Sedum is a large genus of flowering plants that is found on almost every continent. The plants come in a wide variety of heights, colors, and forms. Also known as stonecrop, most sedums are hardy, drought-tolerant succulents with thick, fleshy leaves that vary in shades. They typically have tiny, star-shaped flowers that bloom late in the growing season.
In general, the genus is divided into two categories: low-growing sedum and upright sedum. The low-growing sedum stays short and spreads whereas the upright sedum forms vertical clumps and looks great along borders.
Several plant species that were previously classified as sedums have been reassigned to new genera. One of the best-known examples is the popular 'Autumn Joy' sedum whose botanical name is now Hylotelephium 'Autumn Joy.'
The best time to plant sedum is in the spring after the danger of frost has passed but before summer heat arrives. Sedum generally has a moderate growth rate, but this can vary by species and variety.
|Common Names||Sedum, stonecrop, showy stonecrop, border stonecrop|
|Botanical Name||Sedum spp.|
|Mature Size||6–24 in. tall, 12–24 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full, partial|
|Soil Type||Sandy, loamy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic, neutral|
|Bloom Time||Summer, fall|
|Flower Color||Red, pink, yellow, white|
|Hardiness Zones||3–10 (USDA)|
|Native Area||North America, South America, Central America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Mediterranean|
Because they look good all throughout the growing season, thanks to their interesting foliage followed by flowers, sedums are suitable for mass plantings, as edging and ground cover, and for growing in containers. Sedums also make long-lasting cut flowers and are great for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.
These plants are extremely low-maintenance. Simply situate them in a spot that has good soil drainage and adequate sunlight, and they'll practically take care of themselves. They don't need deadheading (removing spent blooms), and they often look good even into winter. However, extreme heat and a lack of sunlight both can cause sedum plants to get a bit leggy. Cutting back the plants after they are done flowering can help to maintain their shape and encourage bushier, sturdier growth.
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for a Sedum Plant
Most sedum plants grow best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Some varieties can tolerate partial shade, though they often won’t be as sturdy or bloom as profusely as they would in full sun. However, in very hot, dry conditions, many sedum varieties do appreciate a bit of afternoon shade.
In general, sedum prefers a loose loamy, sandy, or gravelly soil with sharp drainage. When the soil retains too much water, as is often the case with a heavy wet clay soil, this can easily lead to root rot for sedum.
Water new sedum plants roughly once a week to prevent the soil from drying out. Once established, sedum plants typically won’t need any supplemental watering unless you have a long stretch without rainfall and/or very hot temperatures. Thanks to their thick succulent leaves, sedum plants have good drought tolerance.
Temperature and Humidity
Growing zones vary by sedum species. But in general, these plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, though very high temperatures (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) can lead to scorched leaves. Sedum plants also usually tolerate humidity well. However, excellent soil drainage is especially important in areas with high humidity to prevent the plants from sitting in too much moisture.
Sedum typically needs no supplemental fertilization and can tolerate nutrient-poor soil. In fact, if the soil is too rich, this can cause weak, leggy growth. If you have very poor soil, mixing some compost into it will generally be enough to give your sedum a boost.
There are several hundred species of sedum and even more varieties, including sedum groundcovers and upright types. Many species and hybrids have been moved from the genus Sedum to other genera but since they are still referred to as sedums by nurseries and home gardeners, they are included in this list of popular varieties:
- 'Autumn Joy', one of the most commonly grown sedums which is now botanically classified as Hylotelephium. It blooms in the fall with tiny pink or rusty red flowers.
- Hylotelephium spectabile 'Brilliant' stands out with blooms that are a truer pink than most sedum flowers.
- 'Vera Jamison' is a Hylotelephium hybrid with burgundy leaves and mauve flowers. It has a trailing growth habit.
- Hylotelephium spectabile 'Black Jack' is a patented hybrid with deep burgundy to almost black foliage and a compact, strong upright growth habit.
- 'Soft Cloud' is a patented hybrid that grows in mounds of gray-green foliage, and its flowers bloom in the late summer with a light pink color before deepening to red.
- Sedum rupestre 'Angelina', a low-growing groundcover sedum with yellow flowers
Other than removing any broken or diseases stems, sedum does not require much pruning. In cooler climates, sedums that die back in the winter benefit from removing all the dead plant parts in the early spring to make room for new growth.
Provided its propagation is not prohibited because the variety is protected by a trademark or a plant patent, you can propagate sedum from stem cuttings, which is easy and has a good chance of success:
- With clean, sharp pruners or a knife, cut a 4- to 6-inch piece from a healthy stem. Remove the bottom leaves.
- Insert the cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with soilless potting mix. Water it well and keep it evenly moist.
- After a few weeks, you should see new growth, which indicates that the plant is rooting. You can also gently tug on the plant. If you feel resistance, it tells you that roots have formed.
You also can divide sedum plants to make more plants. The best time to do this is in the spring when new growth starts:
- If the clump is large, water is well before dividing it, which makes it easier to lift it out of the ground with all its roots.
- Remove the entire clump with a garden spade and separate it into individual sections with a trowel, or with pruners.
- 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 Sedum from Seed
Most sedum varieties grown in home gardens are cultivars and their seeds won't produce plants that are true to the parent. Therefore it is not recommended to use sedum seeds for propagation.
Potting and Repotting
With its shallow roots, sedum is a good choice to be grown in containers, as long as they provide excellent drainage and you are using well-draining potting mix or succulent potting mix. The container size depends on the height and spread of the variety. Smaller sedum types can also be combined with other plants in larger planters. Taller sedum varieties should be grown in terra cotta pots, or other material that has some weight, so they don't topple over easily.
Repotting depends on the growth rate of the variety. A sure sign that it's time to repot the sedum is when the plant becomes root-bound, or the roots grow out of the drainage holes of the container.
Depending on the variety, sedum is a very hardy plant and does not need protection even in climates with harsh winters. The only exception is when the plant is grown in pots, as the roots are only surrounded by a thin layer of soil, unlike in a garden bed. Wrap the containers in burlap and bubble wrap, or place them in an insulating silo over the winter.
Common Pests and Plant Diseases
Sedum has generally very few pests and disease problems. Occasionally slugs and snails might feed on the plant. In poorly drained, wet soil, it can get crown rot.
How to Get Sedum to Bloom
Failure to bloom is mostly due to lack of sunlight although sedum can grow in partial sun. Too much water can also lead to reduced bloom.
Does sedum come back every year?
Sedums are perennials but sometimes, frost-tender varieties such as Sedum morganium 'Burros Tail' are sold and grown as annuals because they won't survive the winter in cold climates.
Is sedum pet-friendly?
None of the hundreds of sedum varieties are known to be toxic to pets.
Are sedums and succulents the same?