The Joy of Sedum

Sedum with Yucca in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sedum with Yucca ‘Bright Edge’ (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

I’m starting to fall in love with my garden all over again, and you can too, with a fresh infusion of late season bloomers.  One of the least fussy, low maintenance and pest resistant plants that persist into winter are sedum; a genus of about 400 species of perennials and annuals in the Crassulaceae (or Stonecrop) family, ranging from the mountains of the Northern hemisphere to arid spots in South America.  From tall specimens at 3 feet, to ground cover selections that remain around 6 inches, there’s sure to be a sedum for you.  Whether in a garden or container, sedum offers multi-season interest and makes a superb companion to a variety of other plants and shrubs.

Mixed Sedum with thyme along walkway in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Mixed Sedum with thyme along walkway (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Low growing sedum are my plant of choice for the front border, along walkways and to soften the edges of raised stone beds. For pathways, I mix low growing sedums with various thymes to add texture, fragrance and extend the bloom period.  Thyme is a flattering partner to petite sedum and doesn’t mind in the least when sedum gently sprawls on top of it. Typically, most dwarf thymes flower in early summer, which adds fresh color and bee activity to the area.  As the season progresses, sedum’s foliage starts to turn a deeper hue before beginning to flower.  The blooms of most sedum eventually brown, but remain upright, adding textural interest through the winter months.

** A few great partners for sedum are Catmints and Eupatorium ~

Sedum thrives on stonewall edge in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sedum thrives on edge of stonewall (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

Along the garden border, low growing sedum adds a subtle transition to the taller, bigger leafed comrades behind them.  Because they are tolerant of abuse, they can handle being weed whacked, stepped on and dug up by moles and voles. These limbo dancers come in a wide range of colors; from the variegated Sedum kamtschaticum ‘Variegatum’ (zone 3-8), to frosty blue Sedum sieboldii (zone 6-9) and bright red Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’ (zone 3-9), which turns a darker shade of burgundy as the temperatures go down.  With color in mind, you can easily choose a sedum to enliven the rest of your plantings.

Sedum Angelina's fiery winter color in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sedum Angelina’s fiery winter color (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

On stone walls or containers, my sedum of choice is Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’ (zone 6-9), a soft needled darling that starts out apple green in spring and changes to blazing chartreuse in the summer.  What makes it such a favorite in my garden is when it turns on the red light in the fall.  Not only does it turn an intense fiery red in autumn, but the foliage embers continue to burn brightly through the winter, an incredible attribute during the cold months when there isn’t much color to be found. This glowing contrast is particularly attractive with blue, olive and gold evergreens as well.

Sedum brightens the autumn garden in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Sedum brightens the autumn garden (photo by: Kathy Diemer)

There are also many choices for more statuesque (2-3 feet) sedums in the border; with variegated options such as Sedum ‘Autumn Charm’ and ‘Autumn Delight’ (zone 3-9, cousins of ‘Autumn Joy’), the green favorite Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and burgundy foliaged Sedum ‘Vera Jameson’, all capable of delivering unique form and flavor to the fall landscape. In the garden or along an edge, sedum makes a great addition to a sun filled garden with well drained soil.  They actually prefer crummy soil, and the key to longevity is keeping them dry over the winter months.  Consider adding gravel or turkey grit (a tip from a local gardener) to your soil to keep it from retaining water, and your sedum will continue to thrive for years to come.

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