SEDUMS by Jacki Fry Brewer

            I am surprised that sedums will even grow for me as many years ago before I became a gardener I had moved into a home in Tennessee. Having spent some 17 years in the Navy by this time I did not have a lot of time or the place to grow a garden so I had little experience or knowledge. Spring came and I explored what was coming up in the front garden that the previous owner had planted. I saw these light green, thick leaved plants that to me didn’t look like they belonged. I thought they were weeds. All along they were Autumn Joy sedums that I dug up and threw away. Maybe that’s why now I grow them - to make up for such a grievous mistake. But hey, I have come a long way since then and sedums are my garden joys. I have a plethora of them and am always looking for new varieties. Sedums lend themselves well to hybridizing that is why there are so many different ones. While back in Delaware a couple weeks ago I found one called Chocolate Ball. It looks sort of brown with tiny lemon-lime flowers. My sister bought it for her garden and let me take some pieces to propagate. That is the glory about sedums – they are so easy to start from cuttings or pieces that have just broken off. They often will root where they lie. Sedums are mostly native to areas in the northern hemisphere often where it is mountainous, arid and cold but they are very tolerant of our garden extremes here in north Texas. I find giving them a little protection from the late afternoon sun is highly appreciated.   The smaller varieties of sedum for me are fun to grow as they lend well to containers, especially cute little pots or vintage ceramic florist vases that are too small to grow other plants. They also make nice ground covers mixed in with native perennials that don’t require tons of water. I have a small patch by my driveway with sedum, four nerve and black foot daisy that gets the late afternoon sun doing just fine. And I do well with the larger Autumn Joy sedum that I desecrated back in TN. I actually have them in more shade then sun and my plants are large and healthy.

            My collection of 25 or so of succulents includes cactus, the Euphorbia variety as well as sempervirens like hens and chicks. I have one treasure, a Queen Victoria Agave I found for ½ price at Jackson’s. I mention that because QV agave is not an inexpensive plant to have in your collection. It’s a dangerous one though with needle like spines poking out of the leaf tips. There is no reaching down to touch this plant without due care.

            I grow sedums and succulents not so much for their flowers though some of them offer up some of the prettiest little star-like clusters but for their shapes and unique growth habits. Many of the sedums, as the new growth spring, look like minute rose blossoms emerging from the soil. Sedum is a large genus of flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae, members of which are commonly known as stonecrops. There are some 300-600 species of sedums depending on which reference you read. The flowers usually have five petals, seldom four or six. The term stonecrop comes from England meaning plants that grow over stones or walls.   The term Sedum comes from the Latin sedare meaning to calm or sedere meaning to sit. The jury is still out after 300 years I think. Sedums as with many plants were used in medicinal ways in antiquity.   I added two new varieties to my collection and favorites this year: Sedum lineare “Sea Urchin”, a lovely needle leafed plant with pale green color and white margins, and Sedum Makinoi ‘Ogon”, a yellow-chartreuse beauty with rounded leaves.   Other favorites are Sedum reflexa ‘Angelina’ has hints or orange, yellow and lime green and Dragon’s Blood sedum a truly hardy old standby and another succulent sometimes mistaken for a sedum but is an orostachys – Orostachys boehmeri or hardy duncecap. These are little gray rosettes that in late summer begin to flower and create this duncecap shaped stem growing out of the top of the rosette.

            In doing my research I learned a lot of interesting tid-bits on sedums. Plants are often being rearranged in classification. A number of sedums have been re-classified into a new genius, for example Autumn Joy is no longer a Sedum but a Hylotelephium. (Sedum is a lot easier to say.)

            I often think I would like to be especially water wise and change all my containers to succulents or sedums but one caveat to is that they are not all winter hardy and a good frost will do some plants in like euphorbia, aloe, and a few agaves and I don’t have the space to bring them all in for winter protection. But most of my sedum varieties fair the winter well as that is their native environment.  

            As far as soil conditions go I use a good potting medium. You can find mixes specifically for cacti and those work well too. However with any planting medium I mix in some sand and/or fine pebbles to keep the soil porous. I find with some plants it works well to let the soil dry out between watering and some to keep the soil evenly moist.  And many of my sedums to a respite from the late afternoon sun.  

            Thanks for reading and I hope enjoy you will gain a new interest for a fun plant to have in your garden.