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Portland Nursery

Steppin' out with SEDUM: Stonecrop

Sedums or stonecrops are the new darlings of the garden and with good reason, from their diversity of form and color to their easy care and ability to make it in those dry hot-spots (which need to be well-drained)!

Sedum shoes

When I walk through my garden, I am surprised at all the little nooks and crannies that I find sedums spilling out of. As I watch them grow, they keep on surprising me with their changing color of foliage then the flowers pop out with these mounds of tiny five-petalled star shaped flowers on slender stalks that look impossible to be from the same plant.

With the arrival of fall, the brilliant colors of the trees echo in the small sedum leaves as they turn brilliant red, magenta and purple. The taller, shrubby sedums are showing off their flowers now, making the bees drunk on nectar for one of the last hurrahs of summer. I will leave the seed heads from the flowers up most of the winter for a bit of winter interest after everything else has died down.

Sedums are commonly called stonecrop because it is often found growing on and amongst stones. Whether it is a low-growing groundcover-type sedum or an upright shrubby-type sedum, they all have fleshy succulent leaves of various sizes, colors, and shapes, like full sun, good drainage, and are mostly drought-tolerant. Most bloom in the summer or fall with flowers of either yellow, white, or pink.

Sedums work great in a rock or alpine garden or as a splash of interest in a rock wall. In a container, they could be great filler for that late season interest or as a cute little spiller for an extra surprise. It is hard to go wrong with a few cute sedums potted up in a container or basket. They are a favorite for green-roofs because they do not need a lot of soil and love those conditions.

The flowers are great for attracting butterflies and bees and make a good cut flower. Planted with other drought-tolerant plants like grasses, coneflowers, asters, and penstemon one could have an easy care, attractive garden. There are also some varieties of native sedums that are very, very cool.

Here are a few of our favorite Sedums:

Sedum acreS. acre (Goldmoss sedum) - Great little evergreen groundcover, 2-5 inches tall with upright branchlets from trailing stems. This sedum originates from Europe, Turkey and North Africa. ‘Aureum’ has pale green leaves with yellow tips and bright yellow flowers. Zone 5.

Sedum 'Autumn Joy'S. ‘Autumn Joy’ - A hybrid between S. telephium and S. spectabile that is an upright shrubby sedum reaching 1-2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The green leaves are rounded 2-3 inches long and wide and in the autumn the plant is topped with mounds of pink flowers that age to a coppery pink and eventually to a rust color. It dies back in winter. Zone 3-10.

Sedum spectabile

S. spectabile (Showy Sedum) - There are many cultivars of this shrubby sedum originating from China and Korea. It grows about 18 inches tall and wide with upright or slightly spreading stems and roundish, 3 inch leaves and dies to the ground in the winter. In late summer and fall these plants are adorned with large domes of flowers in shades of pink about 6 inches wide that the bees and butterflies love. These might need staking if the flower-heads get too heavy. Zone 4.

Sedum 'Tricolor'‘John Creech’ with tight green foliage that turns burgundy in the fall, and ‘Tricolor’ with green leaves and cream and red edging. Zone 4.

Sedum oregonum

Sedum oreganum


Family: Crassulaceae

Genus: Sedum

Origin: Sedums come from the Northern hemisphere, with around 400 species coming mostly from mountainous areas.

Culture: Full sun in well-draining, poor to moderate soil. Drought-tolerant but appreciates some water at flowering time.

Maintenance: Shrubby-type sedums need to be cut down to the crown in the late fall once foliage starts to look bad, or in the spring if the seed heads are left for winter interest. The shrubby-types also might need staking if they are in too rich of soil. Creeping sedums benefit from having the flower heads cut back to maintain their shape. Easy!

Because of their diverse looks and sizes, they fit many roles in the garden or as container plants. Many groundcover varieties are evergreen or semi-evergreen while the taller sedums die back to the ground to re-emerge as cute rosettes in spring.

Propagation: Easy to propagate from stem cuttings, sometimes detached leaves will even root and form new plants.

Pests and Diseases: Snails and slugs can be a problem early in the season.