Sedums like it Hot & Dry

Sedum is the perfect plant for a late summer season

By Carol Papas 2015
Penn State Master Gardener

The dog days of summer can stress many hardy plants, but sedums shrug off both heat and drought. Sedum, or as some of the taller species are now called, Hylotelephium, are members of the Crassulaceae family. This family includes jade plants, hen and chicks, tender succulents and the very tough sedums, also known as stonecrops. All have succulent leaves, which makes them the perfect choice for a hot, dry and sunny location.

Most gardeners are familiar with 'Autumn Joy' sedum, also known as Hylotelephium telephium. Its sage green, broccoli-like flower buds mature into pink flowers in early fall. There are hundreds of others to try, ranging in size from mat-like groundcovers to mid-size perennials suited for the border.

Purple Sedum
Purple sedum

Flower colors in upright sedums range from white to darker pinks, and some cultivars have burgundy or bi-color leaves. Low-growing sedums have leaves ranging from lime green to steely blue to dark burgundy. Their texture can be wide and scalloped or needle-like. Assemble a collection of low growing sedums with contrasting color and form and allow them to knit together as a pretty, weed-resistant tapestry.


A few of the sedums we 'dig'

'Red Cauli' Sedum telephium
At 12-15 inches tall, 'Red Cauli' is shorter than 'Autumn Joy.' Many of the taller sedums require pinching in early summer to keep them from sprawling. This cultivar looks good at the front or middle of the border. Its leaves are pewter gray and the flowers are a deeper pink than 'Autumn Joy', although calling them red is a stretch. Large flowered sedums should not be deadheaded in the fall because their tight umbels of flowers hold snow and frost beautifully.

Since sedums prefer full sun and well-drained soil, they are a good choice for beginning gardeners. The taller varieties will sprawl in shadier locations or in highly fertile soil.

'Lime Zinger' sedum
This low grower is part of the SunSparkler series developed by Chris Hansen. The tightly packed crescent-shaped leaves are accented by a crisp red edge. It tops out at 4 inches tall and in late summer, it sports soft pink flowers. 'Lime Zinger' is terrific in containers.

Low-growing sedums are a hot trend in horticulture and are perfect groundcovers in sunny, dry locations. They keep weeds at bay and provide a pretty foreground for taller perennials or smaller shrubs. They are a good choice for rock gardens or difficult strips of ground between paving that would fry other plants.

'Cape Blanco' Sedum
Cape Blanco Sedum

Sedum ternatum
Most sedums are non-native species, but Sedum ternatum is a North American native. It's a tough little groundcover with whorls of tiny green leaves and a dusting of fine white flowers in late spring. If you're trying to incorporate more native plants into your garden and can't accommodate 6-foot-tall plants like Joe-pye weed, this 4- to- 6-inch sedum is the perfect choice. Bees and butterflies are drawn to its flowers.

Since this sedum's natural habitat is stream edges and rocky ledges, it tolerates more shade and moisture than most species. It is best used as a groundcover and in rock gardens, in either full sun or part shade.

'Dragons Blood' Sedum
Dragons Blood sedum

Sedums are versatile plants and are useful in borders, as groundcovers, in containers and on green roofs. New and exciting cultivars are being introduced that can provide both color and texture wrapped up in an easy-care plant.


Rock Gardening

Fall gardening tasks

Succulents in Flower Pots


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