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The Small cape rush from South Africa is a relatively new plant to landscapes and gardens in the Inland Empire. It is a robust clumping perennial noted for its thin jointed stems that can grow 3-4 ft tall. Female plants produce summer seed heads that add seasonal interest at the ends of the stems. Branching remains mostly upright and begins to relax by end of fall.

Small cape rush is adapted to both sun and shade and is a good plant in bioswales, grassland plantings and containers that help feature its remarkably thin stems. It is adaptable to many soils and does best with regular moisture throughout the year.

Water Needs

The small cape rush is well adapted to sunny and partial shade locations on many types of soils and with regular summer water. The chart shown below provides a recommended baseline guide to the monthly irrigation schedule and volume of supplemental water needed to maintain healthy growth throughout the average year. It should be noted there are several months indicated by an asterisk (*) when winter rains can provide sufficient moisture and irrigation is not needed. The high and low range of moisture indicates it can grow with varying amounts of water; summer water helps sustain its foliage character particularly when planted in sunny exposures.

Irrigation Schedule and Graph

Moderate Water Use Plants

Irrigation Schedule 4

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
Runs per Month 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x 2x to 3x 2x to 3x 3x to 4x 3x to 4x 3x to 4x 2x to 3x 2x to 3x 0x to 3x 0x to 3x
Inches per Run 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1" 1"
Inches per Month 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3" 2" to 3" 2" to 3" 3" to 4" 3" to 4" 3" to 4" 2" to 3" 2" to 3" 0" to 3" 0" to 3"

Range of supplemental summer water: 17"-24"
Range of supplemental winter water: 0"-15"

  Jan* Feb* Mar* Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov* Dec*
For more information on how to use this Irrigation Schedule and Graph, follow this link.

For information how to calculate your irrigation system’s schedule and precipitation rate, please follow this link.

Plant Properties

Plant Type: Perennial, Rush
Foliage Character: Evergreen
Habit: Upright, Rush-like, Rigid, Dense, Clumping
Growth Rate: Moderate
Height: 3 ft. - 4 ft.
Width: 5 ft. - 6 ft.
Water Needs: Moderate 4
Foliage Color: Dark green
Flower Color: Brown
Flower Season: Summer
Soil Adaptations: Moist soil, Loam, Clay
Exposure Adaptations: Moderate shade, Heat, Coastal salt air, All day sun
Function: Wildlife value, Residential spaces, Parks and open space, Grouped, Foliage accent plant, Container plant, Commercial spaces, Background plant


This is an easy to maintain plant that is often maintained incorrectly, creating more work than is necessary and making the plant look less good in the process! The brown flower clusters on this plant are considered to be one of its ornamental aspects both when it is in flower and after the flowers fade and are totally dry. Often gardeners remove the many dried flowers in an effort to "clean up" the plant by cutting each stalk immediately below the flower cluster. These cuts never fully heal, and usually die back some, creating a less clean looking plant where the gardener has gone through a lot of effort to remove one of the most ornamental aspects of the plant! Avoid this and appreciate the dried flower clusters. They are beautiful!

Rushes (stiff round leaved grass-like plants) should never have leaves partially cut back, because they will never heal or regrow. If needed, individual leaves can be carefully removed all the way to near the base of the plant if they are dying back. If many leaf tips or leaves are browning or dying back, the entire plant can be reinvigorated by cutting it almost all the way to the ground, leaving only a very small mound. New leaves will emerge. This can probably be done through out the year, but leaves will probably regrow most quickly if done in early spring (S).

If plants seem to be declining in vigor or if additional plants are desired, divide plants every few years by digging apart root balls into a number of clumps with a sharp spade. Plants can be replanted or potted up to grow out and plant later. Newly divided and replanted plants will need similar care as if they were newly planted, including regular water (S).



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