Creeping sedums make dependable landscape plants

Kathy Henderson

January is a slower month for professional gardeners - horticulturists that work in the landscape - so it makes sense to have the Georgia Green Industry Associa-tion annual meeting and trade show. While I have plenty to do around the farm and in the greenhouse, I never miss the opportunity to go schmooze with old friends and see new products. Like all career fields ours has changed enormously over the past 20 years. Up until then it was a fairly simple endeavor where we spoke of plants and how they grew. Now it is all about computers, marketing, sales and oh yes, the myriad of new plants on the scene. Some of it has just passed me by and I am glad!

Sedum album in Winter in Kathy's Garden. Special photo

So, like a good longtime friend remembered with me - some of the old standbys are still the easiest to grow and are the most dependable, no matter what the weather delivers.

Sedums, those fascinating little plants that store their own water and seem to survive through the worst of drought, heat, freeze, and storms, are being used for all types of landscape conditions. They are being grown in mixed small pots and used for roof plants. I really want a shed with a roof filled with plants, but I had a sudden vision of my peafowl all perched on it filling their tummies with the new-found treat. Maybe I can find a place in my landscape where the chickens and peafowl will not see them. Oops, then the cats will have a soft mattress in the sun - you just cannot win when you are an animal and plant enthusiast.

Some of the Sedums you should be growing in your landscape in the direst of conditions are Sedum album ‘Jellybean’ , ‘Murale’ and ‘France’ . All of these have tiny elongated leaves, grow in a well-drained soil, outdoor containers, rock gardens, and even light shade. ‘Jellybean’ is yellow-green; ‘Murale’ is a little more upright with starry white flowers and longer leaves; ‘France’ is bright green. All are less than 4 inches tall and spread rapidly. Stem cuttings root quickly when transplanted into another part of the garden. I actually have ‘Jellybean’ spreading beneath a very large, very old, native red cedar.

For brighter color in your sunny areas, you might want to try Sedum kamschaticum (what a name!) that blooms bright yellow in midsummer, has larger leaves and reaches a height of 4-6 inches. The leaves turn red before dying in winter, but is quick to emerge in the spring. This great roof plant tolerates shade.

Sedum makinoi ‘Ogon’ and ‘Limelight’ have bright yellowish-green leaves as their names indicate. Like many yellow-leaved plants, these prefer a little shade in the afternoons of our hot summers. They will really brighten up a space that is otherwise hard to plant. For a really interesting combination, mingle blue foliage Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ and red-tinged leaves of Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood‘ with these yellow ones.

There are probably 50 or more Sedums that will do well in your garden. Choosing which ones may just depend upon what you can find in the marketplace and in a neighbor’s garden. A warning: when you start collecting Sedums and other hardy succulents, it can become an obsessive addiction. However, your garden will be beautiful and easy to maintain. If any become aggressive or invasive, pull them up and share with others.