Sedum Autumn Joy Gives Multi Seasonal Interest
Sedum Autumn Joy
Sedum Autumn Joy Gives Easy Care and Looks Attractive Through Stages
Are you looking for a low-maintenance, easy-care landscaping plant with multi-seasonal interest? That is a tall order! But, Sedum Autumn Joy 'Herbstfreude' is a perennial I trust to grow through the seasons without coaxing or much care from me. Besides easy care, this sedum (stonecrop) keeps an attractive appearance through many months and the dried flower tops give winter presence. In mid-summer through fall it puts on a show of beautiful transforming colored blooms, when there are fewer blooming plants.
It is a plant that goes through interesting stages. 'Autumn Joy' Sedum dies down to the ground every year with the fleshy leaves dropping after heavy frost, but in the late fall and winter it has the sturdy brown stalks and seedheads of an interesting dried flower bouquet. I leave it alone in the landscape for winter interest and when there is heavy frost the dried flower seed tops can glimmer with ice crystals in the sun and look beautiful. It seems appropriate to let it stay as is, along with the wintering over birds who forage around the plant for seeds.
In spring the plant reappears with green rosette growth peeking through the ground in an orderly roundish shape. This fresh thick succulent growth looks very temping to the deer, so follow along if it is a concern. I will tell you what I do about that as you read further.
By late spring to summer the plant grows taller with stems of thick toothed leaves of a soft green shade. Green flower heads develop. This sedum is herbaceous, meaning it doesn't have a permanent woody structure with branches.
In mid-summer the flower tops turn a pretty pink. Butterflies and pretty moths love them. They feed of the nectar and like having a landing spot on the lightly rounded flatheads. It is amazing how the plant starts with green flower heads that transform to pale pink, then a beautiful vivid hot pink. The blooms deepen in color over the weeks.
In the fall some may still be a darker pink with others turning burgandy to maroon as the flower heads develop into seed heads. Very striking. My photos with blooms were taken the second week of October. Eventually they all may have time to turn a uniform dark color before a final color change to copper or a rusty autumn color when a hard frost comes.
Lots more to follow: Tips on growing the perennial along with my photos.
One Of My Favorite Gardening Books - by Tracy DiSabato-Aust
The Flower Blooms Darken When They Turn To Seed Heads In Autumn. - Look How Pretty The Burgundy Looks With The Softer Green Contrast Of The Leaves.
The Pros and Cons: First, The Pros--- - The Reasons I like Sedum Autumn Joy
- Multi-seasonal Interest.
- Perennial, returning each year.
- No insect pests, (none I am aware of).
- Orderly, attractive plant.
- Division not needed for many years.
- Low maintenance. No deadheading.
- Super-easy, quick Spring pruning and clean up.
- Attracts butterflies and moths.
- Blooms late in Summer and Autumn.
- Drought tolerant in many climate zones.
- Easy for beginner gardeners.
- Easy to propagate.
- Will grow in many climate zones.
- Resistance against plant diseases (no diseases I am aware of).
- Birds can enjoy the seeds.
My Biggest Con About Autumn Joy Sedum
This plant is one of my outdoor landscaping favorites, so what's the biggest con about this plant. What is the only thing I dislike about growing this sedum? Well, it isn't the plant's fault. Okay, it's the pesky DEER that walk through our property.
The deer like to eat it and their pruning makes the plant thinner so not quite the rounded shape it would have been. They thin the blossoms and shorten some stems as this photo shows. The blossoms would be fuller in the other photos, as welI. I think it still has beauty and is a favored landscape plant for the mid-summer through October period.
Really that nuisance is the one thing that I do not like. It is not a plant defect, but rather the plant tasting too good to the deer. I'm still hoping to get past the deer problem because I intend to keep growing Sedum Autumn Joy.
They have Beautiful Flowers That Butterflies Love. - If It Is Planting Time Where You LIve Here Are Some Options
Easy Way To Progagate This Stonecrop.
Autumn Joy Sedum grows in zones 3-10. It does best in sunshine and soil that's not too rich, but well-drained. They are somewhat drought tolerant.
Once you have one Sedum Autumn Joy plant you can grow more with stem cuttings. I cut a short stalk with leaves from an Autumn Joy Sedum and planted the stem end in light potting soil in a rather small (gallon-size) pot. Remove any leaves that would be under the soil line. You can add some sand to it, also, or peat moss for drainage. I put it in a protected place away from the deer and weather in partial shade. I didn't cover it with a plastic bag. I watered it when watering my other outdoor potted plants. It grew over a year or two in that small pot.
Then, I transplanted it to a slightly larger pot and I gave it away. When I do it again I will use a few stalks about six inches tall with leaves and plant them in a pot until rooted and growing well for a thicker plant. Or, you can just stick the cut stems in the ground if you know where you want a new plant. It is very easy to start new plants this way with stem cuttings.
Winter Interest---Sparkling Frost on Dried Seed Heads. Photo Taken In January
Pruning--- How and When
I leave the dead flower heads which have changed to seedheads on the plant after the deep freeze in autumn. The leaves die and fall off. If you do not care for the look of the rusty colored stems and coppery flower heads you can prune them short above the base of the new rosettes.
However. . .
I like to leave the dried Autumn Joy Sedum as is, over the fall and winter with little or no pruning. It looks nice in a rustic, country sort of way. By February or March I get tired of the dried flower look and am ready to clean things up for spring. So, I cut the old stems down. Wait! Read the tip, following. . .
Tip on Delaying Pruning:
When I do prune after the winter, I leave some brown dried stalks. . . pruning down to maybe six inches tall. When the new growth comes out of the ground in late winter to spring, this tall stubble makes it hard for the deer to eat the base of the plant's fresh green growth. Eventually, you can pull the old woody-like stems out with no damage, as they loosen and detach; or if they tug, cut them with a hand pruner. But, I am leery to remove them too soon even if it looks funny with dried stems sticking above the new growth. When I do prune all the old stalks out the deer can munch easily at the new growth. So, then I have tried putting out stinky (Irish Spring) bar soap, too. (Trying to keep it less visible for appearance sake.) It is an ongoing problem with deer. The soap helps to keep them away.
The bottom line is: In the early spring prune the old stalks just above the base growth, only if you do not have deer problems.
There is More. . .
Note: When the new stalks with green leaves start growing at the start of the new season, I haven't pruned new growth back. The plants normal height is up to 2 feet tall and 1 1/2 feet wide. Perennials seem to grow slower the first couple years, and then reach their mature height, in my experience, anyway.
Pruning To Control Height
But, If you are pruning in late spring after the new stems have grown, do not prune away more than half of the stem height nor prune shorter than four inches tall. Pinching back is the best method of pruning. A good time is early June here in the Pacific NW, USA. Cutting is another way to control height if you prefer. However, the cut stems callus and overall may look like your plant has a bad hair cut. It also may cause breakage in the winter as it will have a weak spot. I have noticed after the deer ate some stems, they looked callused.
You can grow a row of Autumn Joy Sedum to follow a walkway or make a short hedge.
That is another occasion gardeners have pruned to keep their plants a shortened but rounded height. They grow them close and evenly spaced to become a hedge full of blooms.
Shears and Pruners Help Get the Jobs Done
Here's the Type Of Shears I Use
Light Requirements---Does It Need Sun Or Shade?
Autumn Joy Sedum likes full sun or partial shade. I have three plants now and two are in mostly full sun with a late afternoon shade. The third plant is on the southeast corner of our house and is doing well, too. It gets a lot of sun with some shade.
If this sedum is put in too shady a location it will grow leggy and may droop from the plant's center.