The Late-Summer Delights Of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’

sedum autumn joy in the garden

Are you on the hunt for a dependable plant for your late-summer garden? Look no further than sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’ Come August, its lovely clusters of tiny flowers are just starting to adopt a rosy-pink hue. And best of all, the blooms keep going for weeks, gradually turning a dusty red that’s the perfect compliment to fall.

SUMMER LOVES AUTUMN JOY

There’s so much to like about this sturdy, upright perennial. For starters, it looks cool all summer with its bright green, fleshy foliage and neat rounded shape. Quickly forming large, 2’ clumps in the garden, Autumn Joy acts as a great filler while adding smooth green texture to summer’s colorful flowers.

sedum autumn joy foliage

But the real show starts sometime in mid-August. That’s when sedum’s plate-like clusters of miniature pink flowers begin to appear.

sedum autumn joy flowers

As temperatures cool, they gradually shift from rose to a brick red.

late summer flower of sedum autumn joy

Eventually the plants dry, leaving foliage and flowers that persist well into winter. 

sedum autumn joy flowers with snow in winter

HATE TO WATER? SEDUM IS YOUR PLANT

For those who dislike watering, this plant is for you! Sedum is a succulent, so it’s naturally drought tolerant. Not only can it withstand the heat, it also stores water in its leaves. As a result, watering is rarely necessary. In fact, most people water only occasionally (every two weeks is usually sufficient.) 

Sedum needs very little watering

Like many sun-lovers, Autumn Joy prefers sandy to gravelly soil and good drainage. It actually thrives in dry conditions. Sedum will tolerate some shade in hot summer climates, but too much shade will produce leggy stems that tend to flop over. (By the way, I’ve found that overly-rich soils will produce the same effect.)

Sedum prefers sandy or gravelly soils

I keep my plants upright and healthy by leaving them alone for most of the summer.

PRUNING TO CONTROL BLOOMS

Sometimes, sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ sends up flowers a little ahead of the game. This summer in Maryland, for instance, most of my client’s plants were producing flowers in July. To prevent this, some careful pruning is necessary.

My go-to reference for pruning perennials is Tracy DiSabato-Aust’s The Well-Tended Perennial Garden. She recommends pruning the stems in June (before buds) to control for height and period of bloom. I’ve followed her method for years and the results are a sturdier plant whose flowers reliably appear in early August. It’s a great way to ensure your garden receives a big burst of color at the end of the season.

However, sometimes the blooms come up REALLY early, which was the case this year in Maryland. I made the drastic decision to prune the emerging flowers to a pair of lateral leaves. This left some stubby growth for a few weeks, but the plant recovered, pushing out a flush of new growth followed by flowers a few weeks later.

MAKING BABIES

Want more of a good thing? Autumn Joy is easy to propagate. Simply divide in spring and replant. Or, you can take stem cuttings in summer. The leaves root easily in soil to form new plants.

SUMMER POLLINATORS LOVE AUTUMN JOY

One glance at my crop in the garden and it’s easy to see why pollinators love it. The large, flat clusters of flowers with easy-access nectar are butterfly and bee magnets. Sedum is one of the most active of all the late-summer flowers

butterfly on sedum

UNFORTUNATELY DEER LOVE SEDUM TOO

Autumn Joy is mostly free of pests and diseases, save for some occasional nibbles from slugs or mealy bugs. Its primary predators, however, are deer, who will happily devour it. To protect my plants in deer-infested areas, I net them with black mesh (bird netting). It’s not ideal, but it protects the clumps and allows me to still enjoy the flowers.

Deer love sedum, too

Ready to give sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ a try? Remember – odd numbers read best in a garden because they produce a more natural look. I recommend purchasing 3 or 5 plants and grouping them for the best effect.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ grows in zones 4-11.

 

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About carole funger

I'm a garden designer and Maryland Master Gardener living in the Washington, DC area. I blog about new trends in horticulture, inspiring gardens to visit and the latest tips and ideas for how to nurture your own beautiful garden. Every garden tells a story. What's yours?

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