Stonecrops Rock

– Posted in: Garden Plants

Sedum rupestre 'Lemon Coral' with 'Ruby Ball' cabbage

When I first read Barbara’s choice for the GGW Plant Pick of the Month, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to find many photos to share. Sedums – or stonecrops, as some know them – haven’t played a big part in my gardening experience over the years: not because I don’t like them, but because they didn’t much like my previous shady garden or my current silty and sometimes soggy one.

Sedum 'Purple Emperor' with Rosa glauca and Eupatorium maculatum 'Carin'

Sedum 'Purple Emperor' with Rosa glauca and Eupatorium 'Carin'

I’m disappointed about that, because sedums offer some terrific forms, textures, and foliage colors, and I greatly admire them in other people’s gardens. The first couple of years in this garden, I was so excited to finally have sun that I indulged in a number of species, hybrids, and cultivars, expecially of the upright types. My favorite of the bunch was ‘Purple Emperor’, with its purple-flushed gray leaves that were a perfect echo for the foliage of red-leaved rose (Rosa glauca). Unfortunately, it fizzled out after the second year and disappeared. ‘Black Jack’, ‘Matrona’, ‘Arthur Branch’, ‘Gooseberry Fool’, and many others met the same fate.

The only upright sedum I have left now is ‘Autumn Fire’. Honestly, I don’t see much difference between it and ‘Autumn Joy’ (‘Herbstfreude’); both of them can appear pinkish in some conditions and deep red in others, depending on the amount of sun, I guess, and the age of the blooms. I’m not going to complain about ‘Autumn Fire’, though, since it seems inclined to stick around. (Below left is ‘Autumn Joy’ with Salvia microphylla ‘Variegata’ and Geranium ‘Victor Reiter’; below right is ‘Autumn Fire’ with Miscanthus ‘Purpurascens’.)


I really like the creeping sedums too, but mostly meet with an equal lack of success. They seem more forgiving than the uprights of the winter-wet conditions but get stringy-looking when shaded too much by bigger companions, and I haven’t had much luck figuring out how to place them effectively. I’m still trying, though, because they make great partners for fall-blooming bulbs, such as colchicums.

Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce' with Colchicum autumnale 'Album'

Sedum rupestre 'Angelina' with Colchicum speciosum

Ah, ‘Angelina’. I’m not sure what to make of her any more. It was love at first sight; such a pretty thing she is in a pot, and her cheery color brightened every spot I could find for her. Undaunted by winter’s cold, rain, and snow, she just blushed rosy red and kept on shining. She survived, and even thrived, in sites where lesser sedums had perished, and I was delighted to see her start to spread.

Sedum 'Angelina' with Nepeta 'Walker's Low'

Sedum 'Angelina' with Zinnia 'Profusion Orange', Pennisetum glaucum 'Jester', and Catalpa bignonioides 'Aurea'

Sedum 'Angelina' with Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' and Caryopteris 'Jason'

Sedum 'Angelina' with Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' and Caryopteris 'Jason'

But then, oh then…she started getting a little too comfortable. One or two seedlings would have been fine, but I’m starting to find bits of ‘Angelina’ where she really doesn’t belong, to the point where she’s beginning to scare me a bit. And honestly, I could do without her blooming altogether. Do she really think yellow flowers look good with yellow foliage? I mean, I’m no fashionista, but even I can tell her that the combination isn’t very flattering. I’ve tried to save her that embarrassment by clipping off her blossoms, but then she makes those annoying little stubs that don’t look much better.

So now I’m reduced to plucking out her bloom stems individually to keep her looking her best, and it’s getting a little tiresome, though I’m not ready to give up on her completely. I do have my eye on a newer beauty, however, by the name of ‘Chocolate Ball’. It’s hard to find much information about it because it’s just recently been released, but it looked neat in the garden and in containers at work this past summer and fall.

The big question is how hardy it will be. Sometimes ‘Chocolate Ball’ is listed under S. hakonense, which most references indicate is frost-tender, but I’ve also heard that this one might be hardy to Zone 7. Yesterday, I took a quick peek at some of the plants we left in the ground at work (in mid-Zone 6, after some definitely below-freezing temperatures), and they still looked alive to me, so maybe they’ll be more cold-tolerant than predicted. After observing how ‘Angelina’ is inclined to spread, I’m almost hoping this one isn’t quite as hardy!

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Nancy J. Ondra

Nan gardens on 4 acres in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. In the firm belief that every garden ought to have a pretentious-sounding (or at least pretentious-looking) name, she refers to her home grounds as "Hayefield." There, she experiments with a wide variety of plants and planting styles, from cottage gardens and color-based borders to managed meadows, naturalistic plantings, and veggies--all under the watchful eyes of her two pet alpacas, Daniel and Duncan.
Nancy J. Ondra

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