The Oriental lilies are naked. Only a handful of brave orange zinnia blossoms stand atop rain-blackened stems in a big pot. The late lavender blooms of Allium ‘Millenium’ have turned grey. Even the potted urns of Boston Fern struggle to stay cheery with their rusted tips damping off. The never-ending twining of the vetch weed is happy to fill in where your preferred plants are giving up the ghost. To say it’s been a challenging season in the garden is an understatement. Fear not, though. If you’ve got a good batch of sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, there’s still some beautiful blooms to admire.
Just an hour or so before starting this article I was out perusing my boulder garden. I’d been thrilled at how vigorous I saw the sedum coming back this second summer since I’d planted it. Over in flat rock garden, the stalwart sedum I’d planted years ago had shrunk and shrunk in its barely improved soil. Now, it’s all but succumbed to the dense clay of Dublin. Back in the boulder garden, though, planted just last year, Autumn Joy is looking spectacular! I hope the ELF printing press allows a peek at one of the pair of monarch butterflies I saw working the new pinkish clusters of blooms. The plants may still be on their nursery pot honeymoon so I’m trying hard not to expect even more robust gains in coming seasons. I’m just enjoying them as they are right now. I did, however, dig out a whole bunch of the clay soil and replaced with commercial “garden soil” when I planted these last summer.
For most gardeners, sedums are a great backbone late-season perennial. I’ve got a handful of different varieties of the fleshy plants in my gardens, but none are as striking as ‘Autumn Joy’. According to “How to Grow Autumn Joy Stonecrop” at thespruce.com (very helpful gardening resource by the way,) Hylotelephium telephium ‘Herbstfreude’ (‘Autumn Joy’) is actually a hybrid of another sedum plant and ice plant… both of which have the fleshy leaves reminiscent of succulents. Autumn Joy has been around for many years and several close cousins have been developed as well.
Sedums like a fairly even, well-draining soil and once established require very little care if planted in the right conditions. They do not like water-retaining clay. Their roots hate to be captive in solid, moist fine particulate soil (i.e.: clay) but other than that you rarely need to fertilize and they can withstand significant drought once established. Much like succulents. Autumn Joy really puts on a tasteful yet bold display of light pink blooms in dense clusters in late August and the blooms eventually turn a deeper crimson by end of September so they’re a great late-season member of your perennial garden. My current batch is three robust plants I got at Home Depot and they look just as good in their second year. Time will tell, though.
Their kissing cousins include ‘Autumn Charm’ which has similar blooms but serrated leaves edged in cream, ‘Autumn Fire’ with purportedly larger flower heads and an even longer bloom time (I’ll be definitely keeping my eye out for this!) and ‘Hot Stuff’ with a smaller stature at 10-12” versus Joy’s 24” and it has both pink and purple blossoms. That’s just a sampling as there’s more to be found.
If you don’t have any sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, they’re on display at any garden center right now looking just glorious so go out and get 3 or 5. Don’t worry about the bees or butterflies attracted to stonecrop like magnets. They’re busy enjoying some late summer splendor.