Greater Wood Rush, Luzula sylvatica
Wood rush looks like a grass and behaves like a grass, butt Luzula sylvatica actually is a rush, with round stalks.
Wood rush has hardy, ribbon-like blades which carpet the ground in a mounding effect and nonchalantly fill in spaces between other plants, smothering weeds along the way. This low-maintenance plant is a reliable perennial to USDA zone 3 and doesn’t demand much sun or water, or your attention.
A true standout in a shade garden, wood rush unfortunately can be elusive to obtain; if you can’t find it at your local plant nursery, read on for online sources:
Clusters of small brownish flowers are held on arching stems and appear in late spring creating a hazy effect. I personally like the look when they all burst in bloom but I have many clients that ask for the stems to be removed, either because the plant looks messy now or the flowers detract from the leaves.
Sometimes harder-to-find plants are the good ones. Case in point is the elusive Luzula. Though a bit lesser known and difficult to obtain, Luzula is a true standout that provides a striking texture throughout the year. (This plant is primarily used as an ornamental ground cover for shady areas.)
It’s your choice whether to remove the flowering stems; Luzula will self-sow (but not too wildly) if you don’t remove the seed heads. Plus, sometimes it’s nice at this time of the seasonto give your plant a subtle pruning to control its size.
Wood Rush Varieties:
- Luzula sylvatica ‘Aurea’ boasts golden-green blades in the spring, maturing to lime green in the fall and after the first kiss of frost the leaves turn a bright golden hue. This plant is especially useful in dry shade situations and looks lovely paired with burgundy-leafed Heuchera and contrasting broad-leafed Bergenia. This variety of wood rush rows to 8 inches high and 24 inches wide.
- Luzula sylvatica ‘Marginata’ sports deep green leaves with a delicate, creamy edge and is pleasing to look at year-round. This variety of wood rush forms large patches in full sun (with water) to shade, including dry shade. It’s a great evergreen plant for massing. It grows from 8 to 12 inches high to 12 inches wide.
- Luzula is the perfect companion for ferns, Azalea, and other woodland favorites. Also especially handsome situated under Pieris shrubs, which have a tendency to become a bit bare near their feet, and which Luzula can dress up nicely.
- Wood rush works wonders in a variety of garden themes from modern (when massed) to Asian, woodland, or sprawling cottage-style flower beds.
- Consider growing this easy ground cover under the shade of large trees, typically a challenging spot.
Keep It Alive
- L. sylvatica is simple to grow and resilient to pests and disease.
- Plant wood rush in part to full shade.
- Luzula truly dislikes full sun combined with poor, dry soil. Full sun and constantly moist conditions are acceptable.
- Wood rush likes moderately fertile to moist and humus-rich soil (but also tolerates clay).
- L. sylvatica politely spreads and can be yanked out if it steps out of bounds.
Read more growing tips in Wood Rush: A Guide to Planting, Care & Design our curated guides to Grasses 101. See more rushes in action: