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At gardening stores or at botanical gardens, you may have come across plants with the name “sedum” that vary so much, you wonder if they are related at all. Some sedum plants are tall and bush-like, others have spiral or rose-shaped leaves that creep along the ground. Indeed, there are many types of sedum out there: the sedum genus contains at least 470 separate species.
The different species of sedum have certain characteristics in common. They are succulents, and therefore have water-storing leaves. They have star shaped flowers, thick stems, and plump leaves. Many are perennials, which will keep coming back, but some are grown as annuals, which need replanting each year.
The genus of sedum is part of the larger plant family Crassulaceae, or stonecrops, named because of their ability to grow in dry, cold areas where there is little water and their ability to grow in small places like along walls or between rocks. Natively, sedum is typically found in the northern part of the globe, and in dessert areas in Africa and South America. Because they require little care once established, and thrive in a variety of harsh conditions, sedum varieties make a good choice for many gardens.
Of the nearly 500 species of sedum, some are more popular and more widely used than others. The varieties are mainly classified into creeping sedums and upright growers. Here are a few of the most popular and appealing types.
Due to its wide range of appearances in sedum varieties, they can be found in all sorts of gardening situations.
Because of its drought-tolerance, many types are used in xeriscape gardening, a type of gardening designed to thrive with little to no additional water other than what nature provides. They also do well in rock gardens, and will cascade over the sides of rock or stone borders.
Sedum is also used frequently in container gardens as a “spiller” or “filler.” It complements other flowering plants, as well as other succulents. It doesn’t need to be watered, and can remain outside over winter, making it a good maintenance-free choice for containers.
Because of its versatility, sedum can be used to fill in gaps where other plants won’t grow, or where mowing is difficult or impossible. It looks great when planted in mass plantings along hillsides or slopes.
Miniature or creeping varieties are commonly used in fairy gardens because of their small-scale features.
Not many problems come up with sedum, but those that do are usually related to watering problems. If sedum plants are allowed to sit for too long in water, they may begin to collapse. The root and stem may begin to rot, and it can affect the entire plant. If you suspect one of the stems is affected, remove it and don’t water the sedum—give it a chance to dry out, so the rest of the plant can be saved.
Fungus can affect the stems of sedum, and is again usually brought on by excessive moisture. Symptoms will include yellowing, withering leaves and flowers. Remove affected plant parts immediately, and make sure the soil is draining properly.
To prevent disease or rot, make sure plants are spaced out sufficiently, and avoid over watering. Don’t mulch sedum plants, as this can retain too much moisture in the ground and lead to death of the plant.
To make sure hardy varieties will come back next spring, prune them in the fall. After the first frost, prune foliage and stems back to an inch tall. If established plants become too thick, they can be divided in the spring and simply laid on the soil where you wish them to grow.
Different sedum plants are propagated in different ways depending on the species. Those that are low-lying groundcovers can be propagated by seed in mid-spring. You can also divide the plant or root stem cuttings throughout summer to produce identical sedum plants.
Seeds are very tiny. Be careful to space them appropriately, depending on the variety of sedum you are planting. Because they are so small, you can just press them into the soil. There is no need to cover them with an extra layer of soil. Seeds can be purchased at many garden stores or online. If direct sowing from seed, seeds should be planted in fall so they have a chance to settle in before the following growing season.
To collect seeds from your existing sedum plants, take browned fruit from a drying flower, and allow it to dry out indoors. Once it is dry you should be able to shake it on top of a piece of paper to collect the tiny, dust-like seeds. These can be planted in a moist, sandy planting medium, and misted until plants begin growing. After a year, these can be hardened off and transplanted outside. This is a very tedious method, and is seldom used—most gardeners opt to grow new sedum plants by division or cuttings, which is much easier and faster.
To grow via division, dig up a clump of sedum, divide the plant, and plant the individual clumps where you would like them to grow. Depending on the variety, the new divisions should be planted 12 to 18 inches apart.
Taller varieties can be reproduced by taking cuttings from new (softwood) growth and rooting them. Take a cutting of new growth using sterilized garden shears, and simply stick it in the ground where you would like the new sedum plant to grow. Alternatively, dip it in rooting hormone, and stick it in a pot of growing medium until established. Then, harden off the plant and plant outdoors in its new permanent location.
Question: What is the best way to plant a small sedum?
Answer: Find a place that drains well. It does not need to be high-quality soil; sedum can thrive in even nutrient-poor locations. Dig a hole a little wider and deeper than the root ball of the plant. Place it in and backfill. Water it regularly only in the first two weeks. After that, whatever rainfall you get is usually sufficient depending on your area. If you are in an arid place, water it once weekly.
Joyce on February 22, 2019:
Do rabbits eat the sedum plants?
John on May 28, 2018:
Thanks for sharing the video! I now know how to propagate sedum.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 15, 2017:
Thanks for sharing this useful information. I see sedum plants in the botanical gardens in my area, but I have never grown any myself. I might try now that I have read this article.