How To Grow Carex Testacea (Orange New Zealand Sedge)

Carex testacea [KAR-eks, test-uh-SEE-uh] is a type of grass with coppery-brown leaves slowly turning orange during the colder seasons.

It’s native to New Zealand and belongs to the Carex genus. 

carex testacea grassPin
Photo (c)2006 Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The genus contains over 2000 species of grass-like plants. 

It’s also part of the Cyperaceae family, commonly called sedges.

The plant has several common names related to the slender leaves with orange highlights:

  • Prairie fire
  • Orange New Zealand sedge
  • Orange sedge
  • Orange hair sedge

The clumps of fine-textured leaves are relatively easy to grow, making Orange New Zealand Sedge a popular ornamental grass.

Carex Testacea Care

Size and Growth

Orange New Zealand Sedge produces a cascading mound of grass-like leaves. 

It’s a slow-growing plant taking several years to reach its full size.

The dense clumps reach about 18” to 24” inches tall and wide. 

However, it also self-propagates by reseeding, allowing it to spread and provide ground cover.

The plant is mostly known for its unique color-changing grass-like leaves. 

The narrow leaves start the year with an olive-green color gradually changes to a coppery brown. 

By winter, the leaves have an orange tint.

Flowering and Fragrance

In the summer, brown flower spikes appear and gradually droop throughout the season.

Light and Temperature

Grow in full sun. 

It also tolerates partial shade, especially in warm and dry environments.

While it’s native to New Zealand, it’s a hardier plant compared to most sedges and recommended for outdoor growth in USDA hardiness zones 5a or higher.

It can survive temperatures as low as -10° degrees Fahrenheit (-23° C) and may last through the winter in freezing conditions.

Watering and Feeding

The Orange Sedge requires frequent moisture throughout the spring and summer.

Water often during the warmer months and limit watering in the winter. 

It can’t tolerate excessive moisture during the colder months.

Fertilizer isn’t needed for outdoor plants. 

Houseplants benefit from a water-soluble fertilizer during the spring and summer.

Mix the fertilizer with water to dilute it to half strength. 

Apply the diluted fertilizer every two weeks during the warmer months.

Soil and Transplanting

Plant in fertile soil with good drainage. 

Mildly acidic pH levels are preferable. 

Adding several teaspoons of sulfur or iron sulfate to the soil can help make it more acidic.

Transplant container plants only if they outgrow their current homes. 

Transplant in the fall or spring using the same soil recommendations.

Grooming

Cut away the dead leaves as they appear. 

Cutting yellow or browning leaves close to the ground also helps renew the plant.

To remove dead foliage throughout the growing season, simply put on a pair of gloves and run fingers through the grass. 

The dead leaves should easily pull away.

How to Propagate Orange New Zealand Sedge

Propagate by seed or division. 

When propagating by seed, sow the seeds in a container using a cold frame at the start of spring.

Propagate by division in the fall or early spring. 

  • Cut the grass back to about 8” inches, making it easier to handle.
  • Water the plant thoroughly before digging it up to loosen the roots. 
  • After removing the plant from the soil, gently shake off the loose soil.
  • Tear the root ball into two or four parts and trim away damaged roots.
  • Plant each section in its new home, either in the ground or individual containers. 
  • Water the new plants thoroughly and then follow the standard plant care tips.

Orange New Zealand Sedge Pest or Disease Problems

Carex Testacea is mostly disease- and pest-free. 

However, aphids may sometimes attack the plant. 

This is more common in dry indoor environments.

Aphids are incredibly small and difficult to detect until they multiply. 

They typically appear on the undersides of the foliage and may cause yellowing of the leaves.

Spray the leaves with cold water to wash away the aphids. 

For a large invasion of aphids, coat the plant in flour. 

The flour constipates the aphids.

Sprinkle the flour on the plant and leave in place for several days before washing away with cold water.

If the pests remain, use neem oil or insecticidal soap. 

For a DIY method, try wiping the leaves with a soft rag soaked in a solution of water and several drops of dish soap.

Along with aphids, watch out for the spread of the plant when planting outdoors in gardens. 

The plant reseeds easily, allowing it to provide ground cover. 

However, it’s not considered invasive.

Overwatering and over-fertilization may cause the leaves to droop. 

If this occurs, limit watering and stop fertilizing the plant.

Move container plants to a brighter spot and wait for the foliage to perk up before resuming normal watering recommendations.

Suggested Carex Testacea Uses

The clumping perennial grass adds color to borders, banks, and slopes and provides effective ground cover. 

It’s also a suitable plant for edging or growing in containers. 

The orange foliage helps brighten any location.