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Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red "grass"

  • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red

I love this little grass!

Technically it's not actually a grass, it is a sedge: not one of those over-large, coarse invasive Carexes that we all know and hate love, but an Uncinia, or New Zealand Hook-sedge, which is not a particularly attractive name, for a very attractive plant.

It's evergreen, but evergreen is the wrong word as it is one of the brightest copper-red grasses that you can buy.

Isn't it glorious?

They are very well behaved, only growing to about a foot high, slow-growing, and tending to form dense clumps.

Although you would buy this plant for the foliage, they do also flower briefly in summer, and if you are lucky, you will get seedlings.

The colour is quite variable, some come up much redder than others, so personally I pot up any chance seedlings and then choose the ones with the best colour to grow on for sale.

You don't often see them for sale (relentless self-promotion!) : internet research suggests that they are not fully hardy, but I have them in my cold, east-facing front yard and they seem to be perfectly happy there.

They are very easy-care, and totally low maintenance: all you have to do is rake gently through them in early spring, to remove any dead leaves - and they certainly bring a splash of colour to the garden in winter, unlike many of the "red" grasses which tend to be very brown and dead-looking over the winter.

The second photo shows a trayfull of last year's seedlings, growing on nicely and ready for sale later this year - this photo was taken on a cold horrible late February day. Quite bright and cheerful, aren't they? laughs

They nicely complement another of my favourites, Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' (3rd photo) , which I am sure you are all familiar with:
this one has to be my ultimate favourite black "grass". Also known as Black Mondo, great name, or Black Lily Turf, mmm, not so much. Both of these two look good growing through gravel, and particularly when grown in contemporary pots.

Talking of pots, I'm just in the process of planting up a Pot Garden, which is the fourth photo: so far I've used one of each of the Uncinia and the Ophiopogon, along with a stiff upright red grass (not very red at this time of year, which proves my point about the Uncinia) and, at the bottom, a dear little Auricula which is just starting to grow for this season.

I've used small plants of each, in order to stay in proportion with the pot.

Plenty of spaces left for other plants: hmm, what shall I put in there, I wonder?

Comments (9)

  1. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Uncinia rubra is a great plant, particularly as cheery ruddy clumps in the front of borders. They make divisions too, but can take a while to 'settle'.

  2. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Hi Jeremy,

    Yes, I found that: like Ophiopogon, one of those plants that, if it like you, you have forever, but if it doesn't.... or lily of the valley, most of the time it's a complete pest and I dig it out by the yard, but then you pot it up and someone pays good money for it!!

  3. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    The Uncinia is a lovely addition to the garden, sadly, proven not hardy here in my Edinburgh garden, even after a reasonably mild dry winter. However, I have found a few seedlings this spring and will pot them up when they get a tad bigger.

    Ophiopogon, I grow in a container - underplanted with some Iris reticulata Harmony, which are just going over and will be followed by Chionodoxa luciliae Pink Giant when they open fully in the next day or so.

    • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  4. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Lovely! Nice combination, Angie, the black just nicely hides the stems but not the flowers, doesn't it?

    Sorry to hear your Unicinia didn't make it through the winter, but at least you have seedlings. Are you seeing much colour variation in them? I find that mine are very variable, some come up bright copper red pots up lovingly, whereas some are virtually green tosses over shoulder onto compost heap.

  5. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    Thanks Rachel. It does show up the blooms, I'll post another picture when the Chionodoxa are fully open.
    Thus far I've only found copper coloured seedlings, if I were to come across green ones, then like you I'd be relegating them to the bin.

  6. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    The same pot a few weeks later

    • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  7. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Lovely! Puts my latest pot to shame: but I have only just planted it up....

    • Uncinia Rubra - delightful little red
  8. Grower

    Angie's Garden

    It looks great Rachel. I've had to wait 3 years for this pot to fill out.

  9. Grower


    Hi Rachel I love the display you made in the first place. The plants look beautiful and really like the red sedge.

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