Look to Sedums for low maintenance, color and heat tolerance

In early July, this colorful sedum looks splendid in spite of hot weather. A few drops of water remain on Sedum spurium ‘Fuldaglut’ after a morning sprinkling.

While not the divas of the landscape, sedums are the non-demanding, low maintenance workhorses we all appreciate — I’d say especially as we wilt under record-breaking heat. This succulent perennial takes on these hardships, as long as it has good drainage and doesn’t get overwatered. A bit of shade in our area is nice, but they’re definitely not for the shady garden.

Most but not all sedums are hardy in our region.

Sedums have water-retaining, thick, fleshy leaves, allowing them to thrive on infrequent watering and hot weather. Also know as stonecrop, the more ground-hugging ones are popular in rock gardens as they happily snuggle up to rocks and fill in those spaces by creeping, crawling and spreading out. Don’t overlook them as low edging plants in the front of flower beds.

For patios and balconies, they’re ideal because they don’t wilt if you forget to water them one day, as many of us have experienced with other, less-tough plants. Sedums look good in pots, dish gardens and interesting containers, often drooping over container edges.

An added plus is their wide range of color, both in their starry-looking blossoms and especially those fleshy leaves. Sedum leaf colors are of particular interest, as they provide color and shapes that are distinctive throughout the gardening season.

Favorite colors of mine include leaves of deep maroon, lime that’s nearly yellow, gray and various greens. Their blossoms are a bonus and can be yellow, pink, white, orange and red.

So it’s worth looking at various sedums that appeal to you and select plants that provide the colors and character that blend with your landscape.

They are easy to divide — just separate a rooted clump and replant each division.

Taller ones such as Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ are nice in a mixed border. Reaching nearly 2 feet high and wide, these hybrids are hardy and easy-care. ‘Autumn Joy’ offers pink flower clusters in summer that slowly changes to a rusty coloring in fall, making a nice contrast with blue and purple asters. They remain interesting through many months. Cut them back before new growth starts in early spring. Check out similar sedums sporting white edged leaves and various heights. S. ‘Vera Jameson’ is another popular somewhat tall one, with purplish leaves and rose-pink flowers.

Pollinators are attracted to the flattened flower clusters, especially on the taller sedums. I’ve photographed groups of bees busily working on a single flower cluster of my ‘Autumn Joy’. Butterflies like those easy landing pads also. And a bonus — they’re deer resistant!

Sedums are especially appreciated during the dog days of summer for their display of color, easy care and casual appearance.

A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured. To learn more, visit wwrld.us/cdmg or call 667-6540.