Stonecrop is a succulent herb that includes perhaps 600 species -- mostly in the North Temperate Zone. Many make excellent garden subjects, but they are usually not found in most nursery centers and are only available from the various rock garden societies. The genus name is from the ancient Latin term, sedere, "to sit," referring to their low-spreading habit or possibly from sedere, "to quiet," alluding to their supposed sedative properties.
Description of stonecrop: Sedums have strong stems with succulent, usually alternate leaves. Terminal clusters of small, star-shaped flowers have 5 petals. Stonecrop ease of care: Easy.
How to grow stonecrop: Sedums need only a good, well-drained garden soil in full sun. They withstand drought and do amazingly well in very poor soils.
Propagating stonecrop: By seed, by leaf cuttings, or by division.
Uses for stonecrop: The tall sedums, like Sedum spectabile, are excellent in the bed and border, especially effective when planted in masses. The shorter, sprawling types are best for the rock garden. Most make excellent cut flowers.
Stonecrop related species: Sedum Aizoon reaches a height of between 12 and 18 inches with yellow to orange flowers in summer. Sedum kamtschaticum is only 4 inches high and has deep green, scalloped leaves. It bears orange-yellow flowers from July to September. Sedum sieboldii is often called the "October Daphne." It's a trailing plant with lightly scalloped leaves and lovely pink flowers appearing in late fall. Bloom is often killed by frost. Sedum spurium is a creeping sedum, evergreen even in Zone 5, and makes an excellent ground cover. 'Bronze Carpet' has leaves that are tinted bronze and bears pink flowers, while 'Dragon's Blood' has dark red flowers.
Stonecrop related varieties: Hybrid Sedums: Probably one of the top ten perennials in the garden world today is 'Autumn Joy.' It is also known as 'Herbstfreude' or 'Indian Chief.' Although best in full sun, plants will take light shade. They are always attractive: whether in tight buds of a light blue-green a top 2-foot stems; rosy pink in early bloom; in late bloom as the flowers turn mahogany; or a russet-brown during the winter. 'John Creech' is 2 inches tall with showy pink flowers. 'Sunset Cloud' had scalloped blue-green leaves that are purple in winter and late season, and wine-red flowers on 4- to 6-inch plants. 'Matrona' is perhaps the best of the large sedums, with stiff stems clothed in blue-gray leaves and terminal clusters of dusty pink flowers that dry to rich chocolate brown. 'Purple Emperor' has rich purple flowers and rose flowers on open clumps to 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide. 'Ruby Glow' and 'Bertram Anderson' have weakly upright or sprawling 12-inch stems with rounded purple-tinged leaves and ruby-red flowers. 'Strawberries and Cream' has purple leaves and rosy buds that open to white flowers. 'Brilliant' opens its fluorescent pink flowers in midsummer. 'Meteor' bears carmine-red blossoms on 18-inch stems.
Scientific name for stonecrop: Sedum spectabile