Imagine a plant that needs no irrigation beyond its establishing year. Instead of the gardener, nature is its primary caregiver. That right! Simply plant it and forget it, even if the soil is clay. Welcome to the world of the no-care perennials of the Sedum family. Swollen, succulent foliage, resembling jade sculptures in both color and texture, enable these plants to withstand extended periods of drought and neglect. A shallow root system and water conserving habit also make this plant an ideal candidate for use in rooftop gardens.
Sedum will not interfere with any gardening scheme as it blossoms when most other perennials have completed their flowering cycle. Throughout the season, it supplies a neat, semi-gloss texture to garden compositions; the forms of the upright varieties resembls serene broccoli-shaped flower bouquets that seem to ground the flamboyance of other plants around them.
Allowed to remain intact for the winter, its dead heads provide visual interest to gardeners and food for birds. As a design element in the garden, this plant is one of my favorites. Strategically planted, it may transform any messy flowerbed into an attractive, interesting garden composition.
However shade, wet soil, and a placement unaligned with the sun, will prevent this plant from performing impressively. Some believe that it will grow successfully in shade. That is stretching the point. While it may grow in reduced sunlight, it does not thrive there with the same robustness that it displays in a sun-filled location. In addition, wet soil will cause its root ball to decay. A sunny, well draining placement is best. Fastidious gardeners should bear in mind that some varieties of this, otherwise upright, disciplined plant might sprawl horizontally if they are not aligned with the sun’s path.
I found a Sedum plant of unknown pedigree in the first garden I tended. A neighbor, who previously had owned our property, placed it there. When I mentioned how much I admired this dignified plant, and asked where I might find another, he dug up mine, sliced the root ball in half, and handed me two plants. When a rootless stalk of one of the newly propagated Sedum fell away, he inserted it into the soil, like the peg of a tent tether, promising that it would grow into a third plant that same season. It did!
The Sedum propagating trick took place almost fifty years ago. Since then, the lone plant that I found in my flowerbed has generated hundreds of gift plants for anyone who admired it.
Recently, a client installed a new front walkway and asked for suggestions how to landscape around it. The first, and most effective, treatment did not sit well with her. Originally, I recommended bordering both sides of the walkway with small round boxwood shrubs, to delineate the concrete from the grass. When the client found the round, neat shapes of the Buxus too severe, we agreed upon a treatment of alternating mid-height Sedum with low growing Hosta. The images above describe the final plan.
At the time, I could not propagate sufficient Sedum in my garden to complete the project, nor could I locate more of the same. The name of the strain growing there had always been a mystery. Therefore, I had no chopice but to select stock from among the newer varieties currently offered by the trade. I chose Carl, [a.k.a. Karl] because it was the tallest Sedum available that season.
However, I had not expected Carl’s florets to bloom in a color so impressive. The almost-iridescent, dark, fuchsia-pink [a.k.a. magenta-pink] was a welcome change from the duskier shade, usually associated with Sedum. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the color impact that Carl created and the client was delighted with her newly trimmed walkway.