Growing Sedum / Stonecrop – Shawnee News-Star

Written by Linda Workman Smith
Multi-County Gardener’s Association

In preparation for the Multi-County Master Gardener’s Association’s annual plant sale/scavenger hunt (May 13, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. — or while stocks last at OSU Pottawatomie County Extension Center, 14001 Acme Road, Shawnee, Oklahoma, USA), I noticed I had lots of sedum/stonecrop; I love him!

Sedum is a large genus of flowering plants that are found on almost every continent. Plants come in a wide variety of heights, colors, and shapes. Also known as stonecrop, most sedums are hardy, drought-tolerant succulents with thick, fleshy leaves that vary in shade. They usually have small, star-shaped flowers that bloom late in the growing season.

In general, the genus is divided into two classes: low-growing sedum and upright sedum. Low-growing sedum is kept short and spreading, while upright sedum forms vertical clumps and looks great along borders and in flower beds. Many plant species previously classified as sedum plants have been reassigned to new genera. A famous example is the popular ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, whose botanical name is now Hylotelephium ‘Autumn Joy’.

The best time to plant sedum is in the spring after all danger of frost has passed but before summer arrives. Sedum plants generally have a moderate growth rate, but this can vary by species and variety. Because it looks good throughout the growing season, with its interesting foliage followed by flowers, sedum is suitable for group planting, as edging and ground cover, and for growing in containers. Sedums also make long-lasting flowers and are great for attracting pollinators to your garden.

These plants are very low maintenance. Just plant them in a spot with good soil drainage and enough sunlight, and they’ll practically take care of themselves. They don’t need deadheading (removal of spent flowers), and they often look good even in winter. However, extreme heat and a lack of sunlight can cause sedum plants to become a little leggy. Cutting back plants after the flowering period is over can help them maintain their shape and encourage bushy, firm growth. Most Sedum plants grow best in full sun, which means at least six hours of direct sunlight most days. Some varieties can tolerate partial shade, though they often won’t be as vigorous or flowering as they would be in full sun.

However, in very hot and dry conditions, many sedum varieties appreciate a little afternoon shade. In general, Sedum prefers loose loamy, sandy or gravelly soils with steep drainage. When the soil retains a lot of water, as is often the case with heavy, wet clay soils, this can easily lead to root rot and fungal diseases in sedum. Water the sedum plants about once a week during the first year to prevent the soil from drying out and to give the young plants a good start.

Once established, Sedum plants usually won’t need any additional watering unless you have a long stretch without rain and/or very hot temperatures – Oklahoma? Thanks to their thick succulent leaves, sedum plants have a good drought tolerance. Growing zones vary by species of sedum. But in general, these plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, although temperatures that are too high (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) can burn leaves. Sedum plants generally tolerate moisture well, but space plants are good for good air flow to avoid powdery mildew.

Excellent soil drainage is especially important in areas with high humidity to prevent plants from sitting in too much moisture. Sedum usually does not need supplemental fertilization and can tolerate nutrient-poor soil. In fact, if the soil is too rich, it can cause a weak and long growth. If you have very poor soil, mixing some compost into it will generally suffice. There are several hundred species of sedum and even more varieties, including ground covers and upright types.

Other than removing any broken stems or diseases, sedums don’t require much pruning. In colder climates, sediments that fall back in the winter benefit from removing all dead plant parts in early spring to make room for new growth. If the sedum grows taller than you prefer or seems tall, pinch off/cut the stem at a growing point in early summer for a bushy plant. It delays flowering, but will create a fuller, sturdier plant. Hope to see many of you selling our factory! As always happy gardening.

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