Carex comans Prairie Fire is an outstanding specimen plant which is ideal for adding different colours and textures to the garden. A very ornamental grass, in full sun the fine leaved foliage erupts into colour like burning embers. In late summer, panicles of rosy flowers appear just above the foliage.
Carex is an all round tough plant suitable for problem areas, this low-maintenance plant quickly becomes established in borders or containers. It is extremely versatile with regard to soil types, tolerating dryness, salt winds and sandy drought-prone soils and yet will adapt to quite boggy situations. Hardy to around minus 10°C (14°F). It is disease, pest resistant and evergreen and will provide valuable winter interest to the garden.
Carex is outstanding when planted with silver foliage plants, brightly coloured flowers or variegated grasses. They give colour, texture and movement in the perennial garden. They look good as a specimen in a pot or planted informally in groups or 3, 5 or more, dotted among herbaceous plants and ground cover.
They are at their most effective when planted close together in show-stopping block planting. For glorious colour, plant in full sun to partial shade.
Sow indoors in late Winter to early Spring or in Autumn or direct sow on open ground from March onwards.
Sowing indoors: Sow on to the surface of a free-draining, moist seed-sowing compost and cover with 3 to 4mm (¼ inch) of vermiculite. Do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep at around 15-20°C (60-68°F).
Germination should take place in approximately two weeks. Maintain a temperature of 15°C (60°F) until the seedlings are established.
Once seedlings are large enough to handle, take a small clump of seedlings and put them all in a one-litre pot of gritty compost. They will form a bushy plant and be ready to go into the garden in summer. Grow in sun and in well drained soil.
Direct sowing: Ensure all ground is weed free and well prepared before sowing. Sow the seed 2 to 3cm (¾-1¼in) deep in rows 60 to 90cm (25 to 35in) apart with a distance of 10 to 30cm (4 to 12in) between the plants.
The rate and speed of germination will depend on the soil temperature and weather conditions and could be from 7 to 21 days.
In spring comb through the plant with your fingers to remove dead foliage. Feed in summer with single dressing of a dilute general fertiliser. Even without an annual feed, most grasses will put on a first-rate show. The more nitrogen grasses receive the greener and further they'll grow. Do not over do it…their spreading habit is fine in a field, but in a garden they may become too lush and the flower quality may suffer.
Cut back old foliage to 10cm (4in) in spring as new growth appears in the centres of plants. Divide congested plants in April to June.
Beds and borders, City and Courtyard Gardens, Containers, Cottage/Informal, Foliage, Prairie planting. Flower arrangements. Low Maintenance or Mediterranean. Maritime gardens
Native to New Zealand, This species is endemic to the North and South Islands, although it is uncommon in the South Island. Its natural habitat is sand dunes, coastal forest and scrub, dense forest or short tussock grassland.
Carex testacea belongs to a complex of allied species which include the South Island, ultramafic endemic C. devia Cheesemanii, C. raoulii Boott, and C. flagellifera Colenso.
From C. devia and C. raoulii it is best distinguished by its usually long trailing fruiting culms, narrow, mostly orange-red, or reddish-green, channelled leaves, and usually distant, pendent female spikes. It is morphologically closest to C. flagellifera (itself a species complex). From that species, at least in its typical form is differs by the usually orange-red to red-green, rather than yellow-green to dark green culms, and membranous, mostly light brown glumes bearing numerous fine, red-brown striae, rather than uniformly red brown to dark red-brown, subcoriaceous glumes.
The genus name Carex is the classical Latin name for a species of sedge, now applied to the whole group.
The species name testacea means 'brownish yellow' or ‘resembling brick colour’ referring to the colour of the leaves.
Pronounced KAIR-ecks tess-TAY-see-uh. Common names for this species are Speckled Sedge and Trip Me Up.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 25 Seeds Common Name Red Switch Grass, Speckled Sedge Other Common Names Red New Zealand Sedge, Trip Me Up Family Cyperaceae Genus Carex Species testacea Cultivar Prairie Fire Hardiness Hardy Perennial Foliage Bronze turning red in summer Height 30 to 40cm (12 to16in) Spread 30 to 45cm (12 to 18in) Position Full sun preferred. Aspect All aspects. Exposed or Sheltered Soil Light, moderately fertile, moist but well-drained soil.