Give your garden some water-wise good looks with the sedum clan. Each sedum plant has specialized leaves—slightly thickened—that serve as water-hoarding devices. These leaves enable sedums to withstand droughty growing conditions and high heat while still looking great. You’ll find many different sedum varieties for sale, showcasing a rainbow of leaf colors and plant forms.
Most sedums grow best in full sun, although partially sunny spots can work, too. These workhorse plants withstand high heat and humidity, which makes them great candidates for Southern and Southwestern gardens. They can also take windy conditions. All of these tolerances that sedum plants display are due to the unusual thickened leaves. This group of plants is also known as stonecrops, which are famous for their fleshy leaves and starry flowers.
Sedums flower at some point in the growing season, opening wonderful star-shaped blooms in shades of yellow, white, red, pink and gold. The flowers typically appear over a long window, like from summer through fall. Pollinators mob the nectar-rich blooms, making sedum plants a terrific addition to butterfly or wildlife gardens.
Sedum varieties come in all sorts of sizes. You can find sedum groundcovers that creep and crawl along soil. This group includes goldmoss stonecrop (Sedum acre), which grows to 3 inches tall and opens bright golden-yellow flowers in spring. This sedum roots where you drop a leaf and can quickly fill in a stony slope. ‘Dragon’s Blood’ two-row stonecrop (Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’) opens rich pink blooms above bronze leaves that turn burgundy in autumn.
Other sedum varieties grow four, six or even 18 inches tall. One of the most popular stonecrop sedums is ‘Autumn Joy’ showy sedum (Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’). This perennial favorite grows 12 to 18 inches tall and forms clumps up to 24 inches wide. The flowers provide three seasons of strong interest. ‘Black Jack’ showy sedum (Sedum spectabile ‘Black Jack’) has almost black leaves topped with 8-inch-wide flower clusters. It’s a strong addition to any perennial planting.
Sedum hardiness varies by species. Many are hardy in Zones 4 to 9, although a few, like Kamchatka stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum), native to Russia, are hardy to Zone 3. ‘Angelina’ sedum (Sedum reflexum ‘Angelina’) is one of the less hardy sedum varieties, surviving winters in Zones 6 to 9. It has almost neon chartreuse leaves that look like loose bottlebrush heads.
Many sedum varieties bring a strong sculptural texture to plantings. These plants boast low-maintenance personalities. Most are a plant-it-and-forget-it type of perennial. The one recipe for disaster with sedum plants is tucking them into soggy soil. Poor drainage is a killer for sedums. Make sure soil drains well for best growth.