Succulent Style; Problem-Solving with Stonecrop Sedums

Want to solve the world’s problems? Yeah, me too…but today I’ll settle for a few specifics in the garden.

Varigated Sedum liniaris Crassula Ovata Mod

Variegated varieties of Sedum lineare and Crassula ovata create a low-maintenance combo for a container. (Joy Albright-Souza)


The movement toward using less water in the landscape, along with the human urge to seek novelty and beauty, has created a huge interest in succulent plants for years. Succulents are generally described as plants that have a particularly fleshy part, to store water, usually in their leaves. There are many beautiful types, of course, from the tender Echevarias to the tenacious Semperviviums,  but one of the most diverse and useful groups of succulents, is the genus Sedum, also known as Stonecrops.


succulent sedum bed with echevaria chicks

A low-water riff on a classic garden look combines fine “filler” textures and colorful rosette-forming varieties of succulents in soft shades of greens and blues.


There are well over 400 species of Sedum, from all over the world, so clarifying some of the best for landscaping, can be useful. While stonecrops do fall into some general categories, their diversity is part of their charm and one type does not necessarily substitute for another when being used in the garden.


stonecrop sedum donkey tail

Rope-like Sedum morganianum is also known as Donkey Tail or Burro Tail.


Sedum Ogon Yellow

Groundcover Stonecrop Sedum makinoi “Ogon Yellow” lends gentle warm tones to small spaces.


Classic, romantic, modern and rustic; there are Sedums that can fill many design styles. Soft and moss-like or crisp and paddle-shaped, their leaves can resemble roses or ropes or jelly beans.  Many form a low rambling carpet and others grow quite upright. Some are hardy through the winter and others are tender or short lived.


stonecrop sedum square pot red

There are many red varieties of Stonecrop Sedums, that work well in containers and as groundcover.


Then there are the colors; red, yellow, green and blue, and almost every combination in between. Leaves can be blushed or banded or softly striped and it is common for many types to change their hue depending on the temperature or other environmental factors.


stonecrop sedum littlemissy

Stonecrop Sedum “Little Missy” shows off cream and green varigation and small pink flower buds.


Because Sedums are so useful, I specify them often in landscape designs, but I regularly run into a client or an installer that got a completely different type than the one intended for the design purpose. They are not necessarily interchangeable. So here’s what you need to know to make the best use of this versatile group;


stonecrop sedum rubrotinctum orange beans

Stonecrop sedum rubrotinctum is also known as Pork-and-Beans or Jelly-Bean Plant, it turns from green to orangey-red with cold or stress.


How to Use Stonecrops


–Functional Uses; Take advantage of their ability to survive in resource-starved circumstances—-

Nooks -Excellent in shallow containers as well as niches in boulders and cracks in pavement.

Edges  -Work well at the front of a bed or in gravel and rock gardens and spots with reflected heat.

Tree Roots  -One of the best solutions for covering a mature tree-root mound. This is a place most people want to add plants and yet one of the harder spots for new plants to thrive and to have everybody be happy.



stonecrop sedum alba in yellow

Stonecrop Sedum album (alba) is a dependable, green-leaved groundcover type.

Sedum odolphii Gold crop

Stonecrop Sedum odolphii is one of many succulents that add a touch of bright color to the garden.



–Visual Uses; Take advantage of the diversity in color, form and texture—–


Bouquet s -Mix and match with colors and texture to create a classic “bouquet” effect in a garden bed. Combine fine and fleshy textures and have fun mixing with other low-water garden plants. Many Sedums also have pleasing seasonal flowers.

Hide or Seek  -Choose a fine textured type as a dependable cover or back-ground, or try a sculptural rosette form as a multi-season focal point.

Blocks. -Use varieties singly in color-blocks for maximum impact or a modern look. Create contrast or harmony or softly shifting gradations of color or scale.



stonecrop sedum aurora blue

Stonecrop Sedum ‘Aurora Blue” creates a cool blue sea with blushes of pink and yellow.


stonecrop sedum blanco grid

Sedum Little Missy softly contrasts with “Cape Blanco”.



Be aware of their limitations — What they can’t do well—

-Surprisingly many don’t love intense heat and can burn in full sun. They don’t take foot traffic and it can be difficult to remove leaves, that have fallen from overhead trees or shrubs, from the fine textured varieties. Many are not winter hardy and none take soggy conditions. A few can be very persistent from tiny fragments left in the soil, if you were to change your mind.




stonecrop sedum angelina and goldmoss

Stonecrop Sedums ‘Angelina” and “Gold Moss” bring bright tones and fine texture to the landscape.


So, with that said, here are two of my favorite Stonecrops;

Sedum “Autumn Joy”. Because of the beautiful and long-lasting pink flowers, this variety is one of the most popular (and the most googled). It is an upright type that is a wonderful choice for a classic look in a low-water situation. It plays well with other garden plants and provides nectar and pollen for beneficial insects.  It does disappear in winter, but the bronze seed-heads persist, to mark the spot until the leaves return in spring.


stonecrop sedum autumn joy early crop

A Sea Squill flower stalk combines with the upright flower buds of Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’. The blossoms will mature to a deeper pink before turning into chocolate colored seed heads.


Sedum alba. This is the work-horse of the genus. It is a reliable green carpet for sun and shade, and produces white flowers in mid-summer. The short-stemmed flowers are a bonus, in their season, and can be clipped and dried for decorative use. Sedum alba is the most dependable groundcover type for staying green in the winter. Most other sedums, even if they are winter-hardy, go dormant and become leafless stems until spring returns. Do be aware that this is one that can re-grow from tiny fragments and be difficult to get rid of if you change your mind.


stonecrop sedum album with ghost plant

Stonecrop Sedum alba (album) combines its frothy white flowers with other succulents, even in difficult growing conditions.


So, while Sedums won’t solve the worlds problems, they are a useful garden tool. With stone crops you can camouflage material transitions, turn a concrete crack into a feature or a few rocks into a work of art. You can create a low-maintenance hanging pot or a knockout table centerpiece.  So, whether you want to indulge in a stonecrop collection or just add dependable interest to an existing garden bed, Sedums are worth a closer look.



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Categories: Things to Grow


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4 Comments on “Succulent Style; Problem-Solving with Stonecrop Sedums”

  1. Bea
    July 30, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    I really enjoyed your article on sedums. Nice to have all their differences clarified for the sedum enthusiasts.

    • August 1, 2016 at 10:07 am #

      Thanks Bea, glad you found it helpful. There is such a wide world of “succulents” I thought it was appropriate to get a bit more specific.

  2. Susan Duncan
    August 9, 2016 at 8:02 pm #

    Enjoyed your post Joy. This spring was great, watching all of the succulents thrive with the rains. Yes, I learned myself that some are not happy out in full sun. I have been collecting vintage pottery and to the horror of some collectors, I drill holes in them
    and plant succulents. It makes for a nice look with the plant colors and the ceramic glazes.

    • August 11, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

      It sounds lovely Susan! I bet you have created some interesting combinations.

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