Good gardening friend Paul Parent of the Paul Parent Garden Club (http://www.paulparent.com/) sends out a great newsletter every week with pertinent gardening topics. I encourage you to go to his website to sign up for his newsletter. Paul can also be heard every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 10 AM at his website or at WBACH (104.7 FM) every Sunday morning from 6 AM to 9 AM. Paul recently sent this article out called Tall Growing, Fall Flowering Sedum (I occasionally add a few comments in italics) and here it is:
"As summer ends, let us prepare to enjoy our fall-flowering perennials. If your garden does not contain fall-flowering perennials let me give you some suggestions. MY favorite family of tall fall-flowering perennials is the sedum family--and for several reasons. They are low maintenance all year, drought resistant, and they are so strong they will grow anywhere in your sunny garden.
I love the tall growing varieties and their unique foliage and flowers. If you are looking for special traits, you will find what you need, as this family has over 400 members and each is unique. I love the fleshy foliage--often up to 1/8 of an inch thick-- and they belong to the succulent plant family, which loves the heat and will tolerate hot and dry weather.The leaves are oval, 1 to 2 inches long, with a rounded tip. They grow opposite each other on strong stems that will mature to up to 3 feet tall.
If you cut back the plant in half on the 4th of July, your plant will stay shorter and mature at 18 to 24 inches tall. This pruning also encourages the plant to bush out, and most years the plant will almost double in size. Pruning also gives the plant a spreading shape like a mushroom cap, rather than upright and tall with minimal character. The plant will make more flowers when pruned; the flowers will be smaller but the plant will not fall over with the weight of the flower, a real plus for this plant.
When you prune the sedums in July, save these cuttings and plant them in your garden using a bit of rooting powder to help develop roots and watch them grow. I do not know of any other plant that propagates that quickly and easily in the garden. Remove the bottom 2 sets of leaves, dip in rooting powder and push into the ground in groups of 3 to 5 cuttings. Keep moist all the time and in 2 weeks you will have new plants.
Sedum is very hardy and will tolerate winter weather with temperatures -30 to -40 degrees. They love a well-drained soil and if you can add plenty of organic matter like compost or animal manure they will reward you with many strong stems covered with beautiful five-petal star shipped flowers.
The flowers on the sedums develop during August and last well into mid-October. During the summer months, they require half the amount of water that most of your perennials need--a real plus for busy gardeners.
I fertilize sedum in the spring only, with a good organic fertilizer such as Flower–tone or Plant Tone by Espoma. That's all they will need for the rest of the year. In the fall, cut back plants to the ground when they are finished flowering. In the spring, you can split the plant in two or more clumps to divide and make new plants from them. One other thing to consider is that the flowers will attract butterflies and bees to your garden in the fall. (We had a bevy of bees and butterflies dancing around our sedum display just about every day this past week!)
Here are my favorite varieties:
• The number one selling tall-growing sedum is called 'Autumn Joy,' with pale green foliage and large clusters of dark pink star shaped flowers 2 to 4 inches in diameter. The flower will mature to a red-brown color and last on the plant well into the spring if the plant is not cut back. (Autumn Joy is one of Mike's Must Haves--a staple and necessity for any perennial garden!)
• I also love the 'Atropurpureum,' with purple red leaves all year and red flowers in the fall.
• I also planted 'Frosty Morn' because of the variegated green and white edged foliage and pink flowers.
• One last one I love is 'Mediovarigatum,' with variegated green and yellow edged foliage and pink flowers.
I love variegated foliage because the foliage gives the garden color all year, even before the flowers arrive in August. The purple-red foliage is a real bonus to the garden and it just jumps out at you. Look for these sedum this fall and bring color to the garden all year. Enjoy!"