Fall Color - Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Sedum, a perennial offering wonderful color and texture in the garden, is often overlooked amongst the mums, asters and goldenrod of fall. A favorite sedum is the cultivar Autumn Joy which provides texture during spring and summer with its fleshy leaves and then bursts into bloom in the late summer or early autumn. Initially the blooms are pink, but as they age, they turn a deep red or rust color, a perfect fall color.
At Rutgers Gardens in NJ, sedum is grown on water conservation terraces where the only moisture they receive is from rainfall.
Sedums are a large family of perennials that are hardy from zone 3 through zone 11. Low growing varieties make excellent groundcovers, work well in rock gardens and are often used on green roofs. Taller varieties are staples in cottage gardens. They are also used in butterfly gardens because sedums are the nectar plants for several species of butterflies.
Sedums grow best in full sun although the shorter varieties can tolerate some shade. They should be planted in well-drained soil and not over-watered. Their fleshy leaves give us the clue that they are a drought tolerant plant. Be careful not to over-fertilize. They prefer less rich soils. Too much fertilizer will result in tall, leggy plants that will flop over. Depending on the variety, sedums bloom in the summer or fall in pinks, reds, yellows and whites. The flowers can be dried and used in floral arrangements.
Sedums are easily grown from seeds. You can direst sow your seeds in the early spring in your sunny garden, thinning your seedlings to a spacing of 6 to 12 inches between plants. Propagation is more usually by division. Sedum can divided in the spring or the fall. Simply dig up your plants and gently pull the crowns apart, discarding any dead or diseased parts. Replant them maintaining the usual 6 to 12 inch spacing between plants. Sedum is also easy to grow from cuttings.
The cultivar Autumn Joy is just that; a joy in your fall garden. After dying to the ground in the fall, fresh green shoots make their appearance in the spring, eventually growing to a height of 3 feet. It's best to pinch the growing tips off, like you do to your chrysanthemums, to encourage bushiness which will result in stronger plants that are better able to support the tall flower stalks. The leaves are fleshy, reminiscent of succulents. Their serrated edges lend their own interest to your garden during the spring and summer.
In late summer, your Autumn Joy will begin to send up stems that will eventually develop green buds that have been described as looking like broccoli. Those buds will open into star shaped pink flowers, that will darken with age to a deep red or rust color. Left alone, the flowers will dry on the plants and can be left there to lend winter interest to your garden.
© 2014 Caren White
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