If you're looking for the perfect, trouble free perennial plant for your sunny
garden, look no further than the tall-growing sedum family. If you have a garden
with a bit of shade and your soil is well drained, the sedum family is still
for you. If you're a beginner gardener or you want to introduce an easy to grow
plants to your children, the answer is still the tall-growing sedum. Now, if
you want colorful foliage in shades of purple, yellow, white, several shades
of green and bi-color foliage from April to October, and even flowers in the
fall, the answer is the same: tall-growing sedum.
The sedum family of plants has hundreds of species, some are ground covers,
but my favorite is the tall upright growing varieties. Another great thing about
this tall-growing sedum is that they can tolerate wet weather while the low-growing
varieties cannot. If the spring is cloudy or they receive a bit of shade, the
plant will grow taller than normal, but you can solve this problem easily by
pinching the plant back in late June to early July to control the height.
When the plants are new to your garden, small in size or young starter
plants, this early summer pinching will easily double the size of the plant by
the time they are ready to flower in mid-August.
All the tall-growing sedums have thick stems to better hold the foliage upright
and the flowers upright on top of the plant. The oval foliage will grow 2 to 3 inches long,
and 1 to 2 inches wide with a smooth edge. The leaf itself
is rather thick, like all succulent type plants, and because of this wonderful
character the plant can tolerate long periods of hot weather without much rainfall,
and still thrive.
Recently, a good friend saw my tall-growing sedum plants in my garden and
she calls them "frog belly" plants, to my amazement. As a child her
mother would remove a large leaf from one of the plants and with her thumb and
index finger would gently rub the leaf in between her fingers. The skin of the
leaf has tough cellophane-like covering and when you gently rub it with your
fingers it will separate from the fleshy center. Take your time and rub the leaf
until you feel it separate. Where you broke the leaf from the stem of the plant,
gently blow into the leaf and watch the leaf blow up like the belly of a frog.
Keep rubbing the leaf until it has all separated from the fleshy center and watch
your children go crazy as you blow into the leaf with a pulsating burst of air.
The tall-growing sedums will grow 18 to 24 inches tall in your garden, depending
on the amount of sunshine the plants receive--shorter in the direct sunshine.
The plant will spread 18 to 24 inches wide if your soil is well drained and you
fertilize them once a year with a granular organic fertilizer like Flower-Tone
or Dr. Earth flower fertilizer with Pro-biotic. When you plant tall-growing sedum
in your garden, be sure to condition the soil with compost, animal manure and
peat moss to help get the plant get established quickly. I always use Soil Moist
granules to help retain moisture around new plant when planting and so should
you, it will help hold water around the new roots when you forget to water.
The plants form their flower buds during late-July and the plants begin to bloom in mid- August. The flowers will last on the plant well into October, resembling tiny stars about 1/2 inch in diameter in a cluster 2 to 4 inches wide. The flowers range from soft pink to pinky purple, and as they fade will turn brown and dry on the plant. Bees of all types just love this flower, especially the bumble bees.
Your tall-growing sedum make wonderful cut flowers and last for a long time
in a vase of water. The plant is very strong growing and will also grow very
well in large containers like whiskey barrels. Because it loves the sun and heat,
the plant will thrive in a planting bed that has stone mulch instead of
bark mulch. Use this wonderful plant in perennial borders, rock gardens, as a
ground cover in hot spots in your yard where watering is a problem like steep
slopes, or on top of a cement wall where plants dry up fast. I like them is groups,
mass plantings or in large planting beds with large evergreen trees or broadleaf
The tall-growing sedum that most of us know is called 'Autumn Joy.' It is
the most popular of this family but if you like style, character, and colorful
foliage please consider the following three varieties for your gardens.
The first to consider is sedum 'Frosty Morn.' This wonderful plant has a deep
green center to the leaf with bright white edges and, like the other tall-growing
sedums, it will grow 18 to 24 inches tall and just as wide. The stems are not
a strong and they do not grow as upright as 'Autumn Joy' but the plant's bi-color
stems and foliage make it stand out in your garden. The plant does grow more
openly and if it gets some shade it will stretch for the light and lay over a
bit. The flowers are pale pink, so this wonderful plant has three colors when
in flower; deep green and white foliage with 2 to 3 inch pale pink flower heads.
During a full moon or if this plant is near outside lighting it will literally
glow in the dark for you; great near a walkway.
The next variety for you to consider is called sedum 'Mediovariegatum,' and
this variety of tall-growing sedum has a bright yellow center to the leaf and
deep green edges. It will grow 15 to 18 inches tall and just as wide, making
this plant a bit smaller growing than than the others varieties. It will grow more open,
also less compact and often does lay down if not pinched back in late June. The
flowers are medium to deep pink, and when in bloom the unusual deep green
and bright yellow foliage make it stand out in any garden setting. Like the 'Frosty
Morn' sedum, it is very showy in the moonlight or when planted near outdoor lighting.
The flower heads are smaller, only 2 to 3 inches wide but the plant is very showy
from the spring to fall season.
The third variety to consider is called 'Purple Emperor.' It is so unique
it was voted the most outstanding perennial plant of the year in 2002 by the
International Hardy Plant Union. This amazing plant has dark purple leaves and
stems that grow 12 to 15 inches tall and spread 15 to 18 inches wide. It is
a member of the tall-growing sedum family but it must be pinched back in late
June to keep it growing compact and full looking or it will grow a bit more open
and fall over a bit as the flowers begin to open on the plant. The flowers are
pinky-purple and with the deep purple foliage it makes a wonderful contrasting
plant in your garden. In the early spring, this plant will have two-tone deep
green foliage that will mature to deep purple foliage as the sun begins to warm
up the ground. By mid-June, the entire plant will be purple except where it
gets a bit of shade.
I have all four of these varieties in my garden and I love the color contrast
of the foliage and flowers from June to October. All varieties are very hardy
and will tolerate winter temperatures that drop to minus 30 degrees. Split these
plants every 3 to 5 years, in half or quarters, and in no time at all they are
back just as large as before you split them. Visit your local garden center or
nursery for these wonderful tall-growing sedums and give your garden a bit more
character this summer and to the fall.
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