Mark A. Miller
Plant Common Name
Usually succulent in nature, many stonecrop species are popular for rock gardens and green roofs. The large genus Sedum has more than 450 species, which are naturally distributed in the temperate Northern Hemisphere with a few found in the mountainous areas of northern South America and Africa.
Extremely variable in form, sedums can be deciduous or evergreen herbaceous annuals or perennials. A few are sub-shrubs or shrubs. Their succulent stems may be upright, spreading or hanging and are densely lined with fleshy leaves that are cylindrical or flattened. Leaf, color, size and shape are highly variable and arrangement may alternate or opposite on the stem. Some species are rhizomatous and spreading, while others form neat clumps.
Sedums produce pretty star-shaped flowers of yellow, white, pink or red, depending on the species, which are usually produced in rounded or flat-topped clusters. They are often borne from branched stems held above the foliage. Bees and butterflies pollinate the flowers, which are followed by small, brown, inconspicuous fruits.
Some of the nicer garden species include the easy to grow goldmoss sedum (Sedum acre). This trailing perennial alpine is native to the mountains of Europe and Northern Africa and produces a mass of vivid yellow, star-shaped flowers in spring. Tall, showy sedum (Sedum spectabile) is the best known garden sedum valued for its late, showy pink blooms and succulent green leaves with a gray waxy bloom. Well-known hybrids include the soft pink ‘Autumn Joy’ and electric pink-flowered ‘Neon.’ A popular shade-loving sedum is the North American woodland species, wild stonecrop (Sedum ternatum).
Each species of stonecrop has an environment in which it grows best, though most prefer full sun and extremely porous soil. Woodland species perform best in light shade and rich, moist soil. Some are very cold tolerant, while tropical species require consistently warm temperatures. Most stonecrops are drought tolerant once established.
There is a sedum for every garden. They are great for rock gardens, border edges, containers and tropical species make great houseplants. Most are very low maintenance and offer effortless garden beauty.