The Sedum: Showy Succulents for Late Season Color and Winter Interest
by High Country Gardens
Sedum, commonly known as stonecrop, is a group of succulent plants native across much of the Northern Hemisphere. They are excellent garden plants because they are:
Waterwise and cold hardy
Colorful with flowers in shades of pink, white and yellow
Excellent for fall and winter interest with their ornamental seed heads
A favorite of insect pollinators like bees and butterflies
The stonecrops are very versatile with different varieties that can be used as durable, evergreen groundcovers or taller specimens in the perennial border. The larger growers are known as the Tall Sedum and may be a little less familiar to folks than the groundcover types (which have been used extensively for many years). The Tall Sedums typically bloom from mid-summer into early fall. And their architecturally interesting seed heads should be left standing over the winter months to catch the morning frost or snow like tidy ‘snow toadstools’. And the Tall Stonecrops provide pleasing contrast with the finely textured ornamental grasses that also grace the winter garden.
Some of my favorite cultivars include:
- ‘Purple Emperor’ which has eye catching burgundy foliage which contrasts so beautifully with other perennials especially if they have gray or silver foliage. (Artemisia 'Powis Castle’ or Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam' are particularly showy companion plants. )
- ‘Matrona’ is my favorite and perhaps the tallest of the genus with clouds of pink flowers held on 30” tall mahogany stems. ‘Matrona’ is an impressive sight especially when attracting numerous butterflies. I particularly like it standing next to Little Bluestem grass (Schizachyrium).
As a showy groundcover variety, I am very fond of Chinese Mountain Stonecrop (Sedum middendorfianum). This Oriental native blooms in late spring and early summer with hundreds of bright yellow flowers that age to reddish-orange and are held overhead by short burgundy stems. When not blooming the carpet of fresh looking bright evergreen foliage is really nice. Landscape designers Lauren Springer Ogden and her husband Scott Ogden introduced me to this uncommon beauty.
Because of their cold hardiness and vigor, Sedum are on the top of my list for fall planting. And you’ll enjoy larger, more floriferous plants during next year’s growing season.
Text and Photos by David Salman