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How to Grow and Care for Sedum

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Sedum is a large genus of succulents in the family Crassulaceae, primarily native to rocky, mountainous environments in the Northern Hemisphere, but also in the southern hemisphere in Africa and South America. It was described by Carl Linnaeus in 1753 as a genus with about 600 species subsequently reduced to about 450 species by forming up to 32 segregate genera. The members of this genus are commonly known as Stonecrops because many gardeners joke that only stones need less care and live longer.

Sedums are a quite diverse group of plants that includes annual, biennial, and perennial ground covers, subshrubs, and shrubs. They have thick stems and attractive, fleshy, colorful leaves that vary from small and needlelike to large, flattened, or cylindrical. The foliage colors change through the seasons in a wide range of colors, from green, blue, yellow, orange, red to purple. Star-shaped, generally five-petaled flowers usually appear in clusters and come in shades of pink, red, yellow, or white. They are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. Most Sedums bloom in the summer and fall.

The generic name "Sedum" derives from the Latin "sedeo," meaning "to sit" and refers to the growing habit (they sit and sprawl over the rocks and walls) of many of the Sedums.

Grow and Care Sedum

Photo by Jo Adanza

Growing Conditions for Sedum

Because Sedums tolerate a wide range of harsh conditions, they make a good choice for many gardens. They are also excellent container plants.

Light

These succulents grow best in locations where they will enjoy the full sun at least six or more hours per day. Most species will tolerate partial shade but will not thrive in deep shade. Keep indoor Sedums in a sunny window or under artificial lights.

Soil

Sedums do not like to sit in waterlogged soil, so drainage is essential to prevent root rot. Choose a well-draining soil mix.

Their ability to thrive even in shallow, poor, sandy, or rocky soils has made them a popular choice for green roofs.

Temperature

Sedums can tolerate freezing temperatures. Most are cold hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5a to 9b, -20 to 30 °F (-28.9 to -1.1 °C). Some species, like Sedum sexangulare, will tolerate temperatures down to USDA hardiness zone 4a, -30 °F (-34.4 °C). Sedums are also tolerant of heat and drought.

Keep indoor Sedums at temperatures between 60 and 70 °F (15 and 20 °) through the winter. When temperatures drop below 50 °F (10 °C), plants start to go dormant.

General Care for Sedum

Once established, Sedums require little care, making them an excellent choice for beginners.

Watering

Sedums are drought-tolerant but do need some water. They do their best with regular watering from spring through fall. Water thoroughly and wait for the soil to dry out before watering again. Young Sedums will need supplemental water for the first couple of weeks to establish roots. In many regions, established plants need only rainfall. Avoid wetting the leaves, stems, and flowers when watering.

Container grown plants often require more water than their counterparts growing in open soil.

Fertilizing

A balanced organic fertilizer each spring is generally all Sedums require. As long the plants are divided annually and provided with fresh soil, feeding is not necessary.

Repotting

Sedums in containers do require little more care than those in gardens. Repot your plants when they outgrow their current pot by moving them out to a larger container to hold the plant better. Spring is the best time to repot Sedums. Make sure the soil is dry before you begin repotting.

Pruning

Pruning is not necessary unless Sedum plants are getting wild and out of control. You can clean them up a bit after winter by removing any dead or damaged leaves or branches.

How to Propagate Sedum

Once you have one Sedum, it is easy to make more by taking stems or leaf cuttings and dividing the plant. Sedums are also easy to grow from seed.

Stem Cuttings

Propagation from stem cuttings is the easiest way to propagate Sedums. Take cuttings in spring when the plants are in the period of active growth. Select a healthy stem and remove it from the main plant. Allow the cutting to callus for several days before placing it in a well-draining soil mix. Water sparingly until the cuttings produce roots.

Leaves

Each leaf on your Sedum could potentially become a new plant. Choose healthy leaves, remove them from the plant, and allow them to callus for several days. Place the leaves on a well-draining soil mix and keep the soil slightly moist. They should be well rooted after about 2 to 3 weeks, with new plantlets forming at the base.

Division

Once Sedums have finished flowering, it is the right time to divide the plants. The division is a simple method of doubling your investment. Most Sedums benefit from division every two to three years to control the size and keep the plant healthy.

Seeds

Propagating Sedums with seeds is the slowest method, but it is also exciting to see new plants develop from tiny seeds. Spring or summer is the best time to sow the seeds. Use a well-draining soil mix. Sow the seeds on the soil surface and gently press them down. Keep the soil moist until seeds germinate. Provide a consistent temperature between 65 and 70 °F (15 and 21 °C). The seeds usually start to germinate after 2 to 4 weeks.

Pests and Diseases of Sedum

Sedums rarely show signs of pests and diseases, but they are not completely immune.

Pests

If overwatered or overcrowded, Sedums may be subject to infestation by scale insects and mealybugs. Snails and slugs may also be problematic outdoors. Fortunately, they are relatively easy to control and prevent.

Diseases

In wet environments, Sedums are susceptible to rot, rust, and mold diseases.

Toxicity of Sedum

Sedums are not listed as toxic for people but can be mildly toxic to pets and children.

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