How to Grow and Use Ogon Golden Variegated Sweet Flag

  • 01 of 04

    Japanese Sweet Flag a Useful Plant for Growing Around Water Features

    Grass-like leaves of Ogon sweet flag, a variegated plant.
    Sweet flag is treated as if it were an ornamental grass, but it isn't, really. David Beaulieu

    If you need a perennial to grow along the edge of a pond, then Ogon golden variegated sweet flag (picture) may be just the plant that you are seeking. It is known as a "marginal" plant, because the natural habitat of the species is along the edges (or "margins") of ponds. While it may appear, at first glance, to be a type of ornamental grass (which is why you will also hear it called "sweet flag grass"), botanists have a different classification for it. Let's take a closer look at this grass-like specimen, a plant with which the average homeowner is probably entirely unfamiliar.

    What Is Ogon Golden Variegated Sweet Flag?

    The plant is known botanically as Acorus gramineus 'Ogon.' The third element in that sequence is the name of the cultivar. Acorus is the sweet flag genus, a genus that stands alone in the similarly named Acoraceae family. A. gramineus is specifically the Japanese sweet flag (so called because the plants are indigenous to Japan and other parts of Asia). The species plant can spread through the use of underground rhizomes.

    The four elements of the common name that follow 'Ogon' are quite descriptive, so it will be instructive to reveal what each of them refers to:

    1. "Golden" refers to the dominant color of the leaf.
    2. The term, "variegated" tells you that the foliage bears more than one color (the other being green).
    3. The "sweet" in the common name comes from the fact that sweet flag is a fragrant plant, although you most likely will detect the pleasant smell only if you bruise the leaves.
    4. Finally, "flag," in this case, has nothing to do with those rectangular pieces of cloth that we fly from flagpoles. Rather, it derives from the Middle English word, flagge, which indicated a reed (both the sweet flag and the reed are pond plants, so you can see the connection).

    The semi-evergreen leaves of Ogon golden variegated sweet flag are shaped like little swords. Visually, the typical leaf consists of a golden stripe running up one side and a green stripe running up the other (but the golden color tends to overpower the green one). The plant is classified as a dwarf, bearing dimensions of approximately 1 foot tall by 1 foot wide at maturity. It can bear a tiny flower in early summer, but this bloom is so inconspicuous that the plant is generally treated as an outdoor foliage plant.

    How Do You Grow This Japanese Sweet Flag?

    The plant can be grown in USDA plant hardiness zones 5-9. When planting, select a location for it that is in full sun to partial shade (the former is preferable in the North, the latter in the South). Water-wise, while it can be grown in soils with just adequate moisture, it is valued for being a plant that can be grown in wet areas. In fact, it often performs best at the edge of water (its habitat in the wild). If its soil is not kept moist, you may experience some browning on its leaves.

    What Is the Best Way to Use It?

    For examples of how best to use this plant, continue the slideshow.

    Continue to 2 of 4 below.
  • 02 of 04

    How Best to Use Sweet Flag in Your Landscaping

    Ogon variegated sweet flag plant from above.
    From a distance, Ogon sweet flag does appear rather grass-like. F. D. Richards/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Suggested landscaping uses for Ogon golden variegated sweet flag are:

    1. In containers.
    2. At the edge of woodland gardens (where some sunlight is present).
    3. As a ground cover similar to liriope plants.
    4. In water features, where, like corkscrew rush, it is valued as one of the great plants for small water gardens.

    What Are Some Similar Plants?

    Japanese sedge (Carex) is another grass-like plant that is not, however, a true grass. Neither is the better-known papyrus, which is another kind of sedge. But Golden Hakone grass, which, like Ogon golden variegated sweet flag, sports golden leaves, is, in fact, a true grass.

    There is also a sweet flag that is native to North America. It is called Acorus americanus (alternative botanical name: Acorus calamus var. americanus). Acorus plants do not have especially attractive flowers. Other plants with "flag" in their names do have nice flowers, however. For examples, continue with the slide show.

    Continue to 3 of 4 below.
  • 03 of 04

    Northern Blue Flag

    Northern blue flag in bloom.
    Northern blue flag is a type of wild iris. David Beaulieu

    Some plants have "flag" in their names, but they have nothing to do with the subject of this article. For example, Iris versicolor is known commonly as "blue flag," a North American native with pretty flowers.

    There is another flag with yellow flowers; continue with the slideshow to see a picture of it.

    Continue to 4 of 4 below.
  • 04 of 04

    Yellow Flag

    Flower of yellow flag.
    While yellow flag grows wild in North America, it is not native. liz west/Flickr/CC BY 2.0


    In addition to blue flag, there is also a yellow flag. Take a close look at its scientific name, Iris pseudacorus, which claims it as a pseudo-sweet flag within the Iris genus.