Growing Sedum - Showy Stonecrop is an Easy, Carefree Perennial Performer

Sedum spectabile 'brilliant' august
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Overview and Description:

Showy Stonecrop, the taller plants in the genus Sedum, are often taken for granted in the garden, partly because they don’t bloom until the fall, but also because they require so little care from the gardener. Their thick, succulent leaves are able to withstand drought and rainy weather. The flower buds form early and remain attractive well in winter. If the deer didn’t eat them, Sedum would be a perfect plant.

Border Stonecrop are a small section of the hundreds of species of Sedum. These taller growing Sedum have thick stems, fleshy leaves and tight flower heads that start out looking similar to heads of broccoli. Most are study enough to stand upright on their own, with a few varieties that have a nice trailing quality, suitable for containers. Sedum flowers tend to be in shades of pink and mauve, that start out pale and deepen as they mature. The flower heads are attractive from bud through to their dried stage, and are usually left standing tall throughout winter. The stems are even strong enough to hold a few inches of snow, capping the flower tops.

Botanical Name:

Sedum

Common Name(s):

Showy Stonecrop, Border Stonecrop

Hardiness Zones:

Actual hardiness always has some variability, depending on the type of sedum you are growing and your growing conditions for the year. However sedum plants tend to be tough and adaptable.

You can expect them to survive in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 - 10.

Mature Size:

Most tall sedum varieties stand tall and form a well behaved mound, but there are a few, like 'Matrona' that naturally flop over. In general, expect the mature size of your sedum plants to be 6 - 24 inches (H) - 12 - 24 inches (W).

Exposure:

Sedum will grow best in full sun. It is very drought tolerant, but it can get sun scald in extremely hot, dry conditions. It can also be grown in partial shade, but the plants might not be as sturdy as they would be in full sun.

Bloom Period:

Although sedum flowers don't open until late summer / early fall, the flower heads form early in the season. They start off green, like a broccoli bud, and slowly change color, usually from a pink to a mauve. The earlier, paler color is actually the flower in bloom. The mauve color is generally when the flower head is starting to dry. But sedum flowers tend to look good in all their stages, making them a great plant for a long season of interest.

Design Tips:

Sedum look especially good in a small mass planting that takes center stage in autumn. Because they look good all season, sedum are suitable for edging, specimen plants and containers. Smaller varieties are good choices for rock gardens and walls. Sedum make great cut flowers and are great for attracting butterflies and other pollinators.

Suggested Varieties:

  • Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ - Still a favorites because it is such a wonderful, beautiful performer.
  • Sedum spectabile ‘Brilliant’ - A clearer pink than most Sedum flowers.
  • Sedum ‘Vera Jamison’ - Burgandy leaves and mauve flowers with a trailing habit.
  • Sedum ’Black Jack’ - Deep burgandy, almost black foliage and strong upright habit.
  • Sedum 'Cloud Nine' - Variegated Foliage

Sedum Growing Tips:

Sedum are extremely easy to grow. They prefer a well-drained soil, but can tolerate rainy weather as well. Extreme heat and lack of sun both cause Sedum to get a bit leggy. Pruning the plants back in early July will encourage them to get bushier and to grow more study, but it can result in smaller flowers.

Most of the sedum seed offered is for the low growing, ground cover varieties, not tall sedum. Taller sedum tend to be hybrids, and they won't grow true from seed. You will usually need to start off with plants or divisions.

Maintenance:

Sedum flowers bloom only once; late in the season.

Sedum do not need deadheading and often look good right through the winter. After several years, the center of Sedum plants will show signs of dying out, a sure sign they need dividing. Division is a good idea at that point, to keep the plant vigorous.

Stem cuttings can be taken at any time, to propagate more Sedum.

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