Carex Testacea: How To Grow and Care For Orange New Zealand Sedge

Carex Testacea [KAR-eks, test-uh-SEE-uh] is a deciduous evergreen tufted perennial from the sedge or graminoid family Cyperaceae

This arching ornamental grass is a New Zealand native, earning the common name New Zealand Orange Sedge.

Potted Carex testacea grass
Image: chuck b. [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The orange part comes from the coppery-brown to orange foliage color in the arching leaves. 

It is a clumping grass valuable for its year-long appeal. 

This particular garden plant comes from a rich genus with more than 2000 species. 

In fact, there is a separate study dedicated to the Carex genus known as “Caricology”.

You may also like the colorful Carex Evergold.

Carex Testacea Plant Care                        

Size & Growth

New Zealand sedge is a cold-hardy plant. It is a mounding plant type, producing cascading narrow olive-green leaves. 

The Carex leaves are simple and alternate, linear with margins and parallel venation.

Under the right conditions, testacea grows to a height of 18”- 24” inches tall with an equally wide and dense spread. 

New growth appears from rhizomes at a medium growth rate.

Flowering and Fragrance

Carex is not particularly known for its flowers. 

In the right USDA zone, these plants produce brown flower spikes. 

The bloom time is in early summer. These inconspicuous flowers are borne on stems which droop as the plant ages. 

The flower color blends well the green to coppery foliage color.

Light & Temperature

These plants are hardy to USDA Hardiness Zones 4-12. 

They love and grow well under the full sun but also tolerate partial shade. 

The location you choose should get at least 6 hours of sunlight in the day.

Orange sedges are known for keeping a year-long appeal and winter interest. 

You just have to make sure there is not too much moisture in the soil in colder weather.

Watering and Feeding

The orange sedge loves evenly moist soil, and needs water regularly. Water more frequently in drier climates. 

On the other hand, don’t water too often in the winter as they will not tolerate excessive moisture in the winter.

These plants soak up nutrients from the soil, making a well-drained humus-rich soil preferable.

Fertilizing is not necessary for orange sedges planted in the ground. 

For container-grown Carex testacea plants, add a water-soluble fertilizer at half strength during the growing season. 

Feed no more than every 2 weeks.

Soil & Transplanting

As for soils, orange sedges thrive successfully in well-drained but moist soils. 

They are drought tolerant but need soil mixtures with good moisture retention. 

Use sandy, chalky, loamy or clayey soils with good fertility.

As for transplanting, these grasses grow by spreading their rhizome structures. 

Divide in early summer and plant at the same depth as they were before.

Grooming and Maintenance

Once the plant is established and growing in the garden or a container, there is little to no maintenance required. 

The flowers don’t need to be deadheaded as they are not showy. 

The only pruning it requires is the removal of dead, dried or yellowing leaves in the summer.

How to Propagate Orange New Zealand Sedge

To propagate Carex Testacea from seeds, sow in containers in a cold frame in early spring. 

When the seedlings are strong enough to be handled, move them to their permanent locations.

Or divide rhizomes in early summer. 

Transplant the divisions directly in the area you want them growing in the garden.

The recommended spacing between plants should be approximately 15” inches apart. 

They are best planted in groups of 3-10 plants, especially when used as ground covers.

Orange New Zealand Sedge Plant Pest or Diseases

This plant is generally disease and pest free. You don’t have to worry about using chemical-laden sprays and removing disease-ridden plants from your garden.

However, in some areas, orange sedge is susceptible to damage from aphids

Fortunately, aphids are relatively easy to get rid of. You will usually see an aphid infestation with the naked eye.

Non-pesticide control of aphids includes introducing natural aphid predators such as ladybirds and lacewing larvae

If the infestation is minimal, spray the affected leaves or stems with cold water or neem oil sprays.

If the problem persists, visit your local nursery or gardening center for pesticide options.

The grass-like plant is deer resistant too.

Carex Testacea Plant Uses

Orange sedge, along with cultivars such as the Carex Testacea ‘prairie fire’, is popular with its striking foliage color when planted in containers or the landscape. 

They are great for mass planting as groundcovers and in part shade near ponds and streams.

It is also used for edging flower beds and garden borders, adding fall colors. 

Orange New Zealand sedge is also beautiful as an accent plant in banks and slopes along with coastal and cottage gardens. 

They also do well as potted specimens, adding texture to plant combinations. 

Mix them with annuals or interplant with summer and fall perennials to bring interest to border fronts.