Found in wet spaces, soft rush can be used for the water garden, in wetland restoration projects, and stormwater management areas.
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Juncus effusus is an evergreen perennial with a striking vertical habit. Plants produce multiple culms arranged in dense tufts. The narrow stems are rounded and lustrous green with pointed tips and no obvious leaves. In summer loose yellowish cymes and tiny brown capsules form on the sides of the stems. This handsome rush adapts to a wide variety of growing conditions but is found most often in sunny wetlands or water gardens.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Juncus effusus ranges through the southern Canadian provinces into southern Alaska and occurs in most of the contiguous United States.
Juncus effusus inhabits disturbed and undisturbed freshwater wetlands. Plants are indigenous to soggy meadows, sloughs, marshes, seeps, prairie swales, open wet woodlands, edges of ponds, lakes and rivers and disturbed ditches, wet fields or roadsides. Plants can occur in small scattered stands or in disturbed sites in large almost monotypic stands.
Hardy from USDA Zones 2-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Juncus effusus is a robust clumping rush with dense vase shaped tufts of upright stems. Plants have vigorous fibrous roots and short scaly rhizomes.
The culms or stems are the most attractive attribute of the plant. They are rolled into a cylinder and are 2-4’ long and less than 1/8” wide. The culms are smooth and strong but flexible. The 2-3” chestnut brown sheaths at the base of each stem are modified leaves.
In summer unobtrusive coppery inflorescences appear along the side of the culms. The florets are arranged in loose umbrella like clusters that are 1-4” long.
Florets mature into small brown seed capsules. The 1/8” capsules split to release tiny beaked seed that are dispersed by wind or by floating on water.
This rush is 3-4’ tall with a 2-3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Juncus effusus thrives in sunny sites with saturated mucky soil or shallow standing water. This preference is for acid soil.
Plants will adapt to average garden soil and sandy, silty or gravelly soils with fluctuating water levels. In garden situations, plants may need irrigation during extended dry periods.
Juncus effusus tolerates low levels of salt, is pest resistant and unpalatable to deer and other herbivores.
LANDSCAPE USES: Juncus effusus is valuable for Wetland Restoration and soil retention in Bioswales and drainage ditches. Plants are suitable for Groupings or Mass Plantings in Wet Meadows. They provide Erosion Control and are appropriate for Deer Resistant Plantings, Low Maintenance Plantings, Rain Gardens, Stormwater Management Projects and Water Gardens.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing Juncus effusus with Asclepias incarnata, Lobelia cardinalis, Iris versicolor, Iris virginica and wetland sedges like Carex comosa. Carex crinita, Carex emoryii and Carex hystericina.
Calamagrostis canadensis has similar size, texture and cultural needs and can be substituted if needed.
TRIVIA: True grasses (family Poaceae) have cylindrical jointed stems. The sedges (family Cyperaceae) have triangular stems. Rushes (family Juncaceae) have cylindrical unjointed stems.
Budding Botanists often learn the rhyme “Rushes are round and sedges have edges”. This refers to the cylindrical stems of Juncus spp. and the triangular stems and entire leaf margins of Carex spp.
Juncus effusus provides cover and nesting sites for wetland birds and other wildlife.
This cosmopolitan species is indigenous throughout Eurasia.
Many cultures around the world have used Juncus spp. stems to weave baskets and mats.
For more information on this plant, visit the USDA PLANTS Database: http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=JUEF