'Autumn Joy' Stonecrop Flowers

Sedum Plants for Fall Displays

Autumn Joy sedum in bloom with its flat-topped clusters of pink flowers.
With its flat-topped clusters of pink flowers, Autumn Joy stonecrop is a joy to behold. David Beaulieu

Taxonomy, Plant Type for Autumn Joy Stonecrop Flowers

Here is how plant taxonomy breaks down Autumn Joy stonecrop. The genus is Sedum and the cultivar is 'Autumn Joy.' Although in the past many authors have included a species name (specific epithet), Allan Armitage does not, and this article accepts his authority. Sedums are referred to by the common name, "stonecrop" plants, although "sedum" itself is so widely used as to be virtually a common name.

Do not, however, be shocked if you find this plant listed under different names. Some now use Hylotelephium as a genus name rather than Sedum. You will also occasionally see 'Herbstfreude' as a cultivar name rather than 'Autumn Joy,' due to the plant's beginnings in Germany. "Stonecrop" (or "Crassulaceae," in botanical lingo) is also the name of the overall plant family to which the Sedum genus belongs.

Autumn Joy stonecrop plants are herbaceous perennials.

Characteristics and Care

While these clump-forming sedum plants (roughly 2 feet by 2 feet) are noted for their succulent foliage, Autumn Joy stonecrop bears an unusual flower well worth growing in its own right. Flowers are massed together in flat-topped heads that are 3 inches or more across. Autumn Joy's flowers can be yellow, orange, red, or pink and appear in late summer or early fall. At some point in fall the blooms may take on coppery tones.

The leaves, which grow in whorls, range in color from bluish-green or greenish-yellow to reddish-pink or almost off-white. The 'Autumn Charm' cultivar sports variegated leaves.

Some gardeners cut down the old stalks in fall, others wait until spring. It is really up to your individual tastes. The benefit in leaving them alone is that they afford a bit of winter interest, in two ways:

  1. Wild birds eat the seeds.
  2. The seed heads (which eventually become a dark color) look nice against a snowy backdrop.

Divide this perennial in spring if your desire is to propagate it.

Sun and Soil Requirements, Planting Zones

Grow these sedum plants in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained soil. Other than that requirement, they are not particular about soil. Autumn Joy stonecrop, which looks good with silvery companion plants, is a drought-tolerant perennial once established. It can be grown in planting zones 3-9.

Uses for Autumn Joy Stonecrop in Landscape Design

This perennial is used in border plantings, in cottage gardens, and in rock gardens. Its relatively late blooming period -- the source of this cultivar's name -- is useful for those trying to achieve four-season interest in their yards.

Being drought-tolerant, it is considered a suitable selection for a xeriscaping plant. While you will achieve peak performance if you water during dry spells, mature plants will generally survive all but the worst droughts in the Northeastern United States, for example, with minimal watering -- but flowering may be reduced. There is actually a disadvantage to watering (and fertilizing) too faithfully: When growth is vigorous, plants can flop over (requiring staking).

Sedum plants will attract butterflies and bees, but also slugs. In this review of a slug control book, several tips for killing slugs are offered.

Other Types of Sedum

Elsewhere on this website, a few of the other kinds of stonecrop widely available to gardeners are covered, including:

  1. S. rupestre 'Angelina'
  2. S. spurium 'Dragon's Blood'
  3. S. 'Frosty Morn'
  4. S. 'Chocolate Drop'