Plant Sedum for Reliable Fall Color

Plant Sedum for Reliable Fall Color

Blooming in late summer when the rest of the flower garden is beginning to look rough and ragged, autumn sedum is just beginning to open its flowers for its blooming season.

Most garden sedums are Sedum purpureum “Autumn Joy,” from the botanical family commonly called “Stonecrop.” Stonecrop meant “sprouting from the stone” in Middle English and most likely refers to way the plant often grows among stones, which provide the drainage sedum needs. Sedum comes from the Latin sedere meaning “sit” as in “sitting atop the stones.” They do appear to be sitting atop the stones when growing in a naturalized garden setting.

They are perfect for such naturalized or low-maintenance gardens, because they seem to thrive on neglect. They can grow fairly well in shade, although they do much better in full sun. They don’t seem to mind not being fertilized or watered either.

Moderately tolerant of road or sidewalk salt, they do not like wet feet, a condition almost always fatal. Classified as a herbaceous perennial, sedum grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 3 to 9. Attractive to bees and butterflies, they’re also deer and rabbit resistant.

Sedum grows 18 to 24 inches high and spreads 12 to 18 inches wide. Propagate by stem and leaf cuttings or root division. Divide plants in spring or fall; spring-propagated plants often bloom the same year. Sedum “Autumn Joy” was introduced in 1955. It mixes well in the perennial garden with ornamental grasses, cone flowers, artemisia, and lavender.

Cut the plants back once a year when they first reach eight inches high. This will produce more side growth, which in turn will produce more blooms in fall. The flower buds look like broccoli. The unopened flowers make interesting additions to late summer bouquets.

The flowers turn pink first, then color to deep burgundy as fall progresses. Sedum “Autumn Joy” is the classic burgundy color; other varieties are available in yellow, orange, red or pink.

Whatever color or variety of sedum is growing in your garden, cut the mature flowers to dry for winter bouquets. Their flower clusters are in high demand by crafters and florists for autumn decorating.

You could also leave the dried flowers on the plants to provide winter interest in the garden. The flower often heads peek over the top of the snow, reminding us that things actually grow outside, even if all we see right now is winter’s frozen landscape.

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