By Jan Cashman

Want a hardy, drought tolerant perennial that survives with little water or care and adds interesting textures and colors to your garden all seasons of the year?  Plant sedum, common name ‘stonecrop’.    There are 400+ species of sedum; some are evergreen, some have interesting leaf colors.   Sedum is a succulent, which means its thick leaves store water.  The leaves are edible.

Sedum make excellent rock garden plants, even growing well when tucked into dry stone walls.  Or plant them in a container of mixed flowers.    A creative use of sedum is in a patchwork planting of low-growing varieties with different leaf colors and textures, either in a container or small garden.  Because of their drought tolerance and ease of growth, sedum is one of the few plants that work well for green roofs.


Sedum grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.  It tolerates drought and seems especially adapted to our hot, dry summers.  But, it also grows in partial shade and wetter areas.  It is a commonly planted perennial in the more humid climates of the Midwest, and does well there, too.

Sedum needs little fertilizer and has few pests and diseases which affect it, however, slugs have been known be a problem.  Deer are one of its biggest pests.


Sedums are either creeping, low-growing  ground covers, or upright plants, that grow to 18 to 24”.  Creeping sedums come in a wide range of foliage colors and textures:

Angelina is low-growing sedum whose bright, needle-like golden foliage stays evergreen under the snow in the winter.  Its yellow flowers stand up above the plant.   In the fall, the leaves turn orange.  Angelina is easy to grow and spreads.  I have this ground cover sedum planted in a perennial bed mixed with other yellow-leafed perennials.

Dragon’s Blood sedum is an old stand-by ground cover with dark maroon foliage and deep burgundy blooms.

Tricolor is just as the name says, its leaves have three colors–green with a red and cream-colored border.  It has pink flowers.  The plant is evergreen where it has snow cover or protection.

Pachyclados is another evergreen which looks like tiny hens and chicks plants.  It has mounds of blue-green, toothed leaves and pale yellow flowers.

There are many wonderful, easy to grow, upright sedums:

Autumn Joy is one of the most popular upright sedums because it provides interest in the perennial garden during every season—its light green leaves come up like little cabbage plants in the spring, then grow to look like a big broccoli head in the summer.  The blooms turn from pale rose to brick red in the fall.  Leave them standing in the winter and enjoy their interesting texture.

Postman’s Pride is taller and quite upright, growing to at least 24” with small, glossy burgundy leaves and pink flower heads.

Elsie’s Gold is a new upright variety with variegated leaves and large clusters of deep pink blossoms on tall stems.

There are other noteworthy fall-blooming perennials.  Asters, rudbeckia (brown-eyed Susans), and Russian sage, to name a few.  And, of course, mums are still a popular fall flower.  But, sedums can’t be beat for their adaptability, texture, and four season interest.