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Linda Fierheller

If you have a dry sunny garden where most plants that you try will not survive, let alone thrive, think of growing sedum or stone-crop, either name is acceptable.

These are sun-loving, very forgiving, soil-wise, plants that give you a whole season of interest and flowers. There are low growing sedum which would be good as edging, for instance, Sedum acre (Golddust stonecrop) which grows 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm). Where most sedum require some deadheading after flowering, Golddust is ‘self-cleaning’, in that the flowers drop cleanly from the plant leaving no flower stems to clip. Remember one thing about this particular sedum, it tends to spread A LOT, both by just expanding each year(2-3 ft. in 2 years and onward), and by rooting everywhere a tiny piece may drop. It flowers in late spring and early summer. Other lovely and less invasive edgers are, Dragon’s Blood (Sedum spurium), Sedum sieboldii, and Sedum ‘Ruby Glow’. Dragon’s blood will grow to 4-6" (10-14 cm) tall and spread 18-24" (45-60 cm). The foliage of this plant is red and it produces bright rosey red flowers in early to late summer. If planted on the side of a wall or slope, Dragon’s blood will tumble over the stones, presenting a lovely show. Like all the sedums, this would make a great ground cover.

Sedum kamtschaticum (Russian stonecrop) makes a good intermediate planting. Remember plants look better when planted in drifts, so be mindful of heights, and fold one variety into the next, thus pulling the eye into the bed. The Russian stonecrop is 8-10"(20-25cm), is variegated with cream, yellow and pink markings, little golden-orange flowers blooming all summer, and also turns bronze in the fall. It will spread 12-18" (30-45 cm).

The best known sedums are Autumn Joy, and Brilliant. They grow 12-18" ( 30-45cm) tall with a spread of 18-24" (45-60cm). In late summer they produce lovely heads of flowers. Autumn Joy’s are salmon-pink to bronze-red, and Brilliant has rich raspberry-carmine blooms. Leave these on all winter as they look beautiful dusted with frost and snow. They stand up well throughout the winter and can be snapped off easily and quickly in early spring. In the fall these flowers make wonderful dry bouquets – no need to water, just gather them up, place in a vase, and keep out of direct sunlight.

Another sedum to try is ‘Mohrchen’ which can grow to 24" (60 cm), has deep burgundy foliage, and clusters of starry pink flowers with bright red stamens.

Every year new sedums are discovered and developed. One of the best ways to increase you varieties is…’admire to acquire’ from friends and neighbours. A new plant can be started by simply breaking a piece from a healthy plant and planting it so that the nodes where leaves would grow are set under the soil. Keep watered and watch a new plant begin.

Stonecrop (Sedum) will grow in poor soil in hot dry areas, but they will do even better with some soil improvement. When planting, leave about 12" (30 cm) between creeping varieties, and 15-18" (38-45 cm) for upright. This will leave plenty of room for each to spread. If seeding interests you, start them indoors in February, or outdoors in early spring. Many of the creeping varieties will have some flowers the first year.

Once the plants have settled in and are actively growing, no further watering should be needed, unless there is a long drought especially the first year, when they can become more easily stressed.

When purchasing plants, they can look rather floppy in the pots, but will quickly straighten up once in the ground.

Do try Sedum, I think you’ll really like them, though they can become an obsession!