A Pinch Will Do - Caring for Sedum

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Thanks to their interesting foliage and striking colors, Sedum are a popular perennial in the garden. However, they can often look unattractive by the fall and flop over in a haphazard manner.

Now is the time to fix this problem - by the time your 'Autumn Joy' looks unsightly, it will be too late. Not only does the "poor posture" detract from your garden's beauty, it also makes it difficult for pollinators to access the coveted nectar.

Causes

There could be several reasons for this sloppy behavior. One of the most common culprits is too little sun. Sedum do best in full sun (six or more hours) with the majority of this in the afternoon. The other cause could be too much fertilizer or overly rich soil. The "overfed" plant puts on excessive growth in spring and summer and come fall, the long, lanky stems are incapable of supporting large flower heads. If either of the above apply to your annoying Sedum, take the appropriate action (relocate the Sedum and put the fertilizer away!).

Just a Pinch

Upright Sedum (not creeping or mounding) can be manipulated to remain shorter and more compact. Simply pinch each stem back by one third to one half its height sometime in June but before July 1st. Don't fret if the plant already has small broccoli-like flowers - more will follow! New shoots will form below the pruning cut, resulting in more flowers on shorter stems that shouldn't flop. A bonus is all the new plants that can be harvested from the cuttings. Simply allow these to "cure" (age in the sun for a few days), then push the ends into potting soil or sandy loam and start a whole new crop.

By following these simple steps, you'll have Sedum that will look great all season long.

Kerry Ann Mendez KERRY ANN MENDEZ is an award-winning garden educator, author and design consultant based in southern Maine. Her latest book is The Budget-Wise Gardener. You'll now find her at our Kennebunk store consulting on garden design, answering your gardening questions and much more.