Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’
Considerable confusion has plagued the botanical name of Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ for some time, but currently the most accurate reference appears to be Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Autumn Joy,’ though it is still sometimes listed Sedum telephium as well as Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude.” Many, if not most, gardeners and some nurseries continue to call this plant Sedum ‘Autumn Joy.’
Months of Joy
However it is labeled, the ‘Autumn Joy’ part of the plant name is perfectly descriptive.
- Despite its spring and summer beauty, the outstanding season is autumn as it puts on a show at the time of the year when our gardens can use a burst of color.
- As most perennials are slowing down for fall, this upright member of the succulent Crassulaceae family continues to bloom for weeks.
- Large, rosy-coral flower heads stand about 15-18 in. high on a multi-branched plant about 2 ft. wide at maturity.
- Growth starts in spring with small, Brussels-sprouts-like buds at the soil level. These gradually grow into thick fleshy stalks with paddle-shaped, mid-green, succulent leaves.
- Flower buds form in round clusters at stem tops in early to midsummer, starting out pale and gradually swelling as they broaden and darken in hue, ending up pinky bronze.
- Blooms continue for 6 weeks or so, fully opening from colorful buds at the end of August or beginning of September.
- If flower stalks are left standing until spring, deep mahogany seed heads give the garden winter interest and also provide a food source for birds as they sit on the large spent flat heads and pull out seeds.
The primary needs are full sun and lean soil. If grown in soil that is too rich, in too much shade, or if given too much water, tall stems flop over when the flower heads get heavy.
- ‘Autumn Joy’ is drought-tolerant and not fussy about soil as long as it is well-drained and not overly fertile.
- After winter rains, wait to irrigate until the soil is dry a few inches beneath the surface.
- If stems flop over, reduce watering, tie to stakes, or cut them back by half before flower buds form.
- An early pruning results in increased branching on shorter stems. Flowering may be somewhat delayed, however.
- In late winter or early spring, either cut or break off the stalks at ground level where new buds are forming a low clump.
- When clusters of buds at ground level widen substantially, they can easily be dug up and divided to make more plants.
As with other sedums, ‘Autumn Joy’ can be an element among other low-water flowering perennials in a rock garden or among ornamental grasses.
- Although it often appears on deer-resistant lists, deer are frequent predators in fall as native vegetation dries up.
- Bees and butterflies are non-stop visitors for many weeks. Bees rely heavily on this and other plants that produce late-season nectar.
- Insects and diseases are generally not a problem, although sedums may get an infestation of black aphids when planted in too much shade. Strong streams of water from a hose nozzle will knock them off.
- A similar sedum, ‘Autumn Fire,’ is said to be an improvement of ‘Autumn Joy.’ It has larger and longer-flowering blossom heads that stand on stouter, stronger stems.