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Controlling Unwanted Sedges

Sedges live a double life. Sometimes seen as good, sometimes as invasive, will they be your friend or enemy?

March 7, 2024

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Grass-like in appearance, when sedges are not intentionally planted, they’re often viewed as a destructive weed, an invader of gardens and turf that compete for water, nutrients, and space.

When planted as part of the landscape, sedges can help with erosion control, stabilizing soil especially in wet or windy environments. Planted around water, they maintain edges while also creating a habitat for certain animals and insects.

Either way, they’re an easy plant to identify, thanks to their height and flower-bearing stems. This is good, since some can multiply quickly and need to be kept under control.

Identifying sedges

Similar in appearance to tall grasses, sedges in the landscape do have a few unifying characteristics. They’re tall, with long stems. As both perennials and annuals, they will flower as well. What changes among varieties is their actual height and specific shape.

Sedges are prevalent in the U.S. primarily in the south, where it’s warmer and wetter

How to control unwanted sedges

To control unwanted sedges, it’s important to understand how fast they can grow and multiply. Most sedges do not reproduce with seeds, but rather by runners shooting out beneath the surface of the soil. This means they can spread quickly. It also means controlling them requires you to deal with the entire plant.

The easiest way to defend against invasive, unwanted sedge growth is with thick and healthy turf. It acts as a barrier to prevent new plants from germinating and spreading. To keep turf healthy, avoid taking off more than a third of an inch each time you mow. You’ll also want to maintain good soil drainage to avoid extended wet periods which provide a more ideal environment for sedge growth. 

If plants do emerge, but there are only a few to remove, consider pulling them up by hand. Make sure to remove the entire underground structure, including runners and tubers, and check back to monitor for any new growth every few days.

For a larger section of sedges, you may want to use a herbicide to manage removal. Look for post-emergent products since pre-emergents won’t provide long-term protection. Some of the two most effective herbicides for sedges include the active ingredients

Sulfentrazone or Halosulfuron and are safe for all turf types. Another control product to consider is Arkon herbicide, which uses a newer active ingredient called Pyrimisufan and is also safe for cool and warm-season grasses.

Adjusting the environment first, before going on to different control methods, will help ensure sedges won’t return.

Unwanted sedge varieties

It’s good to know what to look for when searching out unwanted sedges that need to be controlled. To do this efficiently, here are some of the most common types of unwanted sedges:

  • Yellow Nutsedge - This sedge variety has triangular looking stems with glossy, yellow-green leaves. The plant can reach up to three feet height. 
  • Purple Nutsedge - With three-sided stems and leaves that are anywhere from yellow to green, this sedge variety grows a little bit shorter. It’s also identifiable by its stalks, which can appear anywhere from reddish-brown to purple in color.
  • Green Kylinga - Thriving where the turf is cut very short or excessive moisture occurs, you’ll know you’re dealing with this sedge variety thanks to its fine leaves.
  • Globe Sedge - Found mostly in moist and sandy environments, this sedge variety has densely-tufted stems and smooth, flat, green leaves. The seed heads cluster into an oval shape like a globe.
  • Annual Sedge: This is the only true annual in the sedge family, with flat-looking spikelets on the seed heads that cluster together and appear slightly rounded. This is also one of the few varieties that can thrive in dryer conditions.

These are most likely ones you’ll want to remove should they make an appearance in the landscape. 

Keep unwanted sedges at bay

Sedges are plants you need to understand. To get insight on all types, from what they look like to how to control them, come into your local SiteOne branch. Our branch associates are available to answer your questions and make recommendations. You can also get more advice on plant life online and start shopping at or through our mobile app.

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