Whether rock gardeners or cottage gardeners, prairie gardeners or formal gardeners, most northern gardeners have sedum somewhere in their garden. It’s easy to fall in love with this autumn bloomer.
Sedum starts as a dainty little cabbage head each spring, grows into a perfect green (or purple) background to summer flowers, and then it flowers up in early to mid fall, going from greenish to pink to russet to brown, depending on the variety.
Sedum comes in dozens of varieties — tall, short, light green, dark green or purple foliage — and most of them seem to be just as hardy as the rest. As a groundcover, sedum provides a textural element and a living mulch around other plants. It’s extremely hardy and comes in a variety of colors, from the blue-gray foliage of Sedum cauticola ‘Lidakense’ to the chartruese to gold of Sedum ‘Angelina’. Many sedums grow well in lean soils, which is why they are so often used in rock gardens.
Among the larger sedums, the best known is probably ‘Autumn Joy’. This plant thrives in Minnesota — meaning that a few years after you buy one plant, you will have three or five. The popularity of ‘Autumn Joy has led to the marketing of several of its sports, including ‘Autumn Fire’, which is more compact that ‘Autumn Joy’ and has a deeper red bloom, and ‘Autumn Charm’ and ‘Autumn Delight’, two variegated sedum.
Purple-leaved sedums add foliage color to the garden. Among the most popular are ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Matrona’, which has deep purple stems but green leaves. Newer sedum tend to avoid the flopping issue that occurs with Autumn Joy, which gets over 2 feet tall, then flops forward with its heavy bloom. Some smaller options—’Hot Stuff’ is one variety—are also on the market and tend to stay under 18 inches. These plants like sun, but don’t require any special soil or fertilizer. Plus, they are great for attracting bees and butterflies to the garden.
Tall varieties look good in spring, summer, fall and winter, when snow caps their flat blooms beautifully, adding interest to the snowy landscape.
What are your favorite sedums?