Fall does not officially hit until September 22nd, but we are already in August and many of our perennial blooms have been there and done their thing. Perfect time to introduce the sometimes overlooked Sedum plant to your garden to give you that push over the summer edge. The unusual Sedum family, commonly known as stonecrop, are leaf succulents grown in zones 3-10 varying from creeping to upright and almost shrub like. What makes their foliage texturally different from most perennials in your garden bed is their thick rubbery appearance, which is because their leaves are actually storing water. Besides having fascinating leaf structures, they bloom midsummer and some into late fall with a blanket of tight open faced stars in shades ranging from cream to mauve to yellow.
Photo by Flickr user issyeyre.
Sedum require little care once established, attract butterflies and make for a great cut flower - more reason to love stonecrop. Can we find anything wrong with Sedum? Well, deer are attracted to them... but that's about it. Since they hold water in their leaves they are able to handle drought, but at the same time they can also handle the rain. They prefer well drained soil and full sun. Some varieties are tolerant of part shade but can get a little leggy if put in that situation. Even the spent blooms are visually appealing, with no need for removing the dead blooms, and not until you begin to contemplate winter will you want to cut back the stonecrops stems. When frost levels are concurrent the Sedum will begin its dormancy period and you can cut them back to an inch or so from the ground. If you do not cut them back in late fall, go ahead and cut them back in early spring so the new growth will plow through the soil. Divide your stonecrop every couple of years to keep them vigorous.
Because of their drought tolerant capabilities they are commonly used as green roof plants. These low growing varieties also look great in rock gardens and border edges planted in groups. They also make for great specimen plants in low profile containers for a tabletop arrangement mixed with Sempervivum (Hens and Chicks) varieties. Taller varieties are wonderful at masking the sometimes beat up summer foliage of other spent perennials in a back border. They can also be used in an annual container which is perfectly timed for a refresh right about now. Try some of the mid size to taller varieties such as Sedum sieboldii, 'Autumn Joy' or 'T. Rex' in your fall container mixed with flower heavy hitters such as Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy' for immediate fall impact.