Sedums are succulent plants with fleshy leaves and flat, nectar-rich flowerheads that are loved by bees and other pollinators.
Border sedums, also known as ice plants, have now been reclassified as Hylotelephium. Easy to grow, these sun-loving perennials are a striking feature in late summer, when masses of flat, bright pink flowerheads appear on upright stems. The flowers are extremely attractive to late-flying butterflies and bees. They look especially good planted with grasses such as Stipa tenuissima.
Border sedums look great from spring onwards, as their fleshy green-grey foliage (purple on some varieties) is attractive in its own right. The flowerheads are green in spring, gradually taking on tinges of pink before flowering fully from August onwards. The dead flower heads are worth keeping on the plants – covered in frosts they look spectacular. You can snip them and display them for months in a vase, too.
True sedum, or stonecrops, are small, fleshy-leaved succulents that spread like a mat. They originate in dry, rocky locations, so they’re very drought tolerant. As well as attractive, evergreen foliage, sedums produce small nectar-rich flowers that attract pollinating insects. They make good ground cover outdoors, particularly on green roofs, and are sometimes used as an alternative to grass lawns. The tender varieties make good house plants and can also be grown outside in containers in summer.
How to grow sedums
Border sedums (Hylotelephium) grow best in a sunny spot, in well drained soil. They look best grown at the front of a border – try grouping several together. They are a good option if your soil is dry. These low maintenance plants need little care, although you could try the Chelsea chop in late May to prevent the plant flopping open in the middle – cut one in three stems to the ground.
Stonecrops also need a sunny spot and well-drained soil – they are drought tolerant so don’t need much watering. If growing them in a pot, incorporate some grit into the compost to ensure good drainage.
More on growing sedums:
Sedums: jump links
- Where to grow sedums
- How to care for sedums
- How to propagate sedums
- Sedum problem-solving
- Where to buy sedums
- Types of sedum to grow
Where to plant sedums
Border sedums (Hylotelephium) need a sunny spot in well drained soil to thrive. They’re fairly low growing so look best at the front of a border. Try combining them with plants that have different flower shapes, such as spikes or umbels (balls).
Stonecrops need well-drained soil and a sheltered, very sunny site to thrive. A terracotta container or window box would work well, or a roof with a small depth of growing medium.
How to plant sedums
Plant border sedums in spring or summer. Dig a hole that’s the same width and depth of the original pot, and add plenty of grit to the planting hole to ensure good drainage. Water in well. After planting, sedums need little watering as they are drought tolerant.
If you’re growing stonecrops in a pot, incorporate plenty of grit into the compost, to ensure good drainage.
How to care for sedums
In February and March, cut back the old flowerheads of border sedums – you will see tiny rosettes of the new foliage at the base of the plant. Mulch around the base of the plant with well-rotted garden compost or manure. In late May, you could experiment with the ‘Chelsea Chop’ – cutting half of the stems down to the ground. This should mean that your plant is less likely to flop open from the middle in late summer.
Stonecrops in pots need very little pruning or aftercare. Do not water over winter.
How to propagate sedums
If your border sedums have got too big or you would like more, you can divide them in spring – dig the plant up carefully, and prize it into sections, and replant them where you would like them to grow. Water in well. You can divide border sedums every three or four years.
Stonecrops can be propagated by cuttings or offsets from the main plant. In spring or summer, take the plant out of its pot (or lift from the soil) and gently separate the offsets from the main plant. They should come away easily, complete with a piece of stem. Plant each offset in a small pot – it will grow into a new plant. Alternatively cut the plant in half, using a bread knife and replant both new plants.
Growing sedums: troubleshooting
Once established, border sedums can have a tendency to flop from the middle, leaving an open centre. This can be due to the fact that the soil is too fertile – if you think this might be case in your garden, do not mulch for a year or two. One way to prevent flopping is to do the ‘Chelsea chop’. During the last week of May (when the Chelsea Flower Show traditionally takes place), cut half of the stems back to the ground. This will produce plants that are less lush and flower slightly later. Sedums will also flop if they are growing in too much shade.
Sedums are relatively pest-free. The main enemy is cold, wet soil, so make sure stonecrops in pots do not become waterlogged in winter – move them somewhere that is sheltered from rain.
Border sedum (Hylotelephium) varieties to try
- Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ has succulent, light green leaves and contrasting salmon-pink summer flowers, which mature to orange-red in autumn. Like most sedums it’s a valuable late source of nectar for pollinators, particularly butterflies.
- Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Carl’ produces masses of flat, bright pink flowerheads in autumn, on upright stems. Formerly called Sedum spectabile.
- Hylotelephium telephium ‘Purple Emperor’ is grown for its foliage, which becomes darker as it matures. In summer it bears masses of pink flower buds which open to white. The flowers look beautiful in the winter garden with a dusting of frost.
Stonecrop varieties to try
- Sedum reflexum is a hardy species native to the UK and Europe. It’s fast-growing and makes good ground cover with evergreen foliage and nectar-rich, yellow flowers in summer that attract pollinating insects. Combine with sempervivums and other hardy sedums.
- Sedum dasyphyllum or Corsican stonecrop, grows in hot, dry conditions. Star-shaped flowers appear in early summer and the leaves turn purple in winter. Ideal for growing between stepping stones, on green roofs or in the crevices of dry walls, it can also be used as a lawn substitute in the right conditions.
- Sedum spathulifolium ‘Cape Blanco’ has distinctive foliage that comes into its own in winter with small yellow flowers in summer. In colder regions, it needs protection from winter frosts. The Royal Horticultural Society has given it its prestigious Award of Garden Merit (AGM).
- Sedum morganianum ‘Burrito’, or donkey’s tail, has tails of trailing succulent leaves and pink, star-shaped flowers in summer. A tender sedum, it’s usually grown as a houseplant on a windowsill out of direct sunlight. It can be moved outside in summer.