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Q&A: Super Sedums

Larger-growing sedums possess qualities that put them in the front rank of hardy perennials. If you love ‘Autumn Joy’, these are sure to please.

I love my Autumn Joy sedum. What are some other good cultivars to try?

Answer: If you love Autumn Joy (Hylotelephium 'Herbstfreude' (syn. Sedum Autumn Joy)), these other tall sedums are sure to please:

An abundance of gold-variegated foliage is the main attraction of S. alboroseum ‘Mediovariegatum’ (USDA Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2 feet). The fastidious will be glad to know that the white flowers carry only the merest tinge of pink. Try this native of Japan and China with Campanulacarpatica or any of the Salvia xsylvestris cultivars. 

For sheer drama, it’s hard to beat the chocolate leaves of Hylotelephium telephium subsp. maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet), especially when used to highlight pale flowers. Similar in effect but much easier to find in the U.S. is the selection ‘Mohrchen.’

Sometimes listed as a selection of S. tatarnowii, S. ‘Sunset Cloud’ (Zones 5 to 10; 1 foot) combines large, glaucous leaves with brilliant crimson-purple flowers. Raised in the early 1970s by British nurseryman Jim Archibald, it makes an excellent frontal plant.

Sedum aizoon ‘Euphorbioides’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet) differs from its cohorts among the border sedums in its period of bloom (early summer) and in the color of its flowers, which are a warm yellow fading to bronze; the selection ‘Euphorbioides’ is distinguished by its handsome red stems. 

Sedum alboroseum ‘Frosty Morn’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 foot) was brought to the U.S. from Japan by plant collector and nurseryman Barry Yinger. This vigorous grower bears clean white leaf margins that contrast beautifully with the glaucous centers and white flowers barely tinged with pink.

With its dense clumps of blue-gray leaves that emerge from fleshy rootstock, Rhodiola rosea (Zones 3 to 10; 10-15 inches), formerly known as Sedum roseum, exhibits a color scheme reminiscent of euphorbias such as E. myrsinites. Dusky pink buds open into clusters of sharp yellow-green flowers in late spring or early summer.

Hylotelephium telephium ‘Arthur Branch’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet) represents an eye-catching variation on the basic color scheme of S. telephium subsp. maximum ‘Atropurpureum’. To the glossy, purple-black foliage of ‘Atropurpureum’, ‘Arthur Branch’ adds gleaming ruby stems and reddish purple flowers. Spooky, but nice. 

Hylotelephium telephium ‘Matrona’ (Zones 4 to 10; 2- 2 1/2 feet) was selected by German nurseryman Ewald Hugin. The large leaves are gray green when they emerge in spring but gradually turn purplish; similarly, the flowers undergo a chameleon-like change from pale to dark pink.

Though certainly no slouch in the foliage department, the old selection H. telephium ‘Munstead Red’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet) is outstanding in bloom: after the large heads of cherry-red flowers open in late summer, side growths continue the spectacle until late autumn, the newer flowers contrasting with the brown seed heads. 

With its slight tendency to sprawl, H. ‘Vera Jameson’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 foot) is perfect for the front of the border. The foliage is almost opalescent, blending purple, gray, pink and blue-green. ‘Vera’ is tough, too—a piece of stem took root and lived happily on friend’s compost pile for many years with no attention whatsoever.

The white domes of blossom and clear green foliage of H. spectabile ‘Iceberg’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet) make a refreshing change from the usual sedum pinks and purples. Even its late-season appearance is different: whereas other sedums age to dark brown ‘Iceberg’ becomes a ghostly beige. 

The renowned British plantsman Graham Stuart Thomas spotted H. telephium subsp. maximum ‘Gooseberry Fool’ (Zones 4 to 10; 1 1/2-2 feet) as a self-sown seedling in his own garden. The cultivar name refers to the creamy green color of the open flowers; the contrasting stems are a glossy deep purple.

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