Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Fiber Optic Grass, Salt Marsh Bulrush
Isolepis cernua

Family: Cyperaceae (sy-peer-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Isolepis (eye-soh-LEP-is) (Info)
Species: cernua (SER-new-a) (Info)

Synonym:Scirpus cernuus
Synonym:Isolepis gracilis
Synonym:Scirpus filiformis

6 vendors have this plant for sale.

13 members have or want this plant for trade.

Ponds and Aquatics

6-12 in. (15-30 cm)

9-12 in. (22-30 cm)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)
USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)
USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)
USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)
USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun
Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
Partial to Full Shade

Seed is poisonous if ingested
Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
All parts of plant are poisonous if ingested
Handling plant may cause skin irritation or allergic reaction
Pollen may cause allergic reaction

Bloom Color:
White/Near White

Bloom Time:
Late Spring/Early Summer
Mid Summer
Late Summer/Early Fall

Grown for foliage

Other details:
Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings
Very high moisture needs; suitable for bogs and water gardens

Soil pH requirements:
4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)
5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)
5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:
Unknown - Tell us

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball

Seed Collecting:
Unknown - Tell us

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There are a total of 18 photos.
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11 positives
10 neutrals
2 negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral vossner On Apr 14, 2012, vossner from Richmond, TX (Zone 9a) wrote:

rating it neutral as new in my garden. Will grow in a pot, supposed to grow no more than 6" tall. This is a dwarf form of isolepis cernua.

Negative shpourroy On Jun 20, 2011, shpourroy from Los Angeles, CA wrote:

HELP! I love this little plant, but I can't get straight info on it. I have it planted in a mostly sunny area. The soil is clay, but I've added organic soil to help it out. I was told to plant it in full sun, with little watering. Well, they soon browned. I moved them to a less sunny spot in the garden and began reading on here that they need to be watered constantly (keep the soil moist). I have been doing that for about a week and they are still brown and completely laying flat (wilted). I don't want them to die. What can I do to save them? I live in Los Angeles, CA.

Positive HortiCordiallyYours On Apr 16, 2011, HortiCordiallyYours from Parkville, MD wrote:

Grows well in containers without much drainage 1/8th inch hole in a 6 -8 inch decorative plastic container. Likes to be root bound. It seems to like 5-6 hours of direct sun as long as its feet are wet.
Over winter with plastic over each pot with a few holes poked in them for moisture exchange, place on southern side.

Showy plant that is planted in the ground in larger pots (a bit invasive) serves as a visual soft point for the eye. Dogs hate and it does have an oil that can cause slight itching, keep it away from children

Neutral masnail On Sep 9, 2010, masnail from Kansas City, MO wrote:

I live in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri on the North side of the Missouri River. We have been noticing what appears to be this fiber optic grass growing along the edge of the access road to interstate 435. We have had a very wet summer this year and apparently it is thriving in this situation. They use salt to melt the snow on the roads so "Salt Marsh" seems to fit with that. Kansas City is really pushing the planting of "Rain Gardens" to help with flood mitigation and problems with overflowing storm sewers. We have several perpetually wet spots in low areas of our city parks next to a stream. I planted three areas in our parks into "rain-gardens" in May of this year. The two on the south side of the creek were planted with "Button Bush" I acquired from the Mo. dept of Conservation. All the area's have stayed wet all summer long but the two below the bushes is totally full of this very short 6-8 inch fiber optic grass plus one other miniature water plant I do not recognize. I would expect the rain garden on the other side of the creek to have the same plants, but that's not the case, they are very different. I do not know if the rushes will survive the winter but they are thriving right now. I agree they could be invasive. I'm glad to have a name and info on them. I don't see any harm they are causing at the moment. They seem perfect plants for a "Rain Garden. This mini-rush is currently thriving in Missouri. I don't need to purchase it I can dig it or Horsetail/scouring rushes from roadside ditches.

Positive pegilee On Apr 19, 2010, pegilee from Chelan, WA wrote:

I love Dave's website! It is very informative and like the sharing of experiences. One question i have regarding the Fiber Optic Grass, Salt Marsh Bulrush. I understand that is grows well in wet areas, ponds, etc. however, i note differences of opinions regarding light needs. Does this plant tolerate full sun or partial sun and shade? The garden is in North Central (Eastern) Washington state.

Positive brownthumb1940 On Jan 10, 2010, brownthumb1940 from Four Oaks, NC wrote:

Received as a gift it grew nicely on a sunny screened in porch here in NC. I was told to keep it in water as it does well as a fountain or pond plant (which I have) and I hang it out on a very sunny porch during the day and bring it in at night due to freezing overnight temps we are experiencing. I trim the brown away and keep it sitting in about 6" of water. It has lots of roots growing into the water container (inside the hanging basket) but seems to be doing well. I'm hoping it will make it until spring then I can separate it into more plants.

Positive MORMOR8 On Nov 22, 2009, MORMOR8 from Elgin, IL wrote:

I love the appearance of this plant so purchased and placed in a container with annuals this past year. Now I am trying to decide how to over winter it. My thoughts are to repot it by itself and then place it in the ground near the house, or to pot it and bring it inside. I live in a Chicago suburb, zone 4 or sometimes considered 4.5.

Neutral mecreate On Jun 1, 2009, mecreate from Sandy
United States wrote:

Recently Purchased /Master-Gardner's Show in Canby, OR; in May `09.
Seller/Grower said that to PROPIGATE.. take/SAVE the little End Pieces of the FIBER OPTIC (looking) Plant... He said it will look-Like ...
"SPECKS of BLACK PEPPER" /these are the *SEEDS.. or let the plant drop/throw them itself. (Think I will try placing a catch tray of somekind, help SAVE SEEDS.)
However` One month later-still in their original 'small pots' (although I watered them almost every*day).. some of mine look like they are turning brown, dieing.
If they truly need to be kept WET*-- I will try adding some SOIL-MOIST Crystals..(or Other Products /with same Formula) that *L-O-O-K* like (large crystals of epsom-salt) `but turn into 1/2 inch looking Wet-Jello BLOB-cubes/ after they Absorb the WATER..
Found that the product- does help keeping Moisture available for Plant. (But be sure to Read Instructions-Little goes a Long way.)

Negative DixieZ On Jul 28, 2008, DixieZ from Lovettsville, VA wrote:

I bought this plant because I thought it was different and beautiful. It was listed as an annual, needing full sun, moderate water and growing to 6-8" tall. I planted this in May, and have kept it watered, but it has browned, and now completely died. Not sure what the problem was. My soil is clay and did not add anything to it. This is a new area for me to plan. The only other plants here have been irises, which apparently have done well, but very few have come up this year. Other plants I've planted have seemed to far to do well in this area to include bleeding heart, daisies, carnations, azalea, and others.

Neutral sladeofsky On Jun 29, 2007, sladeofsky from Louisville, KY (Zone 6b) wrote:

This plant seems to be popping up incrasingly where it was not planted. Although it doesn't seem to be a problem yet. I would consider this plant potentially invasive under the right conditions.

Positive Windy On Mar 12, 2007, Windy from Belleville , IL (Zone 6b) wrote:

I bought this plant because it looked really cool. I keep it as a houseplant in a sunny window. I just let it sit in about a half inch of water all the time. I trimmed the roots which grew out the bottom of the pot after about a year and intend to divide it soon, into separate pots.

Neutral abolt On Oct 8, 2004, abolt from San Francisco, CA wrote:

HELP! I bought home a pot of fiber optic grass just 5 days ago and it appears to be dying already! the woman who sold it to me reminded me again and again not to over-water it. In fact, she told me to water it every 10 days, and if I see any brown, it's probably caused by too much water. I haven't watered it for the last 5 days, but now 1/2 of my plant has turned brown and the rest is wilting! I just found out from this site that the plant actually likes water. Can anyone please suggest ways to revive my plant besides keeping it moist and giving it indirect sunlight? Should I trim off the brown grass or will it magically turn green again? Thanks in advance.

Positive LBMOORE On Aug 22, 2004, LBMOORE from Archie, MO (Zone 5b) wrote:

This grows wild in our natural ponds. I dig it up and pot it for my garden ponds as a marginal.

Positive BingsBell On Aug 13, 2004, BingsBell from SC, MT (Zone 5a) wrote:

This is in my outdoor pond in the summer and my small indoor pond in the sunroom in the winter. I brought something home from a nursery that must have had mealy bugs on it (I always quarantine but somehow missed the MB) and they gravitated to the Fiber Optic plant in a New York second...I tried the alcohol spray but the plant is too I took it outside to the pond and it seems cured. I guess I'll find out for sure when I bring it in this fall. It thrived so well I will be dividing it at that time.

Positive JenniferG On Jun 30, 2004, JenniferG from Shalimar, FL (Zone 8a) wrote:

I have this plant in a container this season. It is about 8" tall and very attractive. It has been growing healthily for several months in full sun and drip irrigation. I have not overwintered it yet.
Mar, 2006. Continues to do well outside in pot. Overwintered x2 and looks great!

Neutral bluegrass On Jan 29, 2004, bluegrass wrote:

I bought a tray of plugs and planted them up in October 2003 and thought it best to keep them in a unheated shed ( insulated and lighting), so far most are still green and any that are a little brown I'll trim them up in the spring. I'll keep you updated.

Neutral rob_38 On Nov 24, 2003, rob_38 wrote:

i saw this plant in our local garden center and thought what a beautiful plant and bought it, on the tag that came with it it said "cannot be over-watered" thinking that means it shouldn't be over-watered, now my beautiful grass has gone a horrid yellow colour, does anyone know if i can get this back to its original colour, thanks

Positive kooger On Nov 24, 2003, kooger from Oostburg, WI (Zone 5b) wrote:

I received this plant as a free gift for purchasing that particular day. Didn't have a clue what it needed so I put it in a pot, set the pot on the south step and it grew all summer. Really enjoyed comments from neighbors and family about it. Brought it in for the winter and trimmed it back to about 4" long. See how that works. I will keep it wetter after reading the other comments. Adding: it didn't make it through the winter, I believe I let it get too dry.

Neutral Meandy On Sep 5, 2003, Meandy from Tipton, IN (Zone 5a) wrote:

It is such a pretty plant but when I got some for the park beds that I a friend take care of, the tag didn't mention it was an aquatic. We had more than enough rain in my area this year so the plants did quite well but I will keep this in mind if it is to be planted again.

Neutral pleb On Sep 5, 2003, pleb from Plymouth,
United Kingdom (Zone 9a) wrote:

It is not actually a grass because they all belong to the family Poaceae (Gramineae). The Cyperaceae is the family to which all the sedges belong. Isolepis cernua is native to western and southern Europe and north Africa and is found in wet places, especially bare sandy or peaty habitats near the sea.

Positive Happenstance On Sep 4, 2003, Happenstance from Northern California, CA wrote:

This is a miniature grass/sedge. It came tagged with the old name Scirpus cernuus cv. 'Tina Turner Grass.' I haven't been able to find any documentation on that name and not much on the plant itself.

It is growing in a constantly moist area at the edge of our pond.

Positive spur On Apr 29, 2003, spur from Florence, OR wrote:

I have been growing this plant indoors and it does great as long as I remember to water it a lot. I have seen it in many nurseries out here in the pacific northwest in both pots and in ponds. My friend leaves hers in water almost all the time and it is quite happy. I have been seeing it in gardening magazines planted with annuals in boxes. I think I am going to try it this year in a box and do colors of lime greens and dark purples. In fact just a few months ago mine out grew it's pot and needed to be divided, so I just chopped it into four pieces and they are all doing fine. It couldn't be easier to grow as long as it doesn't dry out!

Neutral Moses On Apr 20, 2003, Moses wrote:

It is beautiful!!!Thats why I bought it as soon as I saw it. But couldnt get any info on it...they didnt even know if it was an annual or perenial!Now, I see you list it as "Pond-Aquatic", and shade.That completely changes my idea of what to do with it.I will be watching for comments and looking for info.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona
Clayton, California
Hemet, California
Menifee, California
Oakland, California
Lake City, Florida
Pensacola, Florida
Shalimar, Florida
Elgin, Illinois
Inwood, Iowa
Dearborn Heights, Michigan
Mason, Michigan
Mount Laurel, New Jersey
Neptune, New Jersey
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Four Oaks, North Carolina
Smithfield, North Carolina
Dayton, Ohio
Hulbert, Oklahoma
Florence, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Conway, South Carolina
North Augusta, South Carolina
Conroe, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Fort Worth, Texas (2 reports)
La Vernia, Texas
Midland, Texas
Missouri City, Texas
Rosharon, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Farmington, Utah
Hampton, Virginia
Kalama, Washington
Midland, Washington

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