October 22, 2012

Plant of the month: Sedum kamtschaticum

My garden is a mess. Or perhaps a gentler way to describe it is that it's in a very "naturalistic" stage.

We spent the weekend raking piles of (mostly) Oak leaves and hauling them into the woods to decompose. Unfortunately Oak trees have an annoying tendency to drop their leaves in stages. The ground is littered again, and some of the leaves won't drop until winter. After years of Octobers and Novembers, I've come to accept that the garden won't look tidy again until springtime.


One plant that still looks presentable is Sedum kamtschaticum, sometimes known by the common names Gold Sedum, Trailing Sedum, Low Stonecrop, or Orange Stonecrop. I can't remember how I got started with this plant, but I certainly found the perfect spot for it--growing in cracks between boulders in a stone wall.


How do plants grow in such places?


While it certainly is not currently at its best, Gold Sedum is among the few plants in my garden that aren't dormant, dead, or scraggly. In addition to the fact that this cultivar grows well on, and gives character to, the stone wall, it also helps to reduce erosion. It doesn't seem to repel the chipmunks, but I think it slows down their digging.

Here are some facts about Gold Sedum from two main sources--the Missouri Botanical Garden and North Carolina State University:

  • Plant hardiness: zones 3 to 9;
  • Lighting preference: full sun to partial shade;
  • Soil conditions: tolerates poor soils, but prefers well-drained, moist soils;
  • Water requirements: drought-tolerant succulent;
  • Bloom time: late spring in northern climates;
  • Colors: Bright, golden flowers and bright green foliage that turns reddish in late fall.

In my personal experience, this Sedum cultivar grows well on a north-facing slope that receives some morning and afternoon sun. I often transplant sprigs of it on a whim--simply lifting (by the roots) sections that seem overcrowded, and placing them in bare spots along the wall. They transplant well with next to no care.


When in bloom, they add bursts of color along the gray wall.


When the flowers fade, the fruits are nearly as interesting with their star-shaped clusters.


And the succulent foliage looks delightful during three seasons...especially when coated with raindrops or dew.

26 comments:

  1. I had some pots of red ground cover sedum this summer but I had too many sedum in the pot and they ended up looking wormy. I have a tough spot in my front garden that might work well for this plant. Thanks for the reminder of how well they have the potential to look!

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    1. Thanks for your great example of container gardening! I have one spot under the roof line that gets very little rain. I think I'm going to put some containers with succulents there next spring.

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  2. What a lovely and strong plant! The name kamtschaticum tells that it came from Kamchatka Peninsula in Russian Far East. It's my countryman, ha-ha!

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    1. Yeah, some sources list it as native to Russia and Eastern Europe, and others say it's also native here. It's one of those plants that seems right for a certain spot. There so many wonderful Sedums!

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  3. Beth I love little sedums. I have many around the stones of my pond. I love the cheery flower and foliage of this one. Our trees drop most leaves by the end of October and then we can mow them up. Since the grass has no chemicals, I use the mulch of leaves and grass in the veg beds and between areas just weeded. Of course oaks have their own problems as you state. Our walnut trees from the old house dropped so many leaves they piled to my knees and took forever to rake. I do not miss that. The leaves that fall on beds here I leave as they also mulch and create a nice habitat for insects that the birds forage for in winter and spring...I was amazed at how quickly they decompose by summer.

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    1. Yes, I do the same thing with the garden beds. The leaves provide an excellent organic mulch to protect the perennials until spring. Oaks don't decompose as quickly, though, so I do have to rake some out in the spring. We can mow some of the leaves into the lawn, but there are just so many at the edge of an Oak forest. Raking is a lot of work, but a good workout, too!

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  4. Sedums of all kinds are quickly becoming one of my favorite plants--they look good all year and need little maintenance. Love the gold blooms on this one.

    I haven't even started raking leaves; the big maple in our yard is the one that produces the most leaves, and it's always late to drop them. The big oak tree is close to the road, and if I'm lucky, most years the leaves blow into the fields:)

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    1. Me, too. They're so easy to plant, transplant, and maintain. Regarding the leaves, I'm not sure why we bothered this weekend--the yard is littered with them again. Maybe a big wind will blow them into the woods. ;-)

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  5. I've got to try this plant. I was thinking about putting it between the stepping stones in a path but I'm thinking it may be too shady.

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    1. That could work pretty well. It does branch out some, though, so maybe a shorter Sedum would work better for a path. Maybe S. reflexum or S. acre? Sedums between pavers and stepping stones are nifty!

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  6. I love the little sedums, but have had a hard time finding a good spot for them. Your idea of placing them in a stone wall is wonderful!

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    1. I need to transplant more next spring. They need a little rearranging each year, but otherwise they require next to no care.

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  7. Sedums are so versatile in the garden. They add such texture.

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    1. Yes, and it's great that they're drought-tolerant and easy to maintain. I think I'm going to get more varieties next year.

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  8. I think your stone wall must be wonderful with the sedum growing in its cracks! I have longed for such a wall for years. I do have LOTS of oak leaves. Just gotta love them or go mad.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. The stone wall is a good thing for the garden in so many ways--structure, garden bones, creating a microclimate, adding character, etc. I can't take credit for it because it was here when we moved in, but I sure appreciate it. You are so right about the Oak leaves. I refuse to try to tame them until they're finished dropping--which sometimes doesn't happen until winter. ;-)

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  9. It's wonderful to grow plants in cracks between the stones as you do! The sedum looks so lovely there.

    My garden is looking rather naturalistic too :-), and will until pruning time...

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    1. I can't believe how some of them put down roots in the tiniest cracks. The activity of these volunteers is incredible. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one with a "naturalistic" garden right now. ;-)

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  10. I love the term "gentler way to describe it" ah gardens, mess, leaves, life.

    Thank goodness for Sedums, they are the real workhorses of dry earth. Yours are lovely.

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

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    1. Thanks, Jen. It's hard to fight entropy at its peak of productivity. Here in my garden, entropy rules in the fall. My garden is never perfect, but it tends to be tidier in the spring and summer. I have a few varieties of Sedums here, but I must have more! ;-)

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  11. Yes, the leaves continue to fall, and it takes more than one raking to keep them from being too much for the yard. I myself don't mind them.

    I like your sedum on the wall, and I like the look of the leaves with them.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. It's the season of the Oak leaves at our house. They keep dropping and dropping and it seems there's no end. I won't rake now until they're all down. Hopefully they'll blow into the woods.

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  12. This sedum makes a great groundcover too, spreading out to make a nice, full patch with interesting texture.

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    1. Yeah, I haven't used it much as a groundcover, but I do have some growing in whiskey barrels in the front garden. It seems to do pretty well in that type of planting, too.

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  13. Sedums are pretty little plants, and they come with different foliage colours too. Very clever of you to plant them on a wall.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. I honestly don't remember how I got the idea. I wasn't happy with the previous creeping, browning foliage, so I thought I'd give the Sedum a try. It looks really pretty when it's blooming, and when it's not it adds character to the wall.

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