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.
General Information About Sedum
Sedum plants are available in a broad range of colors, heights, and forms. Better known as Stonecrop, this plant is a very drought-tolerant, hardy succulent that has fleshy, thick leaves that have different shades of color to them. Also, they usually come with star-shaped, tiny flowers that will bloom later in the summer months. Generally speaking, the big Sedum genus typically gets divided into two categories, including upright and low-growing sedum.
The low-growing variety usually stays very short and it’ll spread as a ground cover. Upright sedum forms vertical clumps that look very nice along borders. Ideally, you’ll plant sedum in the spring months once the last frost danger has come and gone before the summer heat sets in. This plant usually offers a moderate growth rate, but it can vary by variety and species.
Picking and Preparing Your Planting Site
You can choose to plant a vigorous and low-growing species that does well when you put it in partial shade, but most sedums like to be in a space that offers full, bright sunlight for hours every day. Also, if you live in a planting zone that gets very cold and long winters like you get in Zone 5 and colder, putting them in a sunny location will help improve how well they overwinter.
Sedum also needs a soil that drains very well because rot is a real problem if it stays too saturated or damp. Also, overly rich soil encourages this plant to grow leggy, and this can make any upright sedum get top-heavy as they develop flowers and bloom.
The Best Time to Plant Sedum
You typically buy this plant in pots or plugs and transplant them into your garden or flower bed. The best time of the year to plant sedum is in the spring months in that short window when the frost danger passes but before the heat and humidity levels rise. Put them in rich to average soil that drains well during the early spring months for the best results.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Green sedum cluster
Humidity and Temperature Requirements
The growing zone you pick out for your plant will vary depending on the species. However, the plants can tolerate a very broad temperature range. If the temperature gets above 90°F, this can lead to scorched and damaged leaves. This plant also does well in more humid environments. But, rapid soil drainage is even more important when the humidity levels start to rise so the roots don’t sit in too much moisture and rot.
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.
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.
A green sedum variety
Can You Propagate Sedum?
These succulents are very easy to propagate through leaf and stem cuttings.
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.
Sedum with water droplets
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.
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 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.
Lime green stonecrop
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.
A stonecrop plant cluster
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 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.
Tall red stonecrop
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.
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 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.
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.
These brightly-colored plants range from orange to red, depending on lighting conditions. Their vivid, spiky foliage grows upward and these plants are one of the sturdier varieties.
What is Top Heavy Sedum?
It’s not uncommon for some varieties of sedum to produce a bloom cluster that is the size of a large first or bigger. If the sedum is top-heavy, it’s normally not a problem because it grows a thick stalk to compensate for it. However, the flower can occasionally bow to the ground or get heavy enough to snap the stalk.
Overly rich soil will result in weak stems. These plants tolerate poor growing conditions, and they can even thrive in gritty or sandy soil medium. Soggy and rich soil conditions can cause your sedum stems to bend, and you’ll notice that your plants start to fall over. To stop this from happening, you want to mix some sand into the soil before you plant this succulent.
If you plant your sedum in an area that doesn’t get enough light, they can grow spindly stems because they plant will start to reach for the sun. The goal is to ensure that your plant has bright, full sun exposure.
What to Do if Sedums are Too Heavy
As we touched on, there are several conditions that can cause this plant to get too top heavy. You can amend the soil to encourage better drainage, or you can move it to an area that gets more sunlight so it doesn’t start reaching. A short-term solution is to stake your plant to give it more support. This plant can make a very interesting architectural addition to any winter garden, and you can leave the flowers on the plants until spring comes around. They will start to dry out in the fall and lend textural appeal to the space.
Older sedum plants will do well with division. You should dig up the entire plant during a dormant phase and cut the root and the plant in two. You can also look for offsets or baby plants to pull away from the parent plant. Once you plant and establish your sedums, they can produce more flowers at a quicker rate than the parent plant.
Can You Eat Sedum?
The majority of sedum’s flowers and leaves are edible, and it’s common to add them to smoothies, soups, and green salads for a slightly sour taste. This sour taste will come through with S. Rhodanthemum, S. Reflexum, and S. Sarmentosum. However, Sedum acre or Biting stonecrop has a high toxicity associated with it because it has a higher amount of alkaloids, so it’s not edible.
Sedum Medicinal Properties and Uses
The crushed, fresh leaves or plant extract are very popular for use in traditional herbal medicine, just like neem oil is. These plants are thought to have laxative and diuretic properties. The most common uses of sedum are for helping with skin conditions like ulcers, itchy rashes, and topically treating pimples, warts, and acne dermatitis.
Before you apply it to your skin or eat it, you should check with your doctor and get their recommendation. You also want to make sure you get the correct plant if you get the okay to use it. Some people have allergies that they’re not aware of, especially if they’ve never had contact with this plant before. You should also try a small amount first and see if there are any negative effects.
Harvesting Sedum Flowers for Drying
The best time to harvest sedum flowers if you plan on drying them is during the late morning hours right after the dew evaporates. Most flowers do the best if you cut them before they’re completely mature and not fully open. It’ll continue to mature once you cut it. Fully open flowers will drop the petals as they start to dry. You should experiment and see which blooms work the best for your needs.
Three Ways to Dry or Preserve Sedum Flowers
There are generally three ways for you to dry and preserve these flowers, and you should see which one works best for you. You’ll need:
- Airtight plastic or glass containers (If you’re using silica gel)
- Cut flowers
- Newspaper (for storage)
- Paper clips
- Rubber bands
- Silica gel (Optional)
- String or Hooks
Air drying is one of the easiest ways to preserve your sedum flowers. You should cut your flowers and gather them up by the stems into a small bunch until you have a bunch around ½-inch in diameter.
Wrap the bunch tightly with a rubber band. Know that the stems will shrink a little as they dry, so the band should be tight. Take a paperclip and hook in through the rubber band before hanging your flower bunches upside down from the ceiling with a string or hook. Keep them upside down through the drying process so the stems don’t bend from the flowers being too top heavy.
- If you only want to dry the flower heads without the stems, you can lay the flowers out after you cut them onto a screen.
The flower bunches need to hang out of the direct sunlight, and put them in a dark spot if you can. The more sun the flowers get as they dry, the more the colors will fade. Don’t hang your bunches tight together because low humidity levels and good circulation are the keys to successfully drying the flowers. Allow space for air to flow between and around each bunch.
The drying time will vary, depending on the conditions like the temperature, humidity, and air circulation. Most flowers will dry out in 10 to 20 days. When the stems snap easily and the flowers feel stiff to the touch, they’re dry. You will know they are dry when they feel stiff and the stems snap easily.
Wind Dried Sedum Flowers by PhOtoSITIVELY Illuminating / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Since sedum flowers are so large, you don’t need a lot of them to make a big statement. Drying them can help you create pretty decorations around your home.
Drying Sedum Flowers with Silica Gel
Although sedum flowers aren’t necessarily fragile, you can try to speed up the drying process by using silica gel. Silica gel is actually granular, despite what the name would lead you to believe. It resembles sea salt, and it’s reusable. You can find it at almost any craft store.
Get an airtight, shallow glass or plastic container and spread a layer of silica gel on the bottom until it’s one-inch thick. Space your flower heads out on the layer of silica gel. Gently cover the flowers with another inch of silica gel and seal the container. Allow it to sit undisturbed for 3 to 5 days. Zinnias, pansies, daisies, and anemones all benefit from this drying method.
Drying Sedum Flowers in a Microwave
If you’re too impatient and want to speed up the drying process more, you could microwave your airtight container with the silica gel and flowers in it for three minutes. Allow the container to cool down for 20 minutes before you open it. Check and see if your flowers are completely dry before you remove them from the gel.
How to Keep Your Dried Flowers Looking Nice
Once you get your sedum flowers completely dry, you can enjoy them in crafts, wreaths, and arrangements. You still need to be careful about the sun exposure to encourage them to keep their coloring. It’s also a good idea to keep them away from your HVAC system because it can make the flowers go from dry to brittle.
Just like everything else you display in your home, your dried sedum flowers can get very dusty. You could try to use a very delicate feather duster on them without causing any damage. A blow dryer set on low and cool can also help.
Storing Dried Sedum Flowers
If you plan on storing your newly dried sedum flowers, you want to wrap them in newspaper. Doing so will prevent them from pulling in moisture from the air. Put your newspaper wrapped flowers in a box so they don’t get crushed. Keep them out of overly dry spots like in your attic or overly damp spots like in your basement to preserve them until you’re ready to use them.
Sedum is a nice plant that can easily produce large flowers that will bloom during the summer months. They can create statement pieces in a winter garden, or you can easily dry them for use later. Taking care of your plant correctly will ensure that you get stunning flowers all growing season long.