604 Sedum spectabileCommon Names: showy sedum, showy stonecrop, balloon plant, everlasting Family: Crassulaceae (orpine Family)
Showy sedum is a clump forming herbaceous perennial up to 2 ft (0.6 m) tall and just as wide. The fleshy, succulent leaves are bluish-green in color, egg shaped, toothed on the edges, about 3 ft (0.9 m) long, and opposite or whorled on the stems. The pink-green stems are thick and succulent, held upright and unbranched. In summer, showy sedum blooms with star-shaped pink flowers about a half inch (1.3 cm) across in dense flat-topped clusters (cymes) about 6 in (15.2 cm) in diameter, held on the stem tips above the leaves. The flowers give way to showy clusters of brownish-maroon seeds. Showy sedum dies to the ground in winter, then sprouts back from its tuberous roots in spring.
Several cultivars have been selected including 'Brilliant', which has bright pink petals and darker pink anthers and carpels; 'Carmen', whose flowers are a darker mauve or rose-pink; 'Meteor" with red flowers; 'Iceberg', with white flowers; and 'Stardust', which has silvery-pink flowers.
Showy sedum was crossed with orpine (S. telephium) in 1955, to produce the very popular hybrid, Sedum X 'Autumn Joy' (also known in the trade as S. 'Herbstfreude'). This hybrid has larger, alternate leaves and blooms later in the season with larger, pinkish-bronze flower clusters. It is otherwise quite similar to its parent, showy sedum, and has similar cultural characteristics and requirements.
Showy sedum, Sedum spectabile, is native to China and Korea.
CultureShowy sedum is easy to cultivate, even in poor, thin soil. It does best in sandy, well drained soils. Light: Does best in full sun, but will tolerate a light shade. Moisture: Does best with regular watering, but can survive drought, and even can tolerate seasonally wet conditions. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 9. Cultivated to 8000 ft (2438 m) in Colorado. Propagation: Sedums are easy to propagate with stem or leaf cuttings. It usually is enough merely to detach a leaf and insert it in the soil. Showy sedum does not spread from its tuberous roots, but it can be propagated by dividing the roots.
Showy sedum is a scene stealer in rock gardens. Plant it in a cluster of 2-3 in (5-7.6 cm) the perennial garden or use it in a border. It makes an excellent container plant on the patio or deck.
Before they open in the spring, the clusters of flower buds look like broccoli. The mature seed heads look great in dried floral arrangements.
You can remove a leaf from showy sedum or the hybrid, 'Autumn Joy', and use your finger tips to gently squeeze the leaf base so that the upper and lower surfaces of the leaf begin to part. Then blow it up like a balloon. Now, don't you feel like a kid?
There are about 600 species of Sedum. Many of those that do not die back in winter are grown as house plants. Many of the smaller, trailing kinds are grown as ground covers or planted on top of or in the cracks of stone walls.
Steve Christman 12/11/99; updated 10/22/02, 10/24/03