HARDINESS: Zones 4 to 9
PREFERRED SOIL pH: Neutral
PREFERRED SOIL TYPE: Average, well-drained
PREFERRED LIGHT: Sun to partial shade
ATTRIBUTES: Succulent leaves, pink or white flower clusters; for groundcover, beds, pots
SEASON OF INTEREST: Year-round; blooms late summer to fall
FAVORITES: 'Autumn Joy', 'Stardust', 'Matrona', 'Variegatum', 'Frosty Morn', 'Brilliant'
QUIRKS: Needs well-drained soil
GOOD NEIGHBORS: Blanket flower, coreopsis, ornamental grasses, Russian sage, salvias
WHERE IT GROWS BEST: A sunny, well-drained site with average soil
POTENTIAL PROBLEMS: Stem rot when soil is wet and humidity high
RENEWING PLANTS: Lives 4 years or longer; divide crowded clumps every 3-5 years
CRITTER RESISTANCE: Good except for deer (occasionally)
SOURCE: Bedding plants, cuttings
DIMENSIONS: 12-24 in (30.5-61 cm) tall and equally wide
Stonecrop in the Landscape
These hardy perennials boast thick, succulent foliage that emerges as handsome rosettes in spring. Stone-crops are virtually care-free throughout the summer and brandish domed clusters of white, pink, salmon, yellow, or golden blossoms in late summer into fall. In winter, the dried, russet-toned flowers remain intact, adding color to the garden when you most appreciate it.
While stonecrops enhance flower beds, these versatile plants have a tough constitution for difficult sites. As long as there is good drainage, they tolerate a variety of soils. They adjust to growing in sand and gravel with good humor and persevere during droughts. Stonecrops are also exceptionally salt tolerant and grow with abandon in coastal gardens. And they can edge parched paths or hot curbs and adjust to conditions in containers.
More of a Good Thing
The best-known stonecrop is the hybrid 'Autumn Joy'. It has plump, juicy green leaves and large, flat clusters of pink blossoms that emerge on 20-24 in (50.8-61 cm) stems in late summer and darken to a rosy russet by season's end.
Other stonecrops to invite into your garden include the enchanting 'Stardust', with nearly white flowers atop tall, 18 in (45.7 cm) stems clad in pale blue-green leaves. 'Matrona' has smoky pink flowers on 18-24 in (45.7-61 cm) stems, with gray-green leaves edged with pink-purple. 'Brilliant' lives up to its name with bright rose blooms.
For colorful sedum foliage, 'Variegatum' creates a tapestry effect with yellow-and-green leaves topped with
bright pink flowers. 'Frosty Morn' has pale gray-green leaves rimmed in icy white and pink to white flowers.
In most climates stonecrops perform best in sun, but if your summers are searing, plant them where they will receive afternoon shade. Don't fertilize, and water only when a serious drought is in progress. Pinch back the plants several times before midsummer to encourage bushier growth and more flowers. Stonecrops need to be
divided only when the centers of aging clumps begin to grow and flower less vigorously.
Because of their tough, thick leaves, stonecrops are not pestered by insects or diseases, with the exception of the potentially fatal root or stein rot caused by soggy soil or over fertilizing. During droughts, deer may browse plants. Tuck bars of deodorant bath soap into plantings as a deterrent, or use commercial repellents according to label directions.
Increasing the Bounty
It is easy to root stem cuttings taken in early summer.Take 6 in (15.2 cm) long stem cuttings, remove the leaves from the lower third of the stems, and insert them halfway into moistened, well-drained potting soil. Place the cuttings in a shady spot and keep the soil barely moist until roots form.