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Sedum

Posted on 2nd March 2016

Sedum are a genus of mainly succulents or fleshy-leaved herbaceous perennials that grow best in open sunny positions and tolerate poor, free draining soils. Wet soils can lead to rotting and overly fertile soils will promote too much vegetative growth at the expense of the flowers and the elongated stems have a tendency to flop.

The low growing succulent types are suitable for rock gardens containers and can be used as a  decorative tapestry of ground cover between paving , the common name of the ‘stone crop’ describes their ability to root into cracks in rocky outcrops and readily spread successfully directly over the bare rock faces. Their ability to grow in almost no soil and in exposed conditions has made them popular for covering green rooves where just a thin layer of lightweight free draining substrate  can support species such as Sedum acre without the need for substantial reinforcement of the roof supports.

The fleshy leaved herbaceous perennials will perform reliably if given a sunny spot and can cope with a variety of soils as long as they are not waterlogged. They are grown mainly for their autumn flowers and seed heads that last well into the winter. The flat flower heads also provide nectar for butterflies and therefore encourage biodiversity  in the garden as well as extending your border display well into winter. The dry seed heads can be left on the plant to develop a rich chocolaty brown colour as they fade and continue to add structure to the garden into the winter and look superb on frosty mornings or covered with a sprinkling of snow. These faded flower stems do need to be cut back in late winter before growth begins or after heavy rain or snow if they have become tatty.

There are some excellent cultivars including coloured leaved varieties that give more interest and a more delicate flower than the stalwart Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ .

Sedum telephium ‘Karfunkelstein’ and Sedum telephium ‘Purple Emperor‘ both have deep burgundy/purple fleshy foliage that gives a good contrast to lighter colours and they are topped with pink flowers in late summer.

Sedum are easily propagated by division in early spring or by taking softwood cuttings during the growing season, they root very readily and the cuttings should be inserted into gritty, free-draining compost for best results.