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. And 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|
|Plant Type||Herbaceous, perennial|
|Mature Size||1.5–2 ft. tall and wide|
|Soil Type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral, alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Pink, rust red|
|Hardiness Zones||3–9 (USDA)|
|Native Areas||Europe, Asia|
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. To take a cutting, select a healthy stem and snip off around 4 to 6 inches of it. Put it in a small container with a soilless potting mix to take root, and keep the potting mix slightly moist. Once you feel resistance when you gently tug on the cutting, you’ll know it’s taken root. Then, you can plant it in your garden.
You also can divide your plants to propagate them. To divide clumps of Autumn Joy, cut the stems down to about 6 inches in the spring, and water the plants well for a couple of days before dividing. Then, lift a clump with a garden spade, and cut it into individual pieces with a trowel (or simply pull it apart with your fingers). Replant the clumps by burying them in the ground at their original depth. Water thoroughly.
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.
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 plant 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.
Hylotelphium 'Herbstfreude' Autumn Joy. North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension.