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Besides being an easy flower, sedum is deer resistant

September 20, 2017

When fields are cleared, the soil freezes deeper and stones are pushed to the surface. Settlers often stacked these into stone walls, over 240,000 miles of stone walls, many which still stand today hundreds of years later. Gardeners and farmers often complain that their rocky soil only yields a crop of stones.

So it is fitting that one of the easiest, least fussy flowers you can grow is commonly called Stonecrop. It is said only stones need less care than the ever-faithful Sedum plant. This is a hardy perennial succulent whose thick leaves store moisture, letting it thrive in hot, sunny weather and dry, poor soil.

The most famous and ubiquitous sedum is Autumn Joy. This hardy sedum will reward you with tiny pink flowers late in the season and into fall. The large flower heads start off a soft pink and slowly age to a deep, rich orange. Pick some for long-lasting bouquets or dry them for everlasting flowers.

For ground cover, try Sedum humifusum with its cheery, bright-yellow flowers. Another low-growing sedum is Blue Spruce (Sedum reflexum) with distinctive blue-green leaves similar to spruce needles. Blue Spruce also has bright-yellow flowers in early summer. The aplty named sedum Brilliant (Hylotelephium spectabile) has bright pink blooms to add to your garden

Besides being a perfect plant it and forget it flower, sedum is deer resistant, and it attracts butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Most sedum will stay in bloom for several weeks. Plant sedum in full sun in fast-draining soil with lots of sand or small rocks. You can use shorter varieties of sedum as ground covers or tucked into rock gardens. All of these drought-hardy plants are good for areas that are too steep to mow or get a lot of abuse, such as next to driveways or along roadsides.

To grow sedum from seeds, sow them directly into the garden in early spring or start them indoors in flats. The seeds are extremely small, so just press the seeds into the moistened soil; do not cover them at all. Keep the seedbed moist but not soggy. They should germinate in 14 to 28 days. As a rule of thumb, 500 sedum seeds will cover a 10-square-foot area as a ground cover.

Sedum grows easily from cuttings. Just insert the cut end into the soil, and let nature take its course. The cuttings will soon root and thrive. If your sedum patch gets overcrowded, divide the plants in the spring or fall.

Once established, your sedum plants need very little care. Sedum can fall prey to mealybugs, scale, snails and slugs, but usually the damage is minimal, and the plants recover rapidly. You can use an organic soap to spray affected plants. Remember that you can kill sedum with kindness, so do not water too heavily and avoid fertilizers; it does best in poor soil.

So plant sedum this fall and you will be rewarded with lush succulent foliage all year, and a burst of cheerful blooms in late summer or fall. They can do double duty to fill in bad soil areas and give you blooms for long-lasting bouquets. Indeed, these stonecrops just might kill two birds with one stone.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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