How to Grow and Care for Autumn Joy Stonecrop

sedum autumn joy stonecrop

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 

Autumn Joy stonecrop—Hylotelephium telephium 'Herbstfreude' (‘Autumn Joy’)—is a popular upright variety of stonecrop, also known as sedum. It is a hybrid plant created by crossing a species of sedum (Sedum telephium) with a species of ice plant (Hylotelephium spectabile). The resulting plant features gray-green, rounded, succulent-like leaves. It blooms in the late summer to fall with tiny, pink, star-shaped flowers that grow in clusters roughly 3 to 6 inches across on top of the plant’s stems. After they bloom, the flowers gradually change in color to a deep rose and then rust before they die when cold fall temperatures arrive. Autumn Joy stonecrop has a moderate growth rate and is best planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed but before the hot summer temperatures kick in. 

Botanical Names Hylotelephium telephium 'Herbstfreude' (‘Autumn Joy’), formerly Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Joy’
Common Names Autumn Joy, Autumn Joy stonecrop, stonecrop, sedum, rock moss, gold chain
Family Crassulaceae
Plant Type Herbaceous, perennial
Mature Size 1.5–2 ft. tall and wide
Sun Exposure Full
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Summer, fall
Flower Color Pink, red
Hardiness Zones 3-9 (USDA)
Native Areas Europe, Asia
autumn joy sedum stonecrop
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida 
sedum autumn joy stonecrop
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  
sedum autumn joy stonecrop
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  
sedum autumn joy stonecrop
The Spruce / Letícia Almeida  

Autumn Joy Stonecrop Care

When given the right growing conditions, Autumn Joy stonecrop requires minimal maintenance. Selecting a planting site that has lots of light and excellent soil drainage is key for healthy growth. Sitting in soggy soil can kill the plants. But given the right conditions, you generally won’t have to do much in the way of watering or feeding your stonecrop. 

Space plants at least 1 foot apart in the garden; they will gradually fill in and form clumps. If you wish, you can cut back the stems in the late spring to limit their height and promote thicker, bushier growth. Some gardeners cut down the stems in the fall after the foliage begins to depreciate, but the stems can also be left to provide winter interest and cut down in the spring before new growth starts. Birds will feed on the dried flower heads over winter.

Light

Autumn Joy prefers to grow in full sunlight, meaning at least six hours of direct light on most days. Shady conditions can make the plant leggy and reduce flower production. But in very hot summer climates, your plants might appreciate some shade in the mid-afternoon.

Soil

This plant thrives in sandy or gravelly soil with sharp drainage. But it will tolerate loamy soil provided it is well-drained and not allowed to remain constantly damp.

Water

Autumn Joy does not need much water and has excellent tolerance for drought. Even in the heat of summer, light watering every two weeks or so is sufficient. More frequent watering can cause the roots to rot.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant tolerates a wide range of temperatures. It can thrive in extreme heat, and it often continues to look attractive in the fall until it has been exposed to a few frosts. Then, it dies back and goes dormant for winter. Humidity is typically not an issue for the plant as long as the soil doesn’t retain excessive moisture in areas with high humidity.

Fertilizer

Autumn Joy grows well in poor soils, so feeding is typically not necessary. The plant might like a light spring feeding with a balanced fertilizer if you have very poor soil. But excessive fertilizing can cause leggy growth.

Types of Stonecrop

These are some other stonecrop varieties that are closely related to Autumn Joy:

  • Hylotelephium 'Autumn Charm': This plant has similar blooms to Autumn Joy but has serrated gray-green leaves with cream edges. 
  • Hylotelephium spectabile 'Autumn Fire': Autumn Fire has larger flower heads and stronger stems than Autumn Joy, and it blooms for a longer period.
  • Sedum 'Mr. Goodbud': This hybrid is a good choice if you want darker, more purplish flowers. It blooms a bit earlier than Autumn Joy.
  • Sedum spectabile 'Hot Stuff': This is a more compact plant than Autumn Joy, growing only 10 to 12 inches tall with pink and purple flowers.
  • Sedum spectabile 'Iceberg': This plant has mainly white flowers and is a slightly smaller plant than Autumn Joy, growing to a maximum of about 16 inches.

Pruning

Autumn Joy stonecrop might benefit from tip pruning in the spring to promote better growth, but in most cases, simply let the plant thrive on its own and you'll be rewarded with copious blossoms.

Propagating Autumn Joy Stonecrop

This plant is extremely easy to propagate through stem cuttings, even if they are simply stuck into the ground. Even individual leaves fallen on the ground will sometimes take root and grow into full plants. This is how it's done:

  1. Using clean, sharp pruners or a knife, cut a 4- to 6-inch healthy stem.
  2. Remove the bottom leaves and insert the cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with soilless potting mix. Water it well and keep it evenly moist.
  3. Check for roots after a few weeks by very gently tugging on the plant. Once you feel resistance, you’ll know it has taken root and you can plant it in the garden.

You also can divide sedum plants to propagate them:

  1. In the spring, cut the stems down to about 6 inches. Water the plant well for a couple of days before dividing.
  2. Lift the entire clump with a garden spade. Cut it into individual sections with a trowel, or, if the clump is small, simply pull it apart with your fingers.
  3. Replant the sections in a new location at the same depth as the original plant. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist at all times until you see new growth.

How to Grow Autumn Joy From Seed

Since Autumn Joy is a cultivar, no seeds will grow into a plant that is identical to the parent. Therefore it is not recommended to use seeds for propagation.

Overwintering

This plant is hardy to USDA zone 3 and does not need protection even in climates with harsh winters. It will die back, assuming you do not choose to prune it back in the fall, and will bounce back in the spring with fresh foliage and blossoms.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

Autumn Joy stonecrop is remarkably free of most common garden pest and disease problems, though the fleshy leaves can be susceptible to damage from slugs and mealybugs. These can largely be controlled by keeping the ground free of debris, including mulch. You also may use neem oil on a severe infestation if necessary. Furthermore, occasionally you might see deer nibbling on the fleshy leaves of the plants.

How to Get Autumn Joy to Bloom

Make sure your plant is getting at least six hours of full sunlight each day, and that it's resting in well-drained soil. Soil that is very rich in fertilizer or compost can actually be a detriment to this plant, as it will want to grow more foliage and stems than blooms. Shade will also prevent blooms from appearing on your plant. Finally, remember that the soil can't be too wet, as the plant will rot and then, of course, there is no hope at all for the lovely blooms.

FAQ
  • Can Autumn Joy stonecrop grow indoors?

    These hardy plants will do just fine in containers in the home, but they truly thrive on the sunlight and humidity of the outdoor summer. Keep in mind that they are hardy enough to survive the winter outside in pots.

  • How long does Autumn Joy stonecrop live?

    Expect a vigorous growing season of about six months. After that, the plant will die back for winter and return again in the spring. A hardy plant in the proper conditions will survive for many years.

  • What plants are similar to Autumn Joy stonecrop?

    The Jade plant, as well as Kalanchoe, are similar to stonecrop. Other great options for the garden include Pink Chablis, Purple Emperor, and Carmen.

Article Sources
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  1. Hylotelphium 'Herbstfreude' Autumn Joy. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.