Tall Sedum – ‘Autumn Joy’

sedum and asters
tall sedum autumn joy
Tall sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’

Tall sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’ is a custom plant for growing in the Rocky Mountains. It grows about twenty-four inches tall with an almost square shape and thrives in alkaline, poor, dry soils including clay. ‘Autumn Joy’ has three seasons of interest. Its foliage starts out in spring as a silver round ground cover-looking clump. In summer, its huge heads are formed on the tips of each stem but they stay green and resemble broccoli. In fall, sedum reaches its handsome peak and begins to color. The huge flat-topped flowers will turn pink, rusty and burgundy, often in that order.

Sedums Provide Nourishment for Winged Friends

Sedums bloom in fall along with the asters and together they furnish the necessary stockpile of nutrition for the bees and butterflies to survive through winter. Sedum’s flat-topped, star-shaped flower heads give bees a custom landing strip so they can grab a quick snack. Bees are as valuable to sedum as sedum is to the bees, for they are the only successful hybridizers of these fine plants. New varieties of sedums are not produced in plant laboratories but only by the pollination of bees. One word of warning, position ‘Autumn Joy’ away from paths, walkways or children’s play areas for bee stings are never enjoyable.

tall sedum autumn joy
Asters and tall sedum blooming together.

Sedums are workhorses in western gardens. They can be planted successfully most anywhere and will grow. Another strength ‘Autumn Joy’ brings to the garden is its unusual texture. This handsome plant’s strong appearance varies from the fussy, flamboyance of other flowers for its foliage and flowers are totally different. It grows in a tightly packed, symmetrical, almost square mound so it stands out in the garden and can easily define one space from another. Tall sedums make excellent short hedges around an area like an herb garden or create a border around tall plants that may flop without the stability that sedums offer.

sedum and asters
Sedum has furnished staking so the asters will not flop as well as hiding the asters’ knobby knees from showing.

Tall Sedum is Best Known for its Hardiness

‘Autumn Joy’s’ hardiness is legendary. It handles cold winters even without snowfall and never falters in the hottest of dry summer heat. Sedums always look excellent in xeriscapes or other tough conditions because their spoon-shaped waxy, succulent leaves store water but will start to curl when the garden gets really dry. This means sedum acts as a moisture monitor for the other perennials.

Wildlife, except rabbits, will shy away from sedums, so this is another feature of its appropriateness for growing in the Rocky Mountains. Sedums can be easily divided and will never miss a heartbeat. ‘Autumn Joy’ thrives in areas where no other plant will grow; for example on a steep bank that is impossible to water or in the shade of a pine tree. Sedum will not bloom as fully under the pine tree, but will still grow attractive foliage that may be a little smaller but will still fill in. Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is the perfect plant for high elevation gardens.

sedum autumn joy
‘Autumn Joy’ with Russian Sage in the background.

David Wilson shows one of his own favorite perennials, ‘Autumn Joy.’

How to Prune Sedum, ‘Autumn Joy’

Once winter weather is close to setting in and birds have moved south for the winter, it’s time to prune your stalks all the way back to the ground.


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