Stonecrop can add beauty to your garden all year round. Discover the numerous varieties of this pretty perennial, as well as everything you need to know about planting, caring for, propagating and overwintering stonecrop.
Stonecrop (Sedum) refers to a genus in the Crassulaceae family. There are over 400 different species and numerous varieties worldwide, many of which feel at home in our local gardens.
- Stone crop: characteristics and origin
- The most beautiful species and varieties of stonecrop
- When and where to plant stonecrop
- Stonecrop care
- How to propagate sedum
- Is stonecrop hardy?
- Is stonecrop a toxic plant?
Stone crop: characteristics and origin
The name stonecrop refers to a group of numerous closely related species in the genus Sedum. Stonecrops are widespread throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. The natural distribution areas of the Sedum genus are the subtropical and temperate zones of the Northern Hemisphere.
In addition to growth habit, the various Sedum species and cultivars differ in the colour of the leaves and flowers as well as in leaf arrangement. Some stonecrops also have different flowering times. Common characteristics include fleshy succulent leaves, which serve as water reservoirs for the plants, and adaptation to dry and nutrient-poor environments. Depending on the species and variety, Sedum perennials bloom between June and July or throughout the summer until autumn. This makes them valuable food sources for bees that are still flying around late in the year.
The most beautiful species and varieties of stonecrop
Popular Sedum species that are suitable for the garden include:
- Biting stonecrop (Sedum acre): 5 – 10 cm tall; mat-forming succulent perennial; ovate, green, fleshy leaves; numerous yellow, star-shaped flowers; blooms between June and July
- White stonecrop (Sedum album ˈLaconicumˈ): 5 – 15 cm tall; ground-covering perennial; star-shaped, umbel-like, white flowers; blooms between July and August; vigorous growth; brown-red foliage in bright sunlight
- Showy stonecrop or ice plant (Sedum spectabile ˈBrilliantˈ): 40 – 50 cm tall; herbaceous perennial; oval, light green, succulent leaves with scalloped edges; large, umbellate, purple-red flowers; flowers from August to September; grows well in slightly humid soils
- Stonecrop ‘Herbstfreude’ (Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ syn. Sedum telephium ˈAutumn Joyˈ): 50 – 70 cm tall; bushy and clumpy perennial; large, umbellate, brown-red flowers; blooms August to September; oval, grey-green, succulent leaves that turn yellow in autumn; grows well in slightly humid soils
When and where to plant stonecrop
Stonecrop is excellent for planting in stone gardens, open areas with a heather character, and as a green roof. It prefers mostly dry, shallow sites with a sandy, well-drained soil. However, it is also possible to grow Sedum in pots. Most stonecrop species prefer a location in full sun, but some are tolerant of partial shade. Sedum thrives in a soil that has an alkaline to neutral pH and is well-drained with a high stone, gravel or sand content.
Overall, Sedum species are very undemanding plants that have an extremely low nutrient requirement. As a result, a substrate low in nutrients and humus is ideal. In fact, soils too rich in nutrients make stonecrop susceptible to frost and disease. When planting in the garden, always mix one part soil with two parts sand or gravel to get the right permeability.
If you want to grow stonecrop in a pot, use a low-nutrient potting compost like our peat-free Plantura Organic Herb & Seedling Compost. Its low nutrient content is optimal for Sedum species. For improved permeability, mix in one-third of sand and add a drainage layer of stones, gravel or shards of clay to the bottom of the pot.
- Perfect for herbs as well as sowing, propagating & transplanting
- For aromatic herbs & healthy seedlings with strong roots
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
Stonecrop can generally be planted all year round. The best time, however, is spring, as the plants have more time to grow and develop before autumn.
Stonecrops are very easy to care for. In the right location, they thrive with very little effort. However, there are a few things you should keep an eye on.
The groundcover varieties do not require pruning. If they grow too large, cut off part of the rhizome and replant elsewhere.
Taller stonecrops are tolerant to pruning and can be pruned in the autumn. You can even use the cuttings to make pretty autumn wreaths or bouquets with rose hips and heather.
Tip: if you want sedum cut flowers for a vase or flower arrangement, always cut them off just above a leaf. This will increase the chance of the stonecrop sprouting again from that spot.
You can leave the stonecrop flowers on the plants to add some ornamental value to the garden in winter - simply prune back the following spring before the new shoots form. The stems and inflorescences will have withered by early spring, so prune them back by one to two thirds. Cut the plant’s woody parts to just above the ground. This helps perennials rejuvenate and sprout again vigorously.
Watering and fertilising stonecrop
Not only does stonecrop have low nutrient requirements, but it is also sensitive to excessive fertilisation. So, in addition to using a substrate low in nutrients and humus, make sure to not feed the plants. There are exceptions, however – for Sedum plants in pots, replace the substrate occasionally or bolster it with a soil improver.
Excessive water can also damage stonecrop. Water stonecrop plants infrequently, making sure any excess water drains away quickly. This will protect your plants from becoming susceptible to frosts and pests and keep them robust.
Tip: waterlogging occurs more frequently with potted plants due to the small volume of soil. Always use a pot with a drainage hole in the bottom and put a layer off gravel or clay shards in bottom to ensure any excess water can drain easily.
How to propagate sedum
Stonecrop can be propagated in three different ways. It can be propagated by division, vegetatively via cuttings and generatively via seeds.
If a groundcover Sedum species grows too large, remove a section with a spade, carefully remove it from the soil, and replant in another location. Alternatively, take sedum cuttings in spring and place in grow pots filled with substrate. Water lightly occasionally. They will take root within a few weeks and can then be planted out.
Propagation by seeds is also usually reliable. The seeds can be collected and dried in October and November. Sow the stonecrop seeds in the bed between March and May. Since stonecrop needs light to germinate, do not cover the seeds with soil. Simply press them lightly into the soil and keep moist until they germinate.
Is stonecrop hardy?
Stonecrop is hardy in temperate climates. It has a winter hardiness rating of 6 to 7, which means it can withstand temperatures as low as -12 to -23 °C. So, it does not need winter protection.
Is stonecrop a toxic plant?
Stonecrop contains toxic alkaloids as well as other substances like flavonoids and glycosides that can be toxic depending on their concentration.
Is stonecrop poisonous to humans and animals?
Stonecrop is considered slightly toxic due to the low concentration of toxic substances. However, it should be noted that the various Sedum species differ in their alkaloid content.
Can you eat stonecrop?
Stonecrop should not be eaten, even though it is considered only mildly toxic.
If you are looking for other plants that thrive wonderfully in dry conditions and require little to no watering, check out our article on low-maintenance plants.