Orange New Zealand Sedge ‘Prairie Fire’


Ornamental Grasses and Bamboo

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Light Shade

Partial to Full Shade


Grown for foliage


Good Fall Color

Foliage Color:

Unknown – Tell us


12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


15-18 in. (38-45 cm)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 °C (-20 °F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 °C (-15 °F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 °C (-10 °F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 °C (-5 °F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 °C (0 °F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 °C (5 °F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 °C (10 °F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 °C (15 °F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 °C (20 °F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown – Tell us


Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Color:


Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Late Spring/Early Summer

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Unknown – Tell us

Propagation Methods:

By dividing the rootball

From seed; direct sow outdoors in fall

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Fayetteville, Arkansas

San Anselmo, California

Ukiah, California

Denver, Colorado

, Newfoundland and Labrador

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Haviland, Ohio

Portland, Oregon

Port Angeles, Washington

Port Angeles East, Washington

show all

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.

Plant Uses:
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.

Plant of the Week: Sedge, Orange

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture does not promote, support or recommend plants featured in “Plant of the Week.” Please consult your local Extension office for plants suitable for your region.

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Orange Sedge
Latin: Carex testacea

Orange sedge is a grass-like plant that adds a contrasting color to the flower borde.

The grass craze hit the gardening world about 25 years ago, and we gardeners were deluged with lots of new grasses and grass-like plants to use in the garden. While the introduction of new grasses seems to have cooled, interest remains high in some of the grass-like plants, especially sedges. In the early years of this century, a colorful foliage plant known as Orange (or Copper) New Zealand sedge (Carex testacea) appeared in the market and has become increasingly popular.

Orange New Zealand sedge is one of the narrow-leafed, grass-like sedges that grows to about 18 inches tall with a spread of 24 inches. Its wispy evergreen leaves are about 1/16th inch wide and arise from a tight crown. In the summer, plants typically are greenish orange in color, but turn orange to copper-brown during the fall and winter. A seed spike is produced in late spring but is of little ornamental interest.

The Carex are a large group (estimates range from 1,100 to 2,000 species) of ancient plants in the cypress family with worldwide distribution that evolved at least 200 million years ago. Most sedges evolved in a wetter world, so they tend to favor marshy or swampy habitats. Though they look like grasses, they are only distantly related. Grasses came to dominate the world as it dried out after the K-T extinction event that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Sedges have triangular stems, though on fine-textured species such as Carex testacea, this characteristic is difficult to spot except when the flowering spike emerges in the spring. The genus name is the ancient Greek name for the plants and was chosen by Linnaeus for the group; the epitaph translates from Latin as “brick-colored,” a reference to the foliage coloration.

This and several other new sedges were developed by a Dutch seed company called Kieft-Pro-Seed under the trademarked name of Carex Colorgrass. In May 2009, the company was purchased by Ball Horticulture Inc. of West Chicago, Ill.. to partner with their own seed brand, Pan-American Seed. The most common offering of Carex seems to be ‘Prairie Fire’ TM, but they also offer slightly different trademarked selections, such as ‘Red Rooster,’ ‘Bronco,’ ‘Bronzita’ and a green form called ‘Phoenix Green.’ Seed is typically planted by greenhouse plug growers in midsummer for sale the following spring by retail growers.

Orange sedge is easy to grow. It should be planted in a well-drained, sunny bed amended with organic matter. Once established, orange sedge will tolerate moderate drought, but leaf tips will burn and the plant will become unsightly if dry conditions prevail too long. Allow the foliage to remain in place over winter to enjoy the contrasting color with the surrounding vegetation. In the spring, run a rake through the plant and comb out the old, dead leaves instead of cutting it back. The plant can be divided in late winter or early spring.

This species is considered one of the most cold-hardy native New Zealanders for temperate gardens. It is hardy to at least zero degrees Fahrenheit (zone 7), but some report it may overwinter as far north as zone 5. It makes a fine accent plant in flowering borders or is an excellent addition to container plantings. It is a favorite container plant for those wishing to prepare a decorative planter for wintertime decoration.

By: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist – Ornamentals
Extension News – October 15, 2010

The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture does not maintain lists of retail outlets where these plants can be purchased. Please check your local nursery or other retail outlets to ask about the availability of these plants for your growing area.

Carex testacea (Orange Sedge) – A clumping fine-textured evergreen sedge growing 18 to 24 inches tall or slightly more when well irrigated with leaves that arch outward up to 2 feet. Brown flower spikes in summer are not showy, and often recommended to be trimmed, but some should be left to allow this short lived plant to reseed. Its unusual orange color, most vivid during winter months, looks best when grown in full sun and in moist well-draining soils – if planted in shade plants will remain mostly green. Hardy to below 0° F and useful in gardens in USDA Hardiness Zone: 6 – 10. A nice plant where its weeping quality will be shown, spilling over walls or rocks, or in a large container and great for contrasting with rocks and paving. Allow seedlings to come up to perpetuate the planting and use a hard rake to remove old dried leaves. It is noted as resistant to predation by rabbits and deer. This plant is common to both North and South Island of New Zealand where it grows in grasslands, forests and out on dunes. The name for the genus is a Latin word describing the sedges and the specific epithet is from the Latin word ‘testaceous’ means “made of brick or tiles” or “brick colored”. It is also known as Speckled Sedge. We have grown this interesting and attractive plant since 1989. The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery’s garden and in other gardens that we have observed it in. We also will incorporate comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that might aid others in growing Carex testacea.

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Ornamental grasses can provide calming, delicate accompaniments to colourful flowering plants, or they can be the focus of design instead. There are types available for every garden setup, soil type and position, and will provide colour, coverage, contrast and structure wherever they are planted.

Planting and Conditions

Grasses from colder climates such as Deschampsia, Festuca, Helctotrichon and Stipa grow in late winter and flower before mid-summer. To get the best establishment, they should be planted in the autumn.

Grasses from warmer climates such as Miscanthus, Panicum, Pennisetum and Spartina grow in late spring, flower after mid-summer and are best cut back in late winter. Plan them in late spring, and they will be best established.

Grasses also make good container specimens, and will prosper in loamy soil.

Ideally, the planting areas for grasses should be prepared in the autumn months. Till the soil deeply, and work in ample organic matter. Ornamental grasses do not require large amounts of fertiliser.

Aftercare and Pruning

The foliage on deciduous grasses can be left until February. They turn brown rather than lose their leaves, and so should be pruned to ground level later in the season. The severity of pruning required can vary from variety to variety, so care should be taken so that you don’t harm the plant.

Evergreen grasses can be trimmed in spring. Remove brown tips and cut back dead leaves that usually collect around the base of the plant.

Care for your grasses by using mulch and watering them regularly. Otherwise, they are a fairy low maintenance addition to the garden.

Potential Issues

Nothing really bothers most ornamental grasses. Rabbits and voles may occasionally be an issue, but they can easily be controlled using fencing and, if needs must, animal repellents.

Carex testacea

Carex testacea (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Position: Full sun to partial shade

Flowering period: Summer

Soil: Moist, well drained

Eventual Height: 50cm

Eventual Spread: 50cm

Hardiness: 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a

Family: Cyperaceae

Carex testacea is an evergreen medium sized clump forming grass. Its leaves are strap shaped and arching, appear olive green in spring and turn copper/ orange as the mature. Its flowers appear on small brown spikes.

Carex testacea, commonly known as the Orange New Zealand Sedge or Orange Sedge, is native to New Zealand.

The etymological root of the binomial name Carex is from the old Latin name for reed grasses, sedges and rushes. Testacea is from the Latin meaning ‘resembling brick colour’, in reference to the colour of this grasses leaves.

The landscape architect may find Carex testacea useful as a dynamic ground cover plant and it looks fantastic when planted en mass.. Once established this grass is drought tolerant. It is tolerant of maritime conditions. For best orange colour grow in full sun.

Carex testacea Detail (18/11/2012, Kew Gardens, London)

Ecologically, Carex testacea seeds are attractive to some birds.

Carex testacea prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate wet soils.

Carex testacea requires little maintenance. To keep a tidy appearance this grass may be combed in the winter months to remove dead foliage.

Carex Testacea 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.

Image: chuck b. ,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.

Sedge New Zealand Orange Prairie Fire Carex Testacea Seeds

Sedge New Zealand Orange Prairie Fire Carex Testacea is one of the most beautiful ornamental, evergreen, perennial grasses. Sedge New Zealand Orange Prairie Fire seeds can be started indoors 6-8 weeks before last frost, and Carex Testacea is an outstanding ornamental grass with attractive olive green, fine-leaved foliage that forms the elegant, arching, mounds and bursts into orange color in the fall creating the dramatic colorful effect. The rose colored flower panicles appear just above the foliage in late summer.

Sedge New Zealand Orange Prairie Fire adds a beautiful evergreen garden accent, and this popular Sedge grass is ideal for containers, pots, water and woodland gardens, massing in borders or spilling over rocks and walls. Carex Testacea seeds produce ornamental grass plants that do not require a lot of maintenance and are disease and pest resistant.

Sow Indoors: Winter/Spring (6-8 weeks before last frost)
Sow Outdoors: Spring
Seed Depth: Surface sowing – cover with 1/8 of topsoil
Germination Time: 14-30 Days

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