Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
Honestly, I never really gave the plant genus Sedum much thought. My mom has had the 'Autumn Joy' Sedum (Sedum x 'Autumn Joy') growing in her garden as long as I can remember. For much of my early years we called them by the name my grandma did–"cabbages". I think this was probably referring to their dull green color and leaves that overlapped before the plant flowered.
All I knew was that you really had to work at it to kill one of those cabbage plants. They survived conditions that would have left most plants dead before you put your trowel away. The ones planted along the foundation of the house have survived multiple home improvement efforts, with ladders and work boots trampling them throughout the summer. Somehow the flowers still form and emerge triumphantly, as if to say "Is that the best you can do?" Even the poor sedum that ended up under the dryer vent managed to hang on for several seasons before succumbing to the sahara-like conditions.
A recent trip to a local garden center revealed that 'Autumn Joy' is barely scratching the surface of the diverse varieties of sedum available. Most, like the "cabbages" of my youth are extremely hardy, but some are a bit more tender and need occasional attention to look their best. Seemingly unlimited examples of foliage and flower color provide a wide range of choices for the garden–anywhere from rosy pink to deep bronze to sunny yellow flowers, and blue-green to deep green to white, pink or purple variegated foliage. Growth habit can be upright, or creeping and trailing. It's no surprise that sedums have been popular in gardens for many years. Realizing the wide range of varieties available combined with their hardiness should make it hard to resist adding at least one new sedum to our gardens before the season is over.