Autumn Joy Stonecrop (Sedum) Plant Profile

Perfect for Sandy Soil

Autumn Joy sedum in bloom with its flat-topped clusters of pink flowers.
David Beaulieu

Autumn joy (Hylotelephium herbstsfreude) is a popular upright variety of stonecrop, also known as a sedum, but it is actually a hybrid created by crossing one species of sedum (Sedum telephium) with a species of ice plant (Hylotelephium spectabile). The resulting plant, usually referred to as autumn joy, may be sold under different taxonomical names, such as Sedum telphium, Sedum spectabile, or Sedum x.

Like other members of the sedum group, this plant is extremely tolerant of sandy or gravelly soil and dry conditions. It can be planted as a specimen plant or in groups in borders, and is excellent as ground cover, in rock gardens, and in any difficult location, provided the soil is well-drained. Autumn joy is a more upright plant than most of the sedums, with fleshy, succulent leaves resembling those of the jade plant. Pink flowers first appear in early fall in the form of flat clusters of tiny flowers that gradually open through fall to produce reddish flowers that gradually turn bronze and rust-red. The plant is so easy to grow that it has been known to escape garden settings and naturalize in the wild.

Botanical Names Hylotelphium 'Herbstsfreude' (autumn joy)formerly known as Sedum telphium 'Autumn Joy'
Common Names Autumn Joy stonecrop, Autumn Joy sedum, Autumn Joy
Plant Type Herbaceous perennial
Mature Size 18 to 24 inches in height with a similar spread
Sun Exposure Full sun
Soil Type Sandy, well-drained soil
Soil pH 6.0 to 7.5; slightly acidic to slightly alkaline
Bloom Time Fall
Flower Color Pink, rust-red, lavender purple
Hardiness Zones 3 to 9
Native Areas Asia, Europe, North America

How to Grow Autumn Joy Stonecrop

Plant autumn joy stonecrop in a sunny location with sandy or gravelly soil, if possible. Rich loam can be tolerated provided it is well-drained, but it is a good idea to amend the planting hole with a bit of sand if the soil is too rich. Space plants at least one foot apart; they will gradually fill in and form large clumps.

Water infrequently; more than an inch of water every two weeks is overkill. No fertilizing is necessary. To prevent overly long stems from sprawling, you can confine the clump inside a hoop. Alternatively, you can keep the stems trimmed down until budding begins to keep the plant short. Some gardeners cut down the stems in fall, but they can also be left to provide winter interest. Birds will feed on the dried flowers heads.

If the clumps become woody and overgrown, you can divide them in spring.

Light

Autumn joy prefers full sunlight. Shady conditions can make the plant leggy and reduce flower production. But in very hot summer climates, your plants will appreciate some shade.

Soil

This plant thrives in dry, sandy or gravelly soil, but 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 may cause the roots to rot.

Temperature and Humidity

This plant tolerates a wide range of temperatures, thriving in extreme heat, and often continuing to display right up until the first frosts of winter.

Fertilizer

Feeding is not necessary with autumn joy. The plants will tolerate a light spring feeding with a balanced fertilizer, but excessive fertilizing will cause the plants to become leggy and sprawl in the garden.

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. In spring, the entire root clump can be lifted and divided. Individual plants are quite slow-growing, but once established they will thrive for decades.

To divide clumps, cut the stems down to about six inches in spring, and water well for a couple of days before dividing. Lift the 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 to their original depth. Water thoroughly.

Varieties of Autumn Joy Stonecrop

  •  Autumn Charm (Hylotelephium 'Lajos' Autumn Charm), also known as Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Charm’), has similar blooms on stems that are variegated with white-edged green leaves. ‘
  • Autumn Fire (Hylotelephium spectabile 'Autumn Fire,' also known as Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Fire’) is an improved variety that is gradually becoming more popular than ‘Autumn Joy’. ‘Autumn Fire’ has larger flower heads, stronger stems, and blooms for a longer period.
  • Mr. Goodbud (Sedum 'Mr. Goodbud') is a good choice if you want darker, more purplish flowers. It blooms in August, a bit earlier than 'Autumn Joy.'
  • Hot Stuff (Sedum spectabile 'Hot Stuff') is a more compact plant, growing only 10 to 12 inches tall, with pink and purple flowers.
  • Iceberg (Sedum spectabile 'Iceberg) has mainly white flowers and is a slightly smaller plant, growing to a maximum of about 16 inches.

Common Pests

Autumn joy stonecrop is remarkably free of most common pest and disease problems, although the fleshy leaves may be subject to damage from slugs and mealy bugs. These can largely be controlled by keeping the ground free of debris (this is one plant that does not want mulch covering the ground). Mealybugs and occasional infestation by scale insects can be controlled with Neem oil.

Deer are fond of eating moist, fleshy stonecrop plants, but the plant also attracts butterflies and bees.