How to Grow Fox Sedge

Bright green clump of slender grass with seed heads on stems.
Fox sedge grows in a handsome clump up to 2 feet wide; the slender seed heads rise up in midsummer, up to 3 feet in height.

John Hagstrom /Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In This Article

Fox sedge, or American fox sedge, is a perennial grass native to North America, including Canada and Mexico. Its scientific name is Carex vulpinoidea, which includes the Latin word for "fox" and is so named because its seed heads form in a spray that resembles a fox's tail. These sprays are a pleasing reddish-brown color, also like a red fox's tail. The sprays are also known as "inflorescences" and when the seeds or fruits turn light brown in mid to late summer, they will pull away easily.

The plant forms a large mound with grass spreading up to two feet wide from the center. It likes to grow alongside marshes, swamps, springs, wet ditches or ravines, and wetlands. It also does well in woodlands that have moist soil and at least partial sunlight exposure.

Fox sedge tends to spread rapidly, so in the right growing conditions, it can be invasive. Fox sedge, like other sedges that grow near pasture land, may be useful as an additional food source for grazing animals in addition to their usual pasture feeding, but in general, deer don't care to eat it.

Fox sedge is also an important plant used for wetlands mitigation. This refers to efforts to restore or enhance wetlands habitats, especially in areas where they have been damaged or removed due to development or invasive species. Wetlands are a vital feature in a diverse ecological landscape, and efforts to preserve them are ongoing throughout the United States.

For gardeners, fox sedge is considered an ornamental plant, with its grassy mounds and dramatic seed heads that appear in summer. But it can also be a useful plant in a rain garden, or in an overly wet area because it requires large amounts of water and will absorb excess water and rainfall quite effectively.

Scientific Name Carex vulpinoidea
Common Name  Fox sedge, brown fox sedge
Plant Type  Perennial grass 
Mature Size  1 to 3 feet 
Sun Exposure  Full to partial sun 
Soil Type  Wet, marshy clay or loam
Soil pH  Slightly acidic 
Bloom Time  Seeds/fruits appear in midsummer
Flower Color  N/A (seeds/fruits are reddish brown) 
Hardiness Zones  USDA 3 to 7 
Native Areas  North America 
Toxicity Not toxic
Slender grass stems with reddish seed pods
The fox sedge gets its name from the reddish foxtail-shaped seed heads formed in summer Per Verdonk / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0

Fox Sedge Care

Trying to grow fox sedge in a location that is not naturally moist may not be successful. It really does best with consistent moisture, in wetlands, soggy spots, or even places that frequently have standing water during the rainy season.

If you have a water feature in your property, fox sedge makes a good edging plant, but it may also grow rapidly and crowd out other plants, so you'll have to keep an eye on it and manage its spread. Other than managing its invasive tendencies, fox sedge requires very little maintenance.

Once established, fox sedge may spread rapidly. Its seeds, which create such a lovely display in summer, will help spread the plant assuming they find a suitable environment (wet, partial to full sun). This is an important consideration if you want to add fox sedge to your rain garden. Bear in mind it could easily spread beyond the borders of the garden if there are other inviting spots for it to reseed.

Light

Fox sedge needs a full sun or partial shade position to thrive. Shady locations are a no go for this plant.

Soil

Clay soils, which tend to stay moist, can be suitable for fox sedge, but it will grow equally well in loamy soils which have better drainage. Sandy soils are too loose to hold the moisture necessary for fox sedge to flourish.

Water

As you would expect from a plant that thrives in wetland areas, fox sedge needs plenty of moisture to thrive. This is certainly not a species to be planted in dry garden settings. Consistently wet soils are best for this plant.

Pruning

New clumps can be pulled out as soon as they appear, which would normally be in spring. It's possible to lessen the plant's tendency to reseed by cutting back the seed sprays before the seed becomes viable and ready to spread. But the plant's beautiful seed pod formations are one of its desirable qualities, so this might seem counterproductive.

Growing Fox Sedge From Seeds

This plant can be grown from seed. Planting seed in the fall works best, but it can also be planted after using a "cold moist" stratification method to start the seeds in spring. This is basically the same as cold stratification but seeks to emulate the moist conditions loved by fox sedge when it is naturalized in the landscape.