement for any native plant garden or any shade garden, especially if you have a deer problem as this is one plant that isn't on Bambi's menu or wish list.

Barry Glick founded Sunshine Farm & Gardens in 1972 on 60 acres in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.  His plant collection now numbers more than 10,000 taxa, many unknown to cultivation. Several of these plants have been introduced to gardening in recent years. Barry exchanges seeds and plants with people at arboretums, botanic gardens, nurseries and private gardens in virtually every country in the world. Peruse Barry’s speakers series here and read the rave reviews here. If you have any questions, would like to chat about any plants that Barry offers, send an email to his personal email address. Read all of Barry’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.