How to Grow and Care for Sedum

Sedum, also commonly known as stonecrop, is a huge plant genus consisting of over 400 species. These succulents vary in leaf shape, color, and even growing habits. Within the family, you can find low-growing ground spread, upright growers, and trailing plants perfect for hanging baskets.

If you’re used to caring for succulents, these plants shouldn’t provide any difficulties as their care is simple and standard. 

When to Water Sedum

Succulents store water in their leaves. The more plump and round the foliage, the less water that variety of sedum will need.

Though these plants are drought-tolerant, they do need some water to survive, especially in the spring and summer growing season.

Be sure to water until the soil is thoroughly saturated and water is escaping the drainage hole at the bottom of your pot. This replicates the rainfall succulents receive in the wild and also helps to promote healthy root growth.

Bottom watering is another option. Fill a container with water and set the pot inside so that the soil can soak up the water from the bottom up. Remove the pot from the water once the top layer of soil is saturated.

Never leave sedum in standing water, as they’re very susceptible to root rot. Empty the saucer below your pot after each watering.

Allow the soil to dry completely before watering again. The leaves will wrinkle, usually at the bottom, when the plant needs water. It’s best to wait for this sign of thirst if you’re unsure how often to water your plant.

2. Yellow and green close up
Yellow and green sedum planted outdoors

How Much Light does Sedum Need?

Most varieties like bright, full sun locations. For this reason, these plants can be difficult to keep happy indoors.

Low-growing plants can tolerate lower lighting conditions and are good for planting in shadier locations or growing indoors next to a bright southern-facing window.

Stonecrops that don’t receive enough light will grow leggy, with more exposed stem between the leaves. They may also lean toward a light source, like a lamp or window.

If you don’t have good lighting but would still like to grow these plants indoors, you can purchase a grow light for your plants, or make your own with a daylight spectrum lightbulb and an old lamp.

Sedum Hardiness

With the vast variety in the genus also comes a variety of hardiness levels. Most stonecrops can grow in hardiness zones 4-9, which unfortunately is quite a vague answer!

For reference, zone 4 has minimum winter temperatures of -20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit (or -34.4 to -28.9 degrees Celsius).

Zone 9 has warmer winters, with a yearly low between 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit (or -6.7 to -1.1 degrees Celsius).

It’s best to identify your exact species and look up its specific hardiness level or follow the instructions on the tag provided. When buying from a local greenhouse or plant shop, you may be able to ask employees for advice as well.

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Yellow and green sedum growing in a garden

What Soil is best for Sedum?

These plants grow best in well-draining, low-nutrient soil mixes. They naturally grow in very inorganic substances.

The most common mix for these plants is a mix of half perlite and half succulent mix. This is a cheap option that will work well for most growers.

Some gardeners, especially those growing indoors, choose to use a gritty mix, which is a soilless mixture. This requires fertilizing during each watering since sedums do need a small amount of nutrients to thrive. Plants grown in gritty mix will also need to be watered more often.

The pros to gritty mix are fewer pests and minimal chance of root rot.

When to Fertilize Sedum

If you’re growing these succulents in an organic potting mixture, they will rarely, if ever, need fertilizer. A repotting with fresh soil every few years or so will keep them well-fed. If you have a sedum that’s been in the same soil for years, it may benefit from some fertilizer thrown in.

4. Green cluster
Green sedum cluster

Pruning Sedum

Stonecrops are often grown as ground cover or within hanging baskets where they’re encouraged to spread and become full, bushy plants.

If your plant is growing out of its bounds, or trailing too far, you can trim away the excess with clean gardening shears. Toss the trimmings away if you don’t want them, or replant in a better location.

For example, if you have a hanging basket with two long strands, you may cut one in half and plant the bottom half back in the soil so that your plant looks fuller.

Repotting Sedum

Some people mistake a sedum spilling from its pot as one in need of repotting, but this is generally not true. They naturally spread and trail, and if the plant itself seems to be growing too big it might be best to give it a pruning rather than repot.

When considering whether or not to repot these plants, it’s better to pay attention to their root systems.

If the plant is root bound, or you see a lot of root surrounding the soil when you remove it from its pot, then it will need to be repotted.

It’s best to only go up one inch in diameter when choosing a new pot. Extra soil will hold extra moisture, which isn’t good for sedum as they’re prone to root rot.

5. Green sedum
A green sedum variety

Can You Propagate Sedum?

These succulents are very easy to propagate through leaf and stem cuttings.

Leaf Propagation

The leaves are typically quite sensitive and may fall off if brushed against. The good news is, you can keep these leaves in the soil and they’ll eventually grow into new plants.

If you’d like to propagate sedum more purposefully, follow these instructions:

  • Choose a plump, healthy leaf, preferably from the base of the plant
  • Set the leaf near the mother plant and water as usual, or
  • Select a new planting area and begin to water after roots have formed

There is debate over whether or not leaves should be misted regularly to encourage growth. Personally, I don’t see it as a wrong method—just a different one. I recommend trying it if the above watering methods don’t work for you, or if you live in a dry climate and want to provide extra moisture for your new succulents.

Alternatively, if you don’t feel like misting but want to provide extra moisture, you can cover your container with plastic food wrap or even place the leaves in a plastic bag with a few squirts of water until they’re ready to transfer to soil.

Remember to remove the cover once the succulents begin to grow larger so that they get adequate airflow. You’ll also need to gradually stop misting your plants as they grow because moisture on the leaves will damage fully grown succulents.

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Sedum with water droplets

Stem Propagation

To stem propagate a sedum:

  • Sterilize your cutting utensil with rubbing alcohol
  • Select a healthy cutting from a recently-watered plant, preferably with at least a few attached leaves
  • Remove a few leaves if you have to, as this will give you a place to cut along the stem
  • Make a clean cut on the stem of the plant
  • Allow your cutting around a week to heal and callous over
  • Plant in soil or a jar of water to root

When planting in soil, you can choose to either plant it with the mother plant and water as normal, or place it in a new area and water once roots have formed.

Transfer water cuttings to soil once a good root system has formed comparable to the size of the plant.

Is Sedum Toxic?

Sedum is non-toxic to cats, dogs, horses, and people. It’s not likely any pets or humans will want to eat them, as they have a nasty taste.

It’s not good to encourage snacking on the plant either, as it can cause mild problems such as upset stomach.

7. Jelly bean
Jelly bean plant

Sedum Pests and Diseases

Though sedums are somewhat resistant to pest and disease, it’s important to check your plants regularly to catch these common ailments:

Root rot

Root rot is caused by bacteria that thrives in damp soil. This bacteria damages the plant’s roots, and over time the plant becomes unable to take in water. This dehydration kills your plant.

Rot works its way up from the roots, and often the first thing gardeners notice is a black, squishy stem or falling leaves that turn brown and translucent.

If root rot is caught early enough, you can trim away the damaged roots and plant your sedum in fresh soil.

More commonly, you’ll need to abandon the root system and cut the stem above the point where any rot has shown itself. This includes the points from which unhealthy leaves have fallen.

Be sure to sterilize your cutting utensil before and after use.

After making the cut, you can allow the wound to heal and callous for around a week. Then, stick it in soil or water to root.

Place your new plant in well-draining soil and water only when the soil is completely dried out. This will prevent root rot from reoccurring.

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Lime green stonecrop

Mealybugs

Mealybugs are white, fuzzy pests that take residence at the base of a plant’s leaves. Nestled within these hiding places, they can be difficult to spot. You may notice their honeydew, a sticky substance on the underside of the leaves, before you notice the insects themselves.

If you have many ants in the area, this is another potential sign of mealybugs. They’re closely related because ants farm mealybugs for their honeydew, and can actually carry them onto your plants.

Treat mealybugs with a homemade or chemical solution of your choice. Please do your research when it comes to pesticides, and ensure they won’t harm native wildlife, pets, or children who may come into contact with your plants.

9. Stonecrop cluster
A stonecrop plant cluster

Aphids

Succulents, especially those grown outdoors, are prone to aphid infestations. These pests are a lot like mealybugs, as they’re also small insects that secrete honeydew.

Luckily, you can also use many of the same treatments to get rid of them.

Spider Mites

Spider mites don’t look like pests, as they’re so tiny we often mistake them for specks of dirt or dust. This aids them, as infestations can get out of hand before a gardener realizes they have a problem.

These pests also leave behind a white webbing that sometimes is spotted before the pests themselves are noticed.

To treat spider mites, try homemade solutions or a pesticide of your choosing.

Always be sure to do your research when it comes to pesticides so that you don’t inadvertently hurt the environment or beneficial garden insects. Keep pets and children away from treated plants.

10. Tall red
Tall red stonecrop

Common Varieties

Sedum is a diverse genus of over 400 species. These range from the everyday varieties you can find in your local supermarket, to rare collector species.

Below are some of the species you’re most likely to come across.

“Lime Zinger”

These thinned-leaved plants have green foliage lined with a striking red. Their rounded leaves grow upright, and they make for a great ground cover in the garden.

Burro’s Tail

Burro’s Tails are trailing plants generally kept in hanging baskets. Their foliage is light green to blue in coloration. These plants are known for losing leaves when bumped or during repotting, but you can easily plop them back into the dirt to grow more plants.

“Jelly Bean”

These succulents have plump, rounded leaves in a cheerful red color. They really do look like little jelly beans! These plants grow upright, but are low-growing and tend to spread as ground cover.

Adolphii Firestorm

These brightly-colored plants range from orange to red, depending on lighting conditions. Their vivid, spikey foliage grows upward and these plants are one of the sturdier varieties. 

1. Sedum