Sedum: Ornamental stonecrop plants for a low-maintenance garden

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Sedum plants are beautiful, yet hardy succulents that are fun because they consist of a large variety of shapes and colors. Because they are so stunning and striking, they can be a wonderful addition to the landscape or just show off as an amazing ornamental.

Sedum plants, commonly called Stonecrops, include 400-600 different species and are typically low-growing herbaceous perennial plants. They can withstand dry climates both hot and cold, do not do well in an abundance of moisture, and bloom in a plethora of colors. Sedums are also symbolic of peace.

Read on to learn all about Sedum plants.

Pink sedum flowers
Pink sedum flowers

The scientific classification of Sedum plants and related information

Stonecrops are a perennial plant type that is in the Crassulaceae family and was given the botanical name of Sedum spp. or Sedinae. They are also referred to as Stonecrops. Sedum plants are in the Hylotelephium genus.

Sedum plants vary widely in shape, form, color, and size among all of the species. The most common types or categories of Sedum plants are Low-Growing Sedums and Upright Sedums.

Sedum plants, depending on the species, typically bloom in spring or in the fall months. The foliage and flowers of the Sedum are absolutely stunning! The cut flowers are sometimes in the shape of a rosette or a star, and the flowers and/or foliage can appear in colors such as various shades of purple, pink, green, orange, black, green, white, or yellow!

People especially enjoy these plants because not only are they sturdy, but they have foliage and flowers that bloom in beautiful colors in the late summer. Sedum brings a fun, unique texture into the overall picture of your home or garden.

Nicknames specific for the Upright Sedum type include Upright Stonecrop Sedums, Showy Stonecrop Sedums, or Border Sedums. These specific Sedums grow to be anywhere between the range of a foot and a half and three feet tall in height. As for nicknames for the low-growing type, they are additionally referred to as Mat-Forming Stonecrop Sedums (the most common nickname for that type) or occasionally Creeping Sedums. These Sedums don’t grow very tall because instead of growing vertically, they grow in the horizontal direction.

Angelina stonecrop sedum

Sedum varieties

Here are some popular cultivars/varieties of the Sedum plant:

There truly are different Sedums for every garden! Here is a big list of 20+ Sedum varieties to grow.

Ornamental sedum flowers in fall

The meanings of Sedum plants

In Latin, there is a word called “sedeo” which, when interpreted, means to sit. Because of the nature of Sedum plants where they essentially sit and spread (particularly the Low Growing type), these plants were named Sedum plants as derived from that Latin word.

The plant itself, outside of its name, has some neat symbolism as well. Sedum plants are emblematic of peace, calm, and restfulness. Also, since it is a succulent, it represents the same things that succulents as a general group denote, which is enduring love and timelessness.

Green sedum flowers
Green sedum flowers

The best setting for Sedum plants to grow

There is a decent variety of ways to plant and grow Sedum plants. They can be grown in certain types of containers, they can be used in flower arrangements, as kitchen decor, or as decoration in landscapes. They can also beautifully shine in a hanging pot, hillside slope, or a raised bed, and they are great for walls, green roofs, or for use as ground covers (small Sedum plants are best for ground covers). A bonus is that they grow both indoors and outdoors!

Nevertheless, that isn’t the case for all of the species of Sedum plants. When growing Sedum plants indoors, place them on a windowsill that is bright and receives lots of sunlight.

As previously mentioned, there are two primary or popular types of Sedum plants, that being the Low Growing, Mat-Forming Sedum type, and the Upright Sedum type. Each of the two has its specialties as far as the best way and place to grow them. Beginning with the first of the two, the Upright type of Sedums grow upright, clustered together tightly, and because of that, they make an exceptional addition to rock gardens!

They typically need to be staked because of how tall they grow, and they also require more water than their low-growing counterparts. Additionally, the pattern of growth Showy Stonecrop Sedums follow results in small white and/or pink flowers blooming, and those flowers do a wonderful job at attracting hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, as well as other insects that pollinate. That is, even more, the case when the flowers are red, white, or yellow.

As for the Low Growing Stonecrop Sedums, they don’t grow very tall since they grow horizontally at a rapid pace. Despite the quick speed at which Low Growing Stonecrop Sedums grow and spread, they don’t tend to harm other plants in the area, particularly because their roots don’t go very deep at all. Another fun element of this type of Sedum is that its leaves and/or flowers can be in several colors, such as maroon, ivory, mint, rosy, purple, blue, yellow/gold, chartreuse, or copper. In fact, it can be multiple colors at once!

This type of Sedum plant in particular likes torrid, deficient soil. All of these qualities that the Low Growing Stonecrop Sedums have made them especially perfect to use for green roofs, crevice gardens, or groundcovers and also to be planted in certain kinds of containers or spots with really grainy soil.

Where in the world Sedum plants are able to grow?

First, it will be helpful to establish characteristics and features, such as appearance, that influence Sedum plants and their growth. They are a beautiful, green succulents that, as previously mentioned, are pretty hardy and diverse. They love the heat and the sun, and they don’t need much water. They don’t even need particularly high-quality soil. As a result, they do incredibly well in dry and hot climates, such as the desert. They also do fairly well in cold climates and can even stand firm in the midst of a freeze. There are a handful of Sedum species that greatly differ in those regards, so it is best to check the specific species to be safe.

It is incredibly remarkable how Sedum plants can survive the tundra as well as Mexico’s desert climate! The large diversity of conditions and climates they can dwell in allows them to grow pretty much anywhere in the world. As noted above, they initially grew in parts of Asia and Europe, but they made it to new areas through travel and trade.

Because of how tough and vigorous they are, they have managed to withstand the test of time and now grow naturally all around the world.

Sedum flowers - stonecrop

How to care for Sedum plants?

A nice perk with Sedum plants is that they are pretty easy to take care of and keep up on since they are low maintenance. While Sedums don’t need good quality soil, it is important to make sure that the soil is well-drained, because Sedums will need that. Most Sedum plants can withstand rain, however, so there is no need to worry in that regard. Basically, the roots of the plant will begin rotting if there is too much moisture, especially if it is wet for a bit of a longer stretch of time.

Because Sedums need well-draining soil, acidic, neutral, or alkaline soils are all good options to choose from. Particularly when planting in a container or pot, make sure there is enough drainage with the soil, or in other words, the succulent container or pot the Sedum plant is in should have holes for the water to leak away. As a standard, water Sedum plants around once or twice every week (one inch of water a week is ideal but that varies based on the specific species of Sedum).

Make sure the Sedum plants are getting enough sun and aren’t placed in excessive heat consistently (at least without giving them a bit more water to compensate). In the midst of extreme heat or inadequate amounts of sun, Sedum plants will grow limp and gangly. They should have at least five or six hours of direct sunlight and even more direct sunlight than that while the flowers are starting to bloom.

An additional bonus is that they don’t need to be fertilized. After all, they thrive in soil that is subpar, and not rich in nutrients. However, organic compost can be used in place of fertilizer when needed. Just be especially sure to never use chemical fertilizers, particularly those enriched with nitrogen, as that will destroy the plant.

On a similar note, Sedums don’t require deadheading, but if you want to prune a Sedum plant, particularly in an attempt to grow bigger flowers on the plant, prune by pinching or by using shears or a pruning stick. The best time to prune is early in July.

Sedum flowers - stonecrops

Tips for helping Sedum plants to grow

While things such as bugs aren’t problematic to Sedum plants, for the most part, other things are. For starters, it is best to wait until after the last frost before planting it, so it can adapt and establish itself in the spring instead of during extremely high or low temperatures.

However, while that is an important problem, it is easily avoided, so the bigger threat for Stonecrops is competing for plants or weeds. The reason for that is because of how small their roots are—roots from neighboring plants (especially weeds) can harm the plant by means of confining or uprooting the Sedum. Using mulch with pebbles or bark inside of it in areas where Sedum plants are planted will help prevent those issues from occurring, and that will keep the weeds away as well.

Sedum plants are primarily grown by starting with a bare root (you can start the growing process spring through summer with this method) or a Sedum plant that had previously been potted. If you want to cultivate Sedum plants, put a tiny part of another Sedum plant’s stem (roughly three to six inches) in the dirt or place a leaf from another Sedum plant on the dirt.

Whichever of the two options you choose, make sure to water occasionally. By doing those couple of simple steps, a new Sedum plant will be born and grow to its full size in a matter of a few weeks! However, if it is a Creeping Sedum, the rule goes as thus: “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap!”

Also, keep in mind that they should have anywhere between six inches to twenty-four inches between where each Sedum is planted. Understandably, Upright Sedums can be planted closer to one another than Low Growing Sedums can.

How to repot container-grown Sedum plants?

The first thing to keep in mind with repotting really any plant is choosing the best time to do so. With Sedum plants, the spring has the prime timeframe for repotting Sedum plants since it is more of a happier medium, particularly for regions that face extremely hot or cold temperatures throughout the year.

It can also be helpful to place fast-draining succulent or cactus mix on top of the soil. The Sedum may need to be moved into a bigger pot as well. Be careful and gentle when removing the Sedum from where it is currently planted, and when finished, place the plant in a spot that has lots of direct sunlight.

Mary Jane Duford
Mary Jane Duford

Mary Jane Duford is a gardening expert and founder of Home for the Harvest. She's also a professional engineer, certified permaculture garden designer, and master gardener in training. Mary Jane has been featured by publications such as Real Simple, Mother Earth News, Homes & Gardens, Heirloom Gardener, and Family Handyman.