GGW Plant Pick of the Month—Sedums

– Posted in: Garden Plants
Sedum 'Angelina'

Sedum 'Angelina'

Tough, adaptable sedums—there are about 100 species and countless cultivars—are the plant pick of the month for December. Best known of the lot is ‘Autumn Joy’, more correctly listed by its German name, ‘Herbstfreude’. This familiar and adaptable perennial produces flowers that look like great clumps of broccoli when they first appear in the garden. In late summer and early fall, the flat-topped pink, then pinky bronze, clusters provide perfect landing platforms for countless butterflies and beneficials. After blooming, the flowers ripen to burgundy-brown. On this dreary December day, however, I’m going to concentrate on plants of lower stature, namely ground-covering sedums that are still adding color to the garden here at Hackberry Point.

One of the showiest sedums in my garden this month is S. rupestre ‘Angelina’. It produces clumps of lax stems covered with cylindrical leaves that reach about 4 inches in height. The yellow, summer-borne flowers aren’t much to write home about, but the foliage is simply stunning. Leaves at the tips of the stems are yellow and turn gold to deep bronzy orange in fall and winter. The contrast is especially effective because the leaves on the lower part of the stems are bronzy green. Plants are evergreen in the south; deciduous in the north. Like most sedums, ‘Angelina’ delivers its measure of color to the garden with a minimum of fuss and bother, too, since plants tolerate drought, poor soil, heat, and humidity.

Before you plant, though, be aware that ‘Angelina’ spreads quickly.This is one of the sedums that fall into my “be afraid, be very afraid” category of ground covers. Internet claims that a 3-inch plant spreads to 2 feet in a single season are not exaggerating. What they don’t mention is how far the plant spreads in subsequent years, or the fact that every single little piece of plant you drop will root as well. For this reason, careful siting is essential if you and ‘Angelina’ are going to have a happy relationship. Thus far, the site I’ve chosen is working out. I’m using ‘Angelina’ as a ground cover in one of my shrub borders, where it’s growing on a hot, dry slope that never gets watered. The site is bordered with a gravel driveway on one side and shrubs on the other, so it’s free to spread but can’t really escape. By next season, it will have filled in around nearby junipers and variegated Yucca.

Sedum 'Voodoo'

Sedum 'Voodoo'

Two-row sedum (S. spurium) is another common ground cover. While I’ve no interest in growing the all-green species, I’ve kept two cultivars of growing in a container this year because I didn’t have space graded and ready to plant. Even in November, both green-, pink-, and white-leaved ‘Tricolor’ and maroon-leaved ‘Voodoo’ still add some foliage color to the garden, although they’re not as handsome as they were in midsummer. Both also are fast spreaders that need to be sited carefully. I’m still pondering where I’ll plant them permanently. Undoubtedly a part of each clump will end up around the shrubs in my border. ‘Tricolor’ and ‘Voodoo’ actually made a handsome, low-maintenance container combination this summer, especially before I moved a third resident of their container to the garden: handsome blue-green leaved October daphne (S. sieboldii). Both S. sieboldii and another favorite ‘Vera Jameson’ are clump-forming sedums that contribute brilliant pink flowers to the fall garden. By November, though, both these deciduous sedums have faded into winter dormancy.

Most sedums—‘Angelina’, ‘Tricolor’, and ‘Voodoo’ included—are great plants for this economy. Plant them and they will spread. For all three, I started with a small plant, and after only a season I have nice-size clumps that can be divided if I want to experiment with sedums somewhere else in the garden. Perhaps I’ll try some of these more vigorous selections along the top of the wall in the front garden or right in the edges of the gravel driveway. I also plan to keep pieces to use as ground covers under other larger plants in containers.

Sedum 'Blue Balls'

Sedum 'Blue Balls'

Two other evergreen sedums that have happily spent the summer in containers also still feature attractive foliage. The first, ‘Blue Balls’ produces round tufts of tiny blue leaves and are really appealing combined with interesting rocks as well as hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum spp.) and other rock garden plants that thrive average to dry, well-drained soil. It’s not much of a spreader: My plant is perhaps 8 inches across from a 2-inch pot planted in spring.While I’m moving some of my clump to the garden proper in spring, ‘Blue Balls’ is so stunning in a container I’m sure I’ll keep some for a trough or pot.

The other tiny sedum I enjoyed all summer long is S. rubrotinctum ‘Mini Me’, which bears round, pin-head size green leaves on sprawling stems. It spreads more than ‘Blue Balls’, but I can’t think of many plants it could overwhelm—and many that would overwhelm it. The foliage turns maroon in fall. I’ll be using some of my now fairly sizable stash of it again in a trough next summer, but will also plant some with my sempervivums and smaller thymes. ‘Mini Me’, which is about ½ inch tall, would make a nice ground cover over miniature bulbs, too.

Sedum rubrotinctum 'Mini Me'

Sedum rubrotinctum 'Mini Me'

Finally, I did want to include a word about another favorite sedum that isn’t looking its best in this colder weather: wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum). It’s a native species found from New Jersey south to Georgia and west to Iowa. For gardeners, the big news is that it thrives in partial shade to shade and dry soil, although plants also thrive in moist, well-drained conditions. Rounded medium green leaves are topped by clusters of starry white flowers in late spring and early summer. Plants range from 4 to about 8 inches tall. It’s simply a great native that should be in more gardens!

If this is your first time visiting GGW Plant Pick of The Month, I hope you’ll participate. When posting comments on GGW, put a link to your site with photos of sedums you’ve used in your garden. Thoughts, ideas, siting suggestions, successes, failures, likes and dislikes are what we love to hear about from you….and anything else you want to share!

Barbara Ellis

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Benjamin December 10, 2008, 2:12 pm

YES to sedum. YES YES YES to groundcover sedum. I’ve started collected them because they are just so darn neat–my preferred groundcover anymore. It’s too bad sedum are becoming popular, I’m sorta nostaligiac about the day (not long ago) when to have one was, ummm, prestigious? I can dream. I can’t remember–I’d have to go over my plant list–but I’ve got one that gets a few inches tall, has yellow flowers in late spring, and turns an awesome bright orange in the fall–I don’t recognize it in the above names.

Glad you approve of my choice. I adore a plant that will look great in the garden and demand nothing in return. In the past, I’ve seen loads of the crazy spreaders like Sedum acre in gardens, and they’re definitely in the “be afraid, be very afraid” category because they just go everywhere but they’re not dense enough to really crowd out much in the way of weeds. ‘Angelina’ will, although I have to pull larger grasses and dandelions around her. For the others, I’ll use newspaper around them to keep weeds down. I can’t wait to see what selections I find next spring, because this is certainly the beginning of a new collection!

Frances December 10, 2008, 5:55 pm

Hi Fran, this is a great topic, well they all have been, but during the winter, sedums still have interest and current photos can be taken. Angelina has not been a spreader here, even though I would like her to be. But she is hanging in, as are many others we grow. I will make a note to self to get a post written this time.

Hi Frances!
Glad you share my enthusiasm for sedums. I’m grateful for anything that adds winter interest these days! Judging from the numerous tiny clumps of Angelina that have cropped up–no doubt because I dropped stem fragments when I was preparing the soil and planting–we’ll have a sheet of it by midsummer next year.


Gail December 11, 2008, 8:03 pm

Love these plants! S ternatum is one of my favorite little natives…I ned to check it out to see how it is holder up out there…This is a good topic for gray and rainy winter days! Gail

Hi! Sorry not to reply sooner, but my internet connection has been on the fritz! I tried to get a good picture of S. ternatum for my post, but the leaves are sad looking in this cold weather. I agree that it’s an outstanding little native, though! It’s wonderful with sedges, epimediums, and the like!


ESP December 12, 2008, 12:45 am

I thought I would share this little sedum story. It all started here with the creation and subsequent failure of a waterfall feature I had in mind for my pond:
“I used a sledge hammer on my water feature”.

This year I decided to make a feature of this “dry” waterfall by creating a living one. I filled in between the stone slabs with soil and planted it up with sedum. I hope next year that these small chaps will fill up this entire area. A virtual waterfall of sedums!
These pictures are not the best but I hope they capture the general intent, squint and imagine!

What a great idea! I can’t wait to see pictures from next season, and I bet you will have a waterfall of plants!


Cameron(Defining Your Home Garden) December 12, 2008, 9:48 pm

I have ‘Angelina’ and it is glorious right now. It is beneath my Japanese Maple, so it glows in winter. During spring, when the maple is a deep red, the gold/green ‘Angelina’ shines around the sunny edges. Quite a contrast!


Japanese maple underplanted with sedum ‘Angelina’ sounds like a great combination! I may try it here next season. I’ve got a nice maple that, like everything else in the landscape (at least everything else I haven’t replanted yet) is completely surrounded by lawn. I’ve been meaning to smother the grass around it and start underplanting with ground covers–both to make it prettier to look at but also easier to mow around. Thanks for the suggestion!


Pam/Digging December 13, 2008, 1:10 am

‘Angelina’ struggled in my former garden in its hot, dry location. Here in Austin it may prefer some afternoon shade.

In the deep South and Southwest, afternoon shade is the ticket for lots of plants that need full sun farther north, isn’t it? It’s just too hot, sunny, and dry. Even here in Maryland, ‘Angelina’ tolerates some shade, although the foliage isn’t quite as colorful. I think the foliage adds lovely color to partial shade, and am planning on trying it in a couple of lightly shaded spots here come spring.


Josh December 15, 2008, 4:31 pm

Yes, the little sedums are fantastic and so very easy!

‘Angelina’ just glows in the spring! It does spread, but oddly, I nearly lost my entire patch last winter. It was an odd, harsh winter, though.

Sedum cauticola is a favorite little clumper with nice blue/gray foliage. Front right in the photo…

I also like Sedum tatarowinii…a more delicate looking clumper.

What a great idea for a trough Josh! I love it! I don’t have Sedum cauticola OR S. tatarowinii yet, but they’re in my future, I can assure you. I don’t have any lovely stumps to plant, but I do have a couple more empty troughs that I’m planning to fill next spring. I can’t wait! I’m thinking more clumping sedums and a wider collection of Sempervivums to start.


Frances December 17, 2008, 7:48 am

I could not miss this one. My post is up

Succulents-The Sedums.


Great post, Frances! I, too love sedum ‘October Daphne’. Its fall flowers are wonderful and I love the blue-green leaves. It’s great in the garden but also worthy of containers, isn’t it? I also loved the pictures of ‘Autumn Joy’ on your hillside. I’m planning to add clumps of it to the long shrub border along our driveway. I’ve got plenty of daylilies in there already, and drifts of ‘Autumn Joy’ will help fill it out.


Mr. McGregor's Daughter December 19, 2008, 11:57 am

Thanks for the warning about Angelina. I’m having enough trouble restraining S. kamtschaticum. While I’m a fan of most Sedums, I have to slam Sedum ‘Black Jack’ in my post
The Truth About Black Jack.

Thanks for the post about ‘Black Jack’ because it shortens the list of plants I have to try! I grew four or five cultivars that were sold as fabulous new dark-leaved sedums this summer, and all–I repeat all–were disappointing. They did have maroon leaves, but the plants were stringy and lax and the habit unattractive. They’re still in the garden and I’ll say something about them next year if they amount to anything. As for S. kamtswchaticum, in addition to my shrub border, where the competition will keep it in its place, it has to go somewhere landscape features will keep it in place–maybe the edge of the driveway.


Dave December 30, 2008, 3:56 pm

Great idea! I finally put together my post on Sedum for this month’s plant of the month. It will be posted this evening.

Kel July 16, 2009, 12:53 pm

is there a list of native new jersey sedum species? i am getting conflicting information online. i need the list for a green roof experiment im conducting

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