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!
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.
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.