2010-06-18 / Beauty in the Backyard

Seeing Stars

Stopping to smell the flowers
By Arlene Marturano

Most gardeners are familiar with Sedum ‘Autumn Joy,’ the 2’ tall autumn blooming perennial attracting butterflies in profusion. Individual florets are star–shaped but clustered in convex cymes.

The genus Sedum includes a group of starflowered succulents suitable for rock gardens to rooftops. Two additional star–studded sedum are making themselves at home in Columbia gardens alongside ‘Autumn Joy.’

Sedum sarmentosum is commonly called graveyard moss, gold moss, stringy stonecrop, trailing stonecrop, or star sedum. When a garden friend gave me a bareroot bunch of star sedum to try, I placed it in a 6” terra cotta pot and within days it filled the container and began trailing across the pavement in search of adventure elsewhere. To my surprise one morning the entire plant glowed yellow. Five–pointed star–like flowers covered the foliage for days before disappearing and leaving star–shaped chartreuse sepals behind.

Sedum ‘Eco–Mt.Emei’ was discovered in southeastern China by Georgia plantsman Don Jacobs. Sedum ‘Eco–Mt.Emei’ was discovered in southeastern China by Georgia plantsman Don Jacobs. The hardy evergreen perennial prefers full sun or partial shade. It succeeds in most soils as long as they drain well. The waterretaining properties of sedum leaves classify them as drought tolerant.

I’m keeping my adventurous spirit in a pot for the time being. Hanging baskets and window boxes would allow it to cascade. Star–sedum makes a low, fast–growing groundcover which can be trimmed to control. Because this sedum spreads horizontally and forms a dense mat, it appeals to green roof engineers.

Propagation is very easy by division or cuttings. Some say it grows anywhere you toss it. One nursery propagates the plant by spreading the trailing stem cuttings on a sheet of moist potting soil. After giving the roots several weeks to sprout, they cut the sheet into small pieces as one would a sheet cake. Each piece becomes a new plant.

Pink star–shaped flowers of Sedum 'Autumn Joy.' Pink star–shaped flowers of Sedum 'Autumn Joy.' A second opportunity to see stars in flower form comes with Chinese sedum, Sedum emarginatum ‘Eco–Mt. Emei.’ Introduced by Georgia planthunter Don Jabobs, the oriental native has . round fleshy green leaves and yellow star–shaped flowers. Riverbanks Botanic Garden displays the plant as a groundcover. The plant enjoys the same growing conditions and uses as its close kin, Sedum sarmentosum.

These two sedums are among the stars of the Shanghai World Expo 2010 where an international green roof conference was held May 10. China has embraced green roof technology to tackle problems related to air pollution, clean water, and energy conservation. Sedums, many of which are native to China, offer low–cost, light weight, fast–spreading rooftop blankets of green reflecting their stars skyward.

Rebekah Cl ine of Rebekah’s Garden ar ranges sedum in decorative planters. Rebekah Cl ine of Rebekah’s Garden ar ranges sedum in decorative planters. Columbia gardeners are fortunate to sit under the stars among star–status sedum.
Ter ra cotta pot f il led wi th trai l ing star sedum. Ter ra cotta pot f il led wi th trai l ing star sedum.
Riverbanks Botanic Garden uses ‘Eco-Mt. Emei ’ as a groundcover. Riverbanks Botanic Garden uses ‘Eco-Mt. Emei ’ as a groundcover.

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