Stonecrop also called sedum or orpine, genus Sedum of about 600 species of succulent plants in the family Crassulaceae, native to the temperate zone and to mountains in the tropics. Some species are grown in greenhouses for their unusual foliage and sometimes showy flowers. Low-growing species are popular in rock gardens and rock walls and as edging in garden borders. In general, the genus is divided into two categories: low-growing sedum and upright sedum. The low-growing sedum stays short and spreads whereas the upright sedum forms vertical clumps and looks great along borders.
Members of the genus are perennial, biennial, or annual herbaceous plants and are characterized by their succulent leaves and stems. Some species have waxy leaves, while others are pubescent (covered in leaf hairs). The roots are commonly fibrous and not well developed. The flowers are borne in clusters and can be white, yellow, pink, purple, or reddish in colour. They typically have five petals. Like other plants in the family Crassulaceae, stonecrops use a specialized system of photosynthesis known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM).
Table of Contents
0.5 - 3 feet
12 - 24 inches
5.5 - 7.0
Varieties of Sedum
There are 3 varieties of sedum plants:
Tall border varieties (Hylotelephium or Sedum telephium)
Dense, domed flowers and succulent leaves on 1- to 2-foot stems.
Provide late-summer color with both flowers and foliage.
New varieties have leaves in shades of copper, dusky mauve, and dark purple.
Dried flowerheads on upright sedums add interest in fall and winter.
In colder climates, they may die back to a rosette at ground level in winter.
A layer of winter mulch recommended in zones 4 and 5.
Creeping ground covers (Sedum)
Produce clusters of brilliant, star-shaped flowers in summer.
Often grown for their colorful foliage that comes in shades of blue, plum, red, purple, silver, gray-green, orange, coral, yellow, gold, green, or variegated.
Well suited for ground cover, rock walls, roof gardens, living walls, tucked into strawberry pots, or draping over the edges of containers or hanging baskets.
Trailing varieties (Sedum morganianum)
Such as the popular houseplant donkey’s tail, also called burro’s or lamb’s tail.
List of varieties of sedum:
Also known as ‘Golden Japanese Stonecrop,’ it’s a spreading groundcover having tiny, round-shaped golden foliage. During spring, it grows yellow-green, star-like flowers.
Giant Jelly Bean
This beautiful cultivar has fat, round, glossy green leaves that turn exquisite cherry-red in full sun. The plant also grows star-shaped white flowers.
‘Alice Evans’ offers a rosette of thick, green, fleshy pointed leaves, which look like individual flowers. The plant also grows beautiful star-shaped blooms in white color.
It is a perennial succulent with hanging stems and green hairy leaves that are arranged in a tight rosette. During winter, it grows small white flowers.
Native to Mexico, this sedum offers erect, pendant-like stems with fleshy blue-green lance-shaped leaves. It closely resembles relative Sedum burrito with long, pointed leaves.
‘Firestorm’ is an attractive low-growing sedum with trailing stems and yellow-green foliage. The leaves form red edges when exposed to cool temperatures or bright light.
You can distinguish this plant easily from the other specimens on this list by its broad, flat leaves. The plant grows tall and features purple flowers on top.
It forms mats of a basal rosette from rhizomes with leaves having a waxy and powdery texture. The flowers have yellow petals and are small in shape.
Cape Blanco Stonecrop
This perennial succulent produces a beautiful mat of thick, powdery grey-green, and purple-tinted leaves. In late summer, the plant grows yellow flowers.
This beautiful sedum forms a rosette of pale green foliage at the ends of winding stems. Rounded leaves are slightly pointed in shape and take a red-pink hue in intense sunlight.
Sedum acre displays an eye-catching shade of bright green, finely textured leaves highlighted by yellow blooms during summer.
This beautiful succulent shrub produces bright green leaves and stems that turn pink in cool climates. If the temperature gets too cold, they take a bright maroon hue.
This low growing succulent has eye-catchy foliage in a brilliant shade of golden-yellow and green, turning into copper-orange in winter. It is one of the best types of sedums to grow!
Sea Urchin Sedum
‘Sea Urchin’ is a distinct, slow-growing sedum that produces evergreen foliage. The needle-shaped silver-green leaves are up to 1 inch long and have white margins.
Chocolate Ball Stonecrop
‘Chocolate Ball’ is a mat-forming, low-growing, evergreen, perennial succulent with dense leafy stems. The needled deep green foliage turns dark red-brown in cold climates.
This perennial succulent sub-shrub has many stems with lax rosettes. The green-hued leaves turn to purple-red or brown with time. It grows small star-shaped yellow flowers.
This low-growing perennial succulent has blue-green foliage. As the weather becomes warmer, the leaves turn blue-grey in color.
This mound-forming, evergreen perennial has several branching stems and opposite, overlapping, round blue-green leaves. It is one of the best types of sedums to grow!
A low growing specimen, it has bright green foliage with yellow flowers. Grows in a compact form and does well in bright light.
A very compact plant, it grows in dense clusters that look like tiny red balls. Great to grow in a garden or pots, both.
With its dense, needle-like foliage, the plant looks spectacular with its light and deep green leaves that have a bright red tip. It also grows yellow star-shaped flowers.
A clump-forming sedum variety, 'Vera Jameson' mixes well in almost any garden plan, thanks to its purple foliage and pink flowers that add tons of color and texture to the garden all season.
This sedum will charm you with its brilliant pink flowers on deep red fleshy rosettes.
This branchless sedum variety has upright foliage with bright green leaves having toothed margins. It also grows bright yellow flowers.
This stubby succulent has plump and small leaves in grey-green color. When exposed to bright light and dry conditions, the foliage takes a deep tint of red.
This variety has deeper red to light green pointy leaves, depending on the sunlight exposure. Grows in a dense form.
The plant has flat-looking leaves in clusters with pointy ends, which makes them look like flowers. This variety also does well in shade.
A classic garden perennial, 'Autumn Joy' sedum will add color to your yard from spring to fall. Its large clusters of tiny, starry flowers emerge pink in late summer, drawing all kinds of pollinators. The blooms gradually change to deep rose-red and finally turn coppery-rust in autumn. The plant's gray-green succulent leaves look lush all summer. It was recently moved under a different botanical plant name. However, many places still sell it under the name of Sedum.
Sedum enjoy full sun, but will tolerate some shade. If growing sedum in an area that gets long, cold winters, plant in full sun to improve overwintering capability.
Sedum grows well in poor or sandy soil, but it’s important to have well-drained soil to avoid fungal diseases. It is very susceptible to root rot if grown in soil that holds too much moisture. Overly-rich soil can also encourage leggy growth, which can result in upright sedum varieties becoming top heavy when they bloom.
When to Plant Sedum
Sedum is usually bought in plugs or pots and transplanted into the garden. The best time to plant sedum is in the spring—after the threat of frost but before the heat of summer kicks in.
Plant sedum seeds in early spring in well-drained, average to rich soil.
How to Plant Sedum
Space plants between 6 inches and 2 feet apart, depending on the variety. Low-growing sedums will readily spread to fill any gaps, while upright sedums tend to stay more compact.
Planting full plants or divisions: Dig a hole deep enough so that the top of the root ball is level with the surface of the soil, then place the plant in the hole and fill in around it. Be careful not to bury the stems of upright sedum especially, as this can lead to rot.
Planting cuttings: Like other succulents, sedum can be readily propagated via cuttings. Simply place the cut end into soil and the cutting should have no trouble rooting under proper lighting and watering conditions.
How to Get Sedum to Bloom
Failure to bloom is mostly due to lack of sunlight although sedum can grow in partial sun. Too much water can also lead to reduced bloom.
Because they look good all throughout the growing season, thanks to their interesting foliage and then their flowers, sedums are suitable for mass plantings, as edging and ground cover, and for growing in containers. Sedums also make long-lasting cut flowers and are great for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.
These plants are extremely low-maintenance. Simply situate them in a spot that has good soil drainage and adequate sunlight, and they'll practically take care of themselves. They don't need deadheading (removing spent blooms), and they often look good even into winter. However, extreme heat and a lack of sunlight both can cause sedum plants to get a bit leggy. Cutting back the plants after they are done flowering can help to maintain their shape and encourage bushier, sturdier growth.
Most sedum plants grow best in full sun, meaning at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Some varieties can tolerate partial shade, though they often won’t be as sturdy or bloom as profusely as they would in full sun. However, in very hot, dry conditions, many sedum varieties do appreciate a bit of afternoon shade.
In general, sedum prefers a loose loamy, sandy, or gravelly soil with sharp drainage. When the soil retains too much water, as is often the case with a heavy wet clay soil, this can easily lead to root rot for sedum.
Water new sedum plants roughly once a week to prevent the soil from drying out. Once established, sedum plants typically won’t need any supplemental watering unless you have a long stretch without rainfall and/or very hot temperatures. Thanks to their thick succulent leaves, sedum plants have good drought tolerance.
Temperature and Humidity
Growing zones vary by sedum species. But in general, these plants can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, though very high temperatures (above 90 degrees Fahrenheit) can lead to scorched leaves. Sedum plants also usually tolerate humidity well. However, excellent soil drainage is especially important in areas with high humidity to prevent the plants from sitting in too much moisture.
Sedum typically needs no supplemental fertilization and can tolerate nutrient-poor soil. In fact, if the soil is too rich, this can cause weak, leggy growth. If you have very poor soil, mixing some compost into it will generally be enough to give your sedum a boost.
Pruning and Propagating Sedum
Other than removing any broken or diseases stems, sedum does not require much pruning. Sedums grown in cooler climates that die back in the winter benefit from removing all the dead plant parts in the early spring to make room for new growth.
Provided its propagation is not prohibited because the variety is protected by a trademark or a plant patent, you can propagate sedum from stem cuttings, which is easy and has a good chance of success:
With clean, sharp pruners or a knife, cut a 4- to 6-inch piece from a healthy stem. Remove the bottom leaves.
Insert the cutting in a 4-inch pot filled with soilless potting mix. Water it well and keep it evenly moist.
After a few weeks, you should see new growth, which indicates that the plant is rooting. You can also gently tug on the plant. If you feel resistance, it tells you that roots have formed.
You also can divide sedum plants to make more plants. The best time to do this is in the spring when new growth starts:
If the clump is large, water is well before dividing it, which makes it easier to lift it out of the ground with all its roots.
Remove the entire clump with a garden spade and separate it into individual sections with a trowel, or with pruners.
Replant the sections in a new location at the same depth as the original plant. Water thoroughly and keep the soil moist at all times until you see new growth.
Potting and Repotting
With its shallow roots, sedum is a good choice to be grown in containers, as long as they provide excellent drainage and you are using well-draining potting mix or succulent potting mix. The container size depends on the height and spread of the variety. Smaller sedum types can also be combined with other plants in larger planters. Taller sedum varieties should be grown in terra cotta pots, or other material that has some weight, so they don't topple over easily.
Repotting depends on the growth rate of the variety. A sure sign that it's time to repot the sedum is when the plant becomes root-bound, or the roots grow out of the drainage holes of the container.
Depending on the variety, sedum is a very hardy plant and does not need protection even in climates with harsh winters. The only exception is when the plant is grown in pots, as the roots are only surrounded by a thin layer of soil, unlike in a garden bed. Wrap the containers in burlap and bubble wrap, or place them in an insulating silo over the winter.
Pests and Plant Diseases
Like most other succulents, sedums are the natural prey of aphids. Aphids are tiny insects that measure 1/32 to 1/8 of an inch in length. These pests suck the water out of sedum leaves, and leave behind trails of a clear, sticky substance called, "honey dew." Insecticidal soap gets rid of aphids.
Stem Rot Sedum Fungus
Stem rot disease is caused by the fungal pathogen Sclerotium rolfsii and is one of the most common diseases that affect sedums. Stem rot causes the sedum’s lower leaves to turn yellow and white, cotton-like growths of mycelium to appear around or near the crown on the soil. Eventually, the whole plant will wilt and die.
Treating stem rot can be difficult and in severe cases may involve replacing all of the soil. Control stem rot in the sedums by cutting away and destroying all the diseased or symptomatic plant parts.
Basal or Root Rot
Basal rot is caused by the fungal pathogen Rhizoctonia solani. This fungus rots and collapses the basal stems and turns them black or brownish. Root rots are caused by Fusarium fungal pathogens and produce similar symptoms that are more centralized in the sedum’s roots. Most fungicides are not effective in treating either basal or root rot. Remove and destroy sedums infected with these types of rot.
Powdery Mildew on Sedum
Powdery mildew (Erysiphe spp.) causes white powdery spores to cover the sedum’s leaves. The University of Massachusetts-Amherst notes that powdery mildew may be confused with leaf spot disease at first glance. However, a closer look reveals white fungal threads that are characteristic of powdery mildew.
This fungal disease is most prevalent during humid conditions when there is little rainfall. Treat powdery mildew by applying an appropriate fungicide, such as potassium bicarbonate, triadimefon or thiophanate-methyl, to your sedums according to the instructions on the label.
Sedum Leaf Blotch and Spots
Several different leaf spot diseases can infect sedums, including those caused by fungal pathogens in the Cercospora, Colletotrichum and Septoria genera. Lesions or brown spots on sedum leaves that lead to decomposing or necrotic patches occur most often during wet conditions. How to treat sedum leaf spot is best achieved by applying a preventive fungicide such as thiophanate-methyl.
Sedum Botrytis Blight/Gray Mold
Gray mold, also known as Botrytis blight (Botrytis cinerea), is a fungal disease that causes a fuzzy gray mold to grow on the sedum’s damaged or old flowers and leaves. The gray mold spreads to the healthy plant parts as the disease progresses. Gray mold disease is most prevalent during cool, wet environmental conditions and when old flowers or damaged plant parts remain on the sedum, providing an entry point for the fungal pathogens.
Remove all the dead or dying flowers from the sedum to prevent gray mold. If your sedums are already infected with gray mold, apply an approved fungicide like thiophanate-methyl.
Sedum Rust Disease
Rust diseases are caused by several fungal pathogens belonging to the Puccinia genus. Sedums with rust diseases have powdery and rust-colored spore growths on their leaves and stems with yellowed surrounding plant tissues. Control rust diseases by applying an appropriate fungicide to your sedums, such as mancozeb or sulfur.
Benefits of Sedum
Low maintenance requirement:
As Sedum is able to survive by adjusting its metabolism saving on water, this means that it also saves a lot on the food side. In general adding nutrients once per year is sufficient, but adding it 2 times, the Sedum will flourish.
At night sedum absorbs carbon dioxide and turns it into malic acid, which is used during the day for photosynthesis. The pores in the leaves only open at night, to minimize the loss of moisture during the hot, dry day.
High disease tolerant:
There is also little or no incidence of disease or insect infestation in Sedum.
Many Sedum species are found in the northern hemisphere and particularly in the Mediterranean, but also in North Africa and South America, for instance, where Sedum is often found in dry and/or cold areas where water can be scarce. Sedum can store water in its leaves and is able to endure varying weather conditions (from -25°C and up to 40°C).
Low growing media requirement:
Sedum has very shallow roots, which is necessary when the thickness of the growing media is limited, which is always the case on extensive green roofs. Suitability of low-growing Sedum species for use in extensive green roofs has been confirmed because of their superior survival in substrate layers as thin as 2 to 3 cm.
Low water requirement:
Sedum is drought resistant and requires relatively little nourishment and maintenance as compared to other types of plants. While other species die from drought, Sedum is able to survive by adjusting its metabolism and saving on water supply. Sedum can recover very quickly as soon as it receives some moisture.
Several researches confirm high drought tolerance. Sedum Album (white stonecrop) could survive more than 100 day without water.
Other researches have confirmed that Sedum Album is a drought-hardy species along with Sedum Acre (biting stonecrop), Sedum Kamtschaticum Ellacombianum, Sedum Pulchellum Michaux (bird’s claw sedum), Sedum Reflexum (crooked stonecrop), Sedum Spurium Coccineum (creeping sedum), and Sedum Spurium Summer Glory, all of which survived 88 days without water.
Not only do many Sedum species tolerate drought conditions, they also have strong persistent qualities. In Germany, different types of green roof constructions were tested and found that Sedum Album was a dominant persistence species for all types of construction tested, followed closely by Sedum Sexangulare (tasteless stonecrop). Also, 100% survival of several Sedum species during the course of 3 years when grown on roof platforms was reported.
Many sedums are cultivated as ornamental garden plants, due to their interesting and attractive appearance and hardiness. The various species differ in their requirements; some are cold-hardy but do not tolerate heat, some require heat but do not tolerate cold.
The leaves of most stonecrops are edible, excepting Sedum rubrotinctum, although toxicity has also been reported in some other species. The juice from the stems and leaves may irritate skin if handled excessively.
Sedum reflexum, known as "prickmadam", "stone orpine", or "crooked yellow stonecrop", is occasionally used as a salad leaf or herb in Europe, including the United Kingdom. It has a slightly astringent sour taste.
Sedum divergens, known as "spreading stonecrop", was eaten by First Nations people in northwest British Columbia. The plant is used as a salad herb by the Haida and the Nisga'a people. It is common in the Nass Valley of British Columbia.
Biting stonecrop (Sedum acre) contains high quantities of piperidine alkaloids (namely (+)-sedridine, (−)-sedamine, sedinone and isopelletierine), which give it a sharp, peppery, acrid taste and make it somewhat toxic.
Sedum can be used to provide a roof covering in green roofs, where they are preferred to grasses. Examples include Ford's Dearborn, Michigan Truck Plant, which has a living roof with 454,000 square feet (42,200 m2) of sedum. The Rolls-Royce Motor Cars plant in Goodwood, England, has a 242,000 square feet (22,500 m2) roof complex covered in Sedum, the largest in the United Kingdom. Nintendo of America's roof is covered in some 75,000 square feet (7,000 m2) of Sedum. The Javits Center in New York City is covered with 292,000 square feet (27,100 m2) of Sedum.
Berlin’s Prenzlauer Allee, Le Mans, and Warsaw, for example, plant sedum in between rails of some tramways as a low maintenance alternative to grass. This provides beautification, a permeable surface for water management, and noise reduction.