'Autumn Joy' is an award winning sedum.
'Autumn Joy' might be the most widely grown sedum in the gardening world today. In 1993, the esteemed British Royal Horticultural Society gave 'Autumn Joy' sedum an Award of Garden Merit. This award is your assurance that 'Autumn Joy' has been deemed of excellent decorative value and easy care for many gardeners, among other criteria. While an award winning plant is arguably excellent, it's not the only sedum worthy of attention.
Sedums are a large genus of succulent plants. Many succulents, including cacti, have adaptations which help them endure drought. That does not mean, however, that all succculents can only be grown in desert conditions. Sedums, also called showy stonecrops, as a group generally do well in temperate gardens, areas that experience a fair amount of yearly freeze and moderate rainfall. Showy stonecrop's only requirement is adequately draining soil and sun. Even with that recommendation, many Dave's Gardeners attest to sedums' tolerance for clay soil and some degree of shade. The thick leaves and sturdy stems of sedums, in cool green or dramatic dark tones, offer a whole different look in the garden. Stonecrop's hardy foliage is virtually insect proof and stands up wilt-free all growing season. Most sedums bloom, too. Their individual small, star shaped flowers appear in clusters and are a favorite picnic spot for butterflies and bees.
Creeping stonecrops to medium height accent plants
"Sedum 'Postman's Pride' flowering..very dark Sedum, nearly black foliage, and very pretty..." DG subscriber saya
Upright sedums, like 'Autumn Joy,' grow to about 18 to 24 inches in height during the summer. They're a good choice for a medium-tall accent plant or middle of the border perennial. Other sedums form low mounds of gracefully trailing stems. Yet more sedums creep along the ground. (Those tough little creeping sedums are the basis for many of the living green roofs now being installed.) Container gardeners can use sedum too; 'Burro's Tail' sedum stems are so weighed down by plump leaves that it is usually grown in a hanging pot. The wide range of growth habits makes it easy for you to find a spot for Sedum.
Some varieties recommended by Brooklyn Botanic Garden, by heightTall 18 to 24 inchesMounding 8 to 12 inchesCreeping
Flower color ranges from red and pink to white
Give full sun for best form
Color begins midsummer in the buds and persists into autumn on drying seed heads
'Stardust' white flowers
Good for containers or border edges
Smaller leaves than the uprights, some cultivars variegated or having red accents in stems or leaves, pink flowers
The emerging foliage of Sedum sieboldii makes for interesting close viewing--photograph by Scorpioangel for PlantFiles
Ground-hugging for edges, between stones, and in containers
Flowers appear summer through fall in pink, yellow or orange
'Schorbuser Blut' (also called 'Dragon's Blood')
Variegated or light-colored leaves
S. spurium 'Variegatum'
Sedum sources: potted plants, cuttings, seed
The RHS award earned 'Autumn Joy' a prominant place in nurseries, at least for some years after 1993. Ask about Sedums or stonecrops in the perennial offerings. If groundcovers are displayed seperately, check there also for the ground-hugging creepers. Mail order nurseries are a great source for Showy Stonecrops. Following the links in the table above will take you to Dave's Garden PlantFiles profiles of those plants, with links to sources for each stonecrop variety.
Showy Stonecrops are incredibly easy to root from cuttings, making them ideal for sharing. Keep that in mind as you tour your friends' landscapes. Most any sedum is easily propagated by taking stem cuttings, potting them up and keeping them barely moist. PlantFiles pages also show you when other Dave's Gardeners are offering sedums in trade.
Creeping stonecrop seed blends are easy to find on the Internet; seed for individual Sedum cultivars is not. Sedum seeds are miniscule. It's important when starting tiny seeds like these that you just barely cover the seed with fine starting medium, so the seeds will sense the light they need to germinate. Gently moisten the pot of planted sedum seed and cover it with clear plastic to keep it moist. Expect tiny green specks, the first signs of life, within a few weeks. You should soon begin to see variations among the seedlings as they develop, but be cautious about trying to seperate them too soon. With patience, a $3 packet of seed should yield a payoff of five or so different sedum plants.
Once they're installed in a well drained spot, ignore your sedums. They'll respond with sturdy growth and reliable bloom. Too much fertilizer or water can only encourage slightly tender stems, more likely to flop when they should stand up. Pinching will make a sedum branch and can correct or prevent some floppiness. Creeping sedums that spread too far are easily ripped apart. Erect sedum, like many perennials, grow large bases after some years and will need to be dug and divided. Dried flower heads can be trimmed off or left on for winter interest.
Enjoy your Sedums; I know I will. These are recent pictures from my planting of Sedum Hardy Blend seed in spring of 2008.
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I've given a basic introduction to Showy Stonecrops. For further reading on the huge and variable world of genus Sedum, check out this book:
Cheap and Easy Succulents: Personal Recommendations by Geoff Stein, is a Dave's Garden article which includes Sedums and describes many other plants which you might like to mix with them.
Sincere thanks to DG subscribers saya and Scorpioangel for granting permission to use their photos for this article.