'Everillo' Japanese sedge. Photo: PDSI

What looks like a grass, isn't a grass, takes more shade than grass, and lights up your garden like grass never could? A plant that most of you have never heard of until now. Japanese sedge.

Japanese sedge (Carex oshimensis) is a clump-forming, hardy perennial that grows 12 to 18 inches tall and wide. Its flowers are insignificant, but they're not why you buy it. You buy it for its graceful, striking, evergreen foliage. The plain species has solid green leaves, but much showier forms cry for your attention. Take 'Everillo,' shown above. Its leaves are lime-green at the base and chartreuse to bright-yellow along the blades. Pairing it with plants that have dark-green foliage, like gardenia, boxwood, or holly, pushes up the "wow" factor by 10.

But maybe you fancy silver rather than gold. (Grumpy prefers unobtainium himself, but has never managed to procure any.) In that case, consider this next gaudy form of Japanese sedge.

em'Everest' Japanese sedge. Photo: PDSI/em

'Everest' features deep green leaves edged in white and grows to the same size as 'Everillo.' You don't need a Sherpa guide to find either plant. They're part of our Southern Living Plant Collection. Look for them in your local garden center.

These sedges work great as ground covers, for edging borders, walkways, and lawns, and adding pops of color to rock or water gardens. And in containers? OMG. Sedges and containers go together like gin and tonic, only without the shaking or stirring.

How To Grow Japanese sedge likes moist, well-drained soil and part shade or shade. Drought tolerance increases as the plant gets older and more established. I haven't noticed any serious pests. Cut back old foliage in late winter if it starts looking a little ragged. Fertilize in spring and fresh, new foliage will quickly replace it. Grow Japanese sedge in USDA Zones 5-9.