By: Jessie Keith
Tall sedums (Sedum spectabile hybrids) look pretty through most of the year—save late winter and spring, before they have broken bud. Through summer they provide mounds of lush, blue-green foliage and in early winter their dried flower heads hold up moderately well before being flattened by snow, but late summer and fall are when they shine the most. Their sturdy stems support mounds of pink rose and white blooms that glow in the late-season sun. New varieties make growing and designing with these tried-and-true perennials even more gratifying and fun.
Tall sedums have broken the mold of the old-fashioned dusky pink ‘Autumn Joy’ of your grandmother’s garden. Extra bright flowers and unique foliage colors, like bronze, purple and near-black, mark some of the new tall sedums. Some are extra tall and others are very compact and densely flowered.
Take the new ‘Thunderhead’ (pictured above, photo by Terra Nova, Nurseries) introduction by Terra Nova. Its giant, bright, rose-red flower heads stand on strong, 18” stems above bronzy green foliage. Plant with the soft, mounding, blue-green ‘Blue Zinger’ sedge and bright-yellow flowered Helianthus ‘Low Down’, which only grows to 2-feet high.
One for outstanding foliage as well as flowers is the 2015 introduction ‘Dark Magic’, which has deepest burgundy foliage all season and large heads of burgundy pink flowers in late-summer and fall. The compact plants only reach 12” high, making this a great plant for border edges. Its upright habit makes it the perfect complement to lower, more mounded grasses and perennials. Try evergreen germander or tidy thyme plants.
In contrast, the pale, super dwarf ‘Crystal Pink’ becomes literally covered with palest green and pink flowers. Plants reach no more than a foot and complement taller, darker garden plants that allow this sedum to shine.
Another bright sedum is the variegated ‘Autumn Charm’ (pictured right), the surprisingly vigorous variegated counterpart to ‘Autumn Joy’. Its bright mounds of foliage complement darker-leaved plants and are best planted in multiples to enhance the silvery effect of the ivory-edged leaves. Late in the season, plants become topped with subtle, dusty pink flowers. The darker flowered ‘Autumn Delight’ (pictured below) is a bolder variegated form with deeper variegated leaves and bright rose flowers.
Gardeners looking for classic tall sedum looks but more exciting flowers might consider ‘Autumn Fire’. Tall plants produce large, flattened clusters of rose-pink flowers that are to a darker, richer hue. The plants themselves have significant presence in the landscape with their dense stems that reach 2 to 3 feet in height.
Like all sedums, these plants prefer drier feet, but they aren’t as drought tolerant as some of the smaller creeping species able to withstand really high heat and low water. Plant them in porous, moderately organic-poor, mineral-rich soil. Raised bed spaces can be amended with Fafard Cactus and Succulent Potting Mix for perfect rooting.
All sedums attract butterflies to the garden making them perfect for pollinator gardens. After fall flowering, the seedheads should be left until they are no longer ornamental. Cut them back on a dry midwinter’s day, and wait until the soils warm in spring and their rosettes of fleshy leaves begin to grow again.
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