Stonecrops are perennial plants with thick succulent leaves and fleshy stems, and are known for extreme cold and drought hardiness. They are part of the very large and diverse Sedum genus in the Crassulaceae family, many varieties of which have recently become very trendy pot and garden plants. Low-growing sedums spread along the ground creating mounds and carpets of succulent foliage that can change colour according to the season and temperature. They can flower profusely from late spring to autumn, with clusters of tiny star-shaped flowers so beloved by pollinators. These ground-hugging sedums are often used within gravel garden patterns, in rock gardens, between low-foot-traffic paving stones, or in pots.
We have three different coloured sedums for you to plant in your garden:
Sedum spurium ‘Red’ (dragon’s blood stonecrop) Spreading groundcover forming a thick patch of bronze to deep-red scalloped leaves. Ruby-red star flowers appear in summer. This red stonecrop can become deciduous in winter, and scraggly stems and old flowers can be lightly sheared in early spring to encourage fresh growth. This variety is more shade tolerant than other sedums.
Sedum rupestre ‘Blue Spruce’ and S. rupestre ‘Blue Spruce Erecta’ (blue spruce stonecrop) By far the best icy-blue foliage colour amongst all groundcovering succulents. The sharply pointed leaves are densely packed on thick, curving stems that love to cascade over rocks or pot rims. In summer, deep mauve-pink stems rise up to 25cm above the prostrate plant and are topped with bright yellow flowers. This is a very vigorous and fast-growing sedum. S. rupestre ‘Blue Spruce Erecta’ has the same characteristics but the stems are less lax and more upright growing.
Sedum acre ‘Aureum’ (golden stonecrop) or Sedum acre ‘Angelina’ – it is known as both in the nurseries Undulating, carpet-forming groundcover with tiny elongated green succulent leaves. The stem tips turn yellow in spring and small star-shaped yellow flowers appear in early summer.
Sedums are generally:
- Easy to propagate. Just clip off a stem and push it into the soil. For faster results, a patch can be lifted, divided and replanted.
- Adaptable to harsh growing conditions, which means shallow and poor soil, exposed sites and winter cold.
- Tolerant of full sun as well as morning sun and afternoon shade.
- Partial to very well-draining soil.
- Non-tolerant to overwatering (rather err on the dry side) and over fertilising (just add a few slow-release fertiliser granules when planting them and let go!).
For the full article, get the February issue of The Gardener and Die Tuinier, on shelves now!