March 17, 2011

Plant of the month:
Hylotelephium telephium

I’m thrilled to announce that this plant of the month is actually growing in my garden. After a long winter of reporting on evergreens and plants that “will soon make an appearance,” it’s wonderful to announce that Hylotelephium telephium—common name, Sedum “Autumn Joy”—is emerging!

I realize this perennial is extremely common in most Midwestern gardens. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable or less appreciated. Sedum Autumn Joy is one of the easiest perennials to plant, propagate, transplant, and maintain. It has unique succulent foliage and flat-topped clusters of fluffy flower heads.

In early spring (now, in my garden) it looks like this:

In summer, the plants form a dramatic bright green backdrop to more colorful annuals and perennials. And in late summer and early fall, the flower heads are tinged with a rosy hue—my favorite stage in the plant’s life cycle:

In autumn, this beauty takes center stage, with a brilliant fuchsia tint almost as dramatic as the leaves of the Burning Bush. Even in winter, Autumn Joy flower heads can be dried or left on the plants to collect snow in interesting patterns.

Sedum Autumn Joy is:

  • Easy to establish and transplant. You can divide it and plant it at just about any point during its growing season. I’ve even pinched off single leaves and transplanted them successfully directly into the soil.
  • Rabbit-resistant (see this previous post).
  • Drought-tolerant, yet it thrives with moderate watering and rainfall.
  • Happy in full sun or partial shade. Mine is planted on the west side of the house, which is shaded in the morning and bakes in the hot afternoon sun.
  • A butterfly and honey bee attractor. Placed near vegetables and fruits, it helps attract beneficial pollinators.
  • Likely to grow well in normal, sandy, or clay soil.
  • A standout from late summer through late fall, when most other plants are fading.

While Autumn Joy was introduced to the U.S., other Sedums including Hylotelephium telephioides are natives. (Thanks to Carolyn at Carolyn's Shade Gardens for the note about this.) This lovely perennial is so reliable and easy to grow, I can’t imagine a garden without it. I was so happy to see the little clusters of new growth in my garden today.


    1. I love this sedum, too. It's always fun to see things emerging again in the spring!

    2. love this versatile plant..I have to keep it from the browsing deer....

    3. Mine too. I was surprised to see the little shoots this early. Always reliable though.

    4. Wow - what a beautiful plant. Thanks for all the info. on this plant! xoxo

    5. @Holley: Yes, it is! I kind of went crazy today checking for all the emerging perennials! Pretty soon the new life will be exploding all around us!

      @Donna: I can see how the deer could damage it. We don't have many deer here...I imagine they must be as frustrating as the rabbits, but with bigger, more damaging appendages. :)

      @Donna: Yes, it seems a little early for us, too. My Hellebores are pretty far along!

      @Fishtail: Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you found the blog post useful! It's such an easy-care plant!

    6. Even the newly emerging greens looked so lovely with little rossettes. More so when they are in full bloom with that pink tinge!

    7. Lovely! We see Sedum Autumn Joy here in South Africa too.

    8. I really like this sedum too but only after I learned to cut it back by at least half in June to keep it from getting floppy. I like the way it has new growth through the winter. Never knew it was native though.

    9. @P3: Yes, I agree. Any new growth right now is beautiful for us here in the north. Glad to hear your vegetable garden is growing well.

      @Christine: Thank you. I imagine it's showing its full glory for you now?

      @Carolyn: I haven't noticed floppiness until late fall. When you do cut it back, do the flower tops grow back fast? You're right about this variety of Sedum not being native. Thanks for the correction!

    10. 'Autumn Joy' is a great plant! I just purchased one called 'Autumn Fire,' which is supposed to hold its color a little longer. I'll have to compare them this fall. "Common" is great! As long as it's thriving and happy in my garden, I'll take "common" any day!

    11. The flower tops do grow back quite quickly. Mine blooms and still looks ornamental in late fall so I don't want it to flop.

    12. I have this plant in my garden too and it is one of my favourite plants.

    13. I love and grow it too. Mine looks like yours now - just coming out. It seems to grow almost anywhere.

    14. @Anonymous: I agree. I appreciate the common, reliable beautiful plants as much as the rare, challenging ones!

      @Carolyn: I think I'll try pruning it this year. Thanks for the tip!

      @Kalipso: I have several different Sedums here. They're so easy to care for and reliable.

      @Masha: I've tried it in several different spots and lots, and it seems to do well in all conditions.

    15. This is one of my favorites, too. You can't beat it for an easy to care for plant. I was excited to see the first little cabbage-like shoots of new growth in my garden this past week, too.

    16. Rose: Yes, they're cute aren't they? This is one plant that really changes shape during its life cycle!

    17. I love sedums - insect magnets and a long season of interest. I always chop mine hard back in mid May to stop them going leggy, but otherwise a wonderfully undemanding and beautiful plant.

    18. Hi Beth,
      I have the sedum in my garden too.
      About twoo weeks ago mine look like yours. It's growing well and every year I enyoid the changing of this plant during the seasons.
      Spring is begin this week with with a lot of sun.
      Greetings, Elly

    19. @Janet: I think I will try the technique of cutting back that you and Carolyn recommend. It will be a fun little experiment!

      @Elly: I'll bet the Sedums are so pretty in your garden! Glad to hear the sun is with you!