Plants & Growing

Sedum Growing & UK Care Guide

purple ornamental sedum in the garden
Written by Chris Lee

Sedum – or stonecrop – is a popular succulent plant. They’re resistant to heat, drought, and other harsh conditions, making them great plants for beginners.

One of the reasons this plant is so popular is the enormous versatility in appearance. Some varieties sport jelly-bean like buds, while others have hugely flamboyant yellow flowers which seem to paint sunshine right across your garden. Whatever your colour preference, and wherever you’re planning to put a Sedum, we’re sure you’ll be able to find the perfect plant.

flowering sedum plants in a stone garden
Sedum. See them?

We’ve written this growing guide to help you get ready to plant a Sedum in your garden. After reading, you’ll know the types of sedum available, and how to plant and take care of them.

What is Sedum?

Although the sedum genus also includes annual and biennial plants, the majority of popular varieties are perennial. 

Before choosing your Sedum variety, bear in mind the wide range of potential aesthetics. The first picture in this article showed a particularly flowery variety, but it’s not unusual for a Sedum to look more like the image below:

Variety of multicoloured sedum in rock garden
A succulent display

Researching the varieties available, and understanding what each will look like throughout its lifetime, is a key part of choosing the right Stonecrop for your garden. This is especially true if you’re planning to create a succulent display or rock garden, something along the lines of the image above.

Whatever variety you choose, you can expect carpets of colour from yellows and oranges, to reds and pinks, and even turquoises, blues and greys.

What types of Sedum plant are there?

This plant boasts around 500 varieties, although the number will change depending on who you ask. Either way, it’s a potentially daunting number to sift through when deciding which to plant in your garden. 

If you’re looking to be pointed in the right direction, we’ve pulled together a few recommendations of Sedum varieties to grow in the UK. Each plant in the list below has received the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, meaning they are especially suited to British garden conditions.

To make things slightly more confusing, some plants that were formerly categorised as Sedums have been recategorised as Hylotelephium. Many of these are still commonly referred to as stonecrops, so we’ve included a couple.

Sedum Kamtschaticum ‘Orange Stonecrop’

Vibrant clusters of pink and orangey-yellow buds that give way to bold yellow flowers make it easy to see why this variety is popular. In full bloom, Orange Stonecrop really is a sight to behold.

This plant will do well in versatile conditions (more on these later). You can expect a height of up to 10cm, and a spread of around half a metre. 

Sedum Spathulifolium ‘Spoon-leaved Stonecrop Cape Blanco’

This variety sees star-shaped yellow flowers burst forth above intriguing grey-green leaves, creating an exciting colour combination for your garden. The variety is mat-forming, meaning it spreads low and wide. Expect similar proportions to the Orange Stonecrop.

Sedum Spurium ‘Stonecrop Schorbuser Blut’

This variety is also sometimes called ‘Dragon’s Blood’, which is quite hardcore. The name refers to the rich, dark reds that run through its pink leaves. If you want a Sedum variety that really makes a statement, Spurium could be for you.

Again, expect a similarly sized plant to the Orange Stonecrop: a mat of about 0.1 x 0.5 metres.

Sedum Spathulifolium ‘Purple Spoon-leaved Stonecrop’

It doesn’t take much guessing to imagine what the purple spoon-leaved stonecrop looks like. Its leaves are spoon-shaped, and their colouration centres around purple, with competing hints of red, pink, grey, and white in the mix. 

stonecrop plants in purple, white and red
Purple, mixed with a lot of other lovely colours

It’s a fantastic aesthetic, and one we recommend to any gardener. Size-wise the Spathulifolium will come in around – you guessed it – 0.1 x 0.5 metres.

Hylotelephium / Stonecrop ‘Mr Goodbud’

The name doesn’t refer to someone who sells another more illegal type of plant, but rather to a clump-forming stonecrop with an eye-catching red colouration. As the red flowers forth from the pale-green buds, Mr Goodbud will treat your garden to a captivating colour display.

You can expect this variety to get slightly higher than the ones we’ve seen so far: About 0.5 metres. 

Hylotelephium / Stonecrop ‘Carl’

You’ll notice a trend with Hylotelephium names – many sound distinctly human. Carl contributes dazzling pink blooms to any garden he graces and will grow to a similar size as Mr Goodbud. In fact, with their respective colour palettes, the two will make particularly good company.

Hylotelephium / Stonecrop ‘Bertram Anderson’ 

Bertram Anderson, another humanly-named Stonecrop, really is special. The wine-red flowers that spill from its leaves in autumn are unlike many others you’ll see. If you’re looking for a beautiful red plant for your garden, we definitely recommend making Bertram’s acquaintance.

Size-wise, expect a height and width of about half a metre.

Hylotelephium / Stonecrop ‘Herbstfreude’

Herbstfreude translates from German as ‘autumn joy,’ and you’ll rarely see a plant more aptly named. The maroon and puce flowers sing an effortlessly autumnal tune and will look great alongside Hydrangeas or other similarly shaped plants.

Sedum 'Herbstfreude' in a country cottage garden
A quintessentially autumnal colour palette.

Introducing a Sedum plant into your garden

As you’ve seen in the previous section, Sedum’s don’t grow as large as some other plants. The maximum height for the varieties we looked at is about half a metre, although many will be smaller. People enjoy Stonecrops for their mat-forming tendencies – giving you low, wide spreads of colour and visual interest.

If after reading this far you’ve decided to introduce a Sedum to your garden, here’s what you need to know.

How hardy are Sedums?

Each of the varieties above has a hardiness rating of H5 or higher, meaning they can survive down to -10 degrees celsius – or pretty much everything a British winter can throw at them. Several varieties are rated H6 or H7, meaning they’ll still manage down to below -20. 

What soil does Sedum need?

Stonecrops aren’t fussy about which type of soil they’re planted in. All the varieties above will do just fine in sand or loam, with others being happy in chalk or clay as well.

They’re not fussy about pH either, with most varieties accepting alkaline or neutral soil. A couple can manage acidic, too – best to check the specific needs of the variety you choose.

The most important thing when planting a Sedum is the moisture level. Your soil should be well-drained. This isn’t a plant that will grow well in waterlogged or even overly moist soils.

Where to plant your Sedum 

Most Stonecrop varieties require full sunlight to thrive, although a few can make do in partial shade. All of those above will grow well while facing south, but beyond that, there’s no hard-and-fast rule for which direction your Stonecrop should face.

Some in our list are quite versatile, being able to cope with three or even four directions. Others are fussier, and will only grow their best in a south-facing aspect.

Our advice is to look at specific information for the variety of Stonecrop you’re planning to plant.

When to plant your Sedum

The best time to plant a Stonecrop is spring, after the risk of frost has passed and before summer starts to heat up. Make sure to plant out in the correct soil conditions, as newly-planted Stonecrops will be most liable to damage.

Planting out your Sedum

When planting from seed, leave at least 15cm of space between each plant. Also make sure to read up on your variety, because certain ones need more space – sometimes up to 60cm.

If you’re growing from a division taken from another Sedum plant, ensure the whole root ball is covered by soil. The hole should be deep enough that the entire root ball is buried just below the surface.

Cuttings are even more straightforward: Just place the cutting in the hole and cover it over. If soil conditions are correct (see a previous section), then your plant should take root easily.

Ongoing care for your Sedum

Newly planted Stonecrop plants need a bit of TLC to become properly established. Keep a careful eye on the soil moisture levels, making equally sure that they don’t stay too wet or get too dry. 

Once your plant is established, you don’t need to be quite so vigilant about moisture levels. Sedums are succulents, after all: A type of plant noted for its ability to weather drought and retain water for dry spells.

Sedums will appreciate a layer of compost being added to the soil once a year. Avoid anything too high in nitrogen, as this can cause wilting.

How to prune your Sedum

Stonecrops can be safely pruned back to keep them from getting unruly. 

If you’re planning to prune, deadhead after flowering. There’s no need to do this, however, and the choice is purely aesthetic. Some gardeners prefer to leave the fading flowers to add a bit of extra colour.

Protecting your Sedum from pests and diseases 

Stonecrops are relatively well-behaved when it comes to pests. Take the usual garden precautions, and you should be able to avoid spending your whole life battling pests and infestations.

As we’ve said throughout this Sedum growing guide: Your best bet is to look at specifics for the type(s) you’ll be planting in your garden. Some are renowned for being pest-free, while others have slightly higher tendencies of attracting certain critters. Knowing which precautions you should take can help you to avoid problems before they arise.

Here’s what to look out for:

Glasshouse whitefly

This is a sap-feeding insect that likes to suck the life-giving nectar out of all sorts of plants. Sadly, certain varieties of Stonecrop are on their preferred menu.

Sometimes you’ll see the insects themselves – small, with white wings. Other times you may notice their calling card – sticky residue on your plants.

Once whiteflies establish themselves, they can be hard to remove. Deliberately introducing small wasps is one way to control this pest (you can order them online). Alternatively, certain organic sprays can bring them under control.

The best way to avoid whiteflies is to keep on top of weeding, and checking bought plants for any signs of infestation before planting them out.

Aphids 

These fellas also like to suck sap, and are also attracted to certain varieties of Stonecrop. As with whiteflies, you’ll usually be able to see aphids with the naked eye. They’re small and green, and hang around on the leaves of plants they’re feasting on.

If your Stonecrop looks weak or generally unhealthy and you can’t see any aphids, take a closer look. Sometimes they lurk out of sight.

Small amounts of aphids can be tolerated, but if they start to get out of control, certain pesticides can be used to remove them. The health of your plant is the benchmark of whether an infestation is getting out of control.

Glasshouse red spider mite

Yet another bug that will help itself to the sap from your Stonecrop’s leaves, the glasshouse red spider mite is worth keeping an eye out for. The symptoms will be similar to previous pests in this list: An unhealthy plant with stunted growth, with a possibly mottled appearance.

This mite thrives in warm conditions, so an outdoor plant will probably be safe in winter. If your Sedum is growing in a greenhouse, keep a lookout all year round.

Removing infected plants immediately is a good way to prevent further spread; otherwise, predatory mites and certain types of pesticide offer effective control.

Biting stonecrop with red velvet mites
Here’s what you ‘mite’ see

Slugs and snails

If you’re a gardener planting anything in your garden, slugs and snails will probably investigate it at some point. They are prolific garden pests around the world, and the UK is no exception.

There are a variety of ways to deal with these critters. Some are humane – surrounding your plants with netting to keep them away, for example. Others are less so: Creating beer traps to drown, or salt traps to burn.

It’s up to you which option you go for.

You’ll smile when you Sedum grow

It’s always good to end on a pun, so we hope you’ll give us that one. 

Thanks for reading our Sedum growing guide. Hopefully, now you feel prepared and empowered to get a Stonecrop plant established in your garden.

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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