Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
It's no garden diva.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy'
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is the scientific name for the silvery perennial known colloquially as Live Forever.
Although popular, Autumn Joy is no garden diva.
It isn't showy.
It isn't fussy.
It has character—and a subtle beauty every season of the year.
In spring, Autumn Joy "greens up," sprouting thick, silvery foliage that feels firm and rubbery to the touch.
Here in Southern Maryland, the Autumn Joy in our flowerbeds grows to about five inches by mid-April. At this time, I divide it, giving away some clumps and transplanting some.
Slowly, as spring turns into summer, Autumn Joy's thick stalks grow taller, reaching up to two feet in height by July.
At their tips, flower heads form. Eventually the heads, which are comprised of small buds, widen and thicken.
On some of our larger Autumn Joy sedum plants, the heads grow up to four inches in diameter, with densely packed buds.
At first these buds are nondescript—small, light green and tight.
As spring passes into summer, the pale, tiny buds of Autumn Joy's flower heads slowly open to reveal increasingly vibrant color.
At first, the small flowers appear white. However, as summer progresses, the tiny buds further unfurl, appearing delicate, almost fragile, in pale pink or lavender.
By autumn, Autumn Joy's flower buds fully open, putting on quite a display, especially the big clumps of sedum. Their masses of thickly-packed purple, deep pink or red blossoms burst with vivid color atop silvery-gray, flat-topped flower heads—ideal landing pads for butterflies, bees and moths.
Here in Zone 7, our Autumn Joy is in full flower by mid-September, just when so many other herbaceous perennials are going to seed.
A staple in rock gardens and a habitue of difficult-to-cultivate areas, Live Forever can grow in just about any type of soil, so long as there's good drainage.
To give the garden structure in winter, Autumn Joy may be allowed to dry on the stalk. As it does so, it will go through an interesting period of transformation as its fleshy stalks and heads yellow, brown and shrink.
Eventually, the entire plant turns an attractive russet brown.
Although I pick a few drying stalks of Autumn Joy to use in arrangements, we leave our sedum plants whole rather than cut them back.
Dried Autumn Joy provides visual interest throughout the winter, standing tall even in the snow.
In spring, as the succulent, new green growth emerges, I break off the old dry stems and add them to my dried flower collection. In their own way, they're as beautiful as pearly balls of white hydrangea or the shiny coin-shaped pods of the money plant.
Spring, summer, fall, winter—Sedum 'Autumn Joy' has a quiet, subtle beauty every season of the year.
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