Hooray for Autumn Joy

As I’ve been thinking about the new flower bed I’ll be installing this fall and next spring, a few plants rate as “must-haves.” One of them is Autumn Joy sedum, which is currently in bloom in my garden and in many others from Canada to the south. What a great plant!

Autumn Joy sedume
Reliable, pretty, and a pollinator plant — it’s hard not to like Autumn Joy sedum.

Its scientific names is Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ so you can see why they came up with the common name Autumn Joy. It has succulent-like leaves and when it comes up in the spring it looks like a tiny cactus or an odd cabbage; the foliage makes the plant interesting even when it is not blooming. It grows about 2 feet tall and in mid-summer develops pale green flowers, about 3 inches across. Beginning in September, these change color, going from green to pink to a rich red then almost rust, fading to brown after a hard freeze. You don’t want to cut it back in the fall, because the seedheads provide food for birds and make perfect landing pads for snowflakes. In winter, the seedheads sometimes look like they are wearing stocking caps of snow.

butterflies on pink flower
Painted Lady butterflies swarmed Autumn Joy in 2017.

Autumn Joy is drought and salt tolerant and gets by in fair soil. It does need to be divided every few years to maintain an upright look. Mine has been in this location about four years and definitely needs to be divided. The plant is flopping over.

Plant breeders have developed several other sedum cultivars to take advantage of Autumn Joy’s popularity. ‘Autumn Fire’ is similar to Autumn Joy in color, but forms a tighter clump. ‘Black Jack’ is a sedum with purplish foliage. ‘John Creech’ grows only 2 inches tall and is used as a groundcover. There are many others as well. Sedum is sometimes called stonecrop because it grows so well around rocks. Whether you have a rock garden, or just a sunny one, sedum is a good choice.

6 thoughts on “Hooray for Autumn Joy

  1. Mary – I am a novice northern gardener and appreciate the tip to divide my 5+ year old Sedum to keep it healthy and bright! Please advise me on whether I should divide the plant this Fall or next Spring. I am redesigning my perennial garden and have already completed the major changes. It would be great to complete the hard work this Fall but I want to do what is best for the plants. Any advice you or your readers can share is appreciated! Sue

  2. Sue: The materials I’ve read indicate that spring is better for dividing sedum, but you may want to check with the nursery where you bought the plants to see if you can divide in fall as well. Many perennials are hardy enough that it does not matter. Thanks for stopping by the blog.


  3. Pingback: My Northern Garden
  4. Mary,

    Just found your great information on this Sedum. Loved it. Most extensive I have been able to find… I especially liked your comments about leaving the seeds for the birds, and leaves for snowflakes in winter!!! You know how to appreciate a plant. You have just convinced me to go back to the garden store and pick up a couple. But the real reason I was grabbed by this plant at the garden store was seeing all the variety of bees, butterflies and wasps swarming after the nectar in late September!!!

    Being a long time watcher of the Bee CCD situation, I am always looking for pollinator friendly botanicals. Gotta keep our pollinators happy…

    Thank you again!


  5. Chris: I noticed the same thing the other day while looking for another sedum variety (Matrona) at my local nursery. The bees and butterflies were all over the sedum. It’s a great plant.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.