I would have never expected that succulents would thrive in a Norwegian garden. I thought succulents were suited for hot, sunny gardens where the temperature never dropped below zero. I was completely wrong! There are plenty of hardy succulents that grow in the Nordic damp, cold climate and survive our freezing winters. Many of these hardy succulents are sedum varieties.
Although many sedums, also oknown as stonecrop, grow in the North, you still need to find the right conditions and varieties that will ensure a great display in your garden. In our search for the perfect sedum, we have tried more than 15 sedum varieties. Below are our observations on how well they did in our garden.
Tall sedum varieties
Sedum spectabile “Stardust”
I would have expected that the large sedums would survive the Nordic climate better than the small and frail looking ones. This does not seem to be the case.
Sedum Stardust is a 50 cm tall stonecrop with green leaves and white flowers. One out of the two we had planted did not survive our coldest winter with temperatures reaching down to -24°C. The surviving sedum Stardust continues living in our garden, although I must say it is not particularly thriving. Probably it does not like its position within the flowerbed. I will try moving it to a more exposed spot.
Sedum telephium “Matrona”
Sedum Matrona is another tall stonecrop, this time with pink flowers, and beautiful dark green leaves with burgundy stems. We bought Sedum Matrona because I was enchanted by the pictures showing autumn gardens dominated by beautiful red-pink sedums. I wanted to have the same effect, but unfortunately, I did not manage… Our Sedum Matrona grows very slowly and starts flowering late. By the end of the season it is not the large clump of perennial that I had imagined. Either Sedum Matrona needs to be transferred to a more exposed spot (not inside a flowerbed), or the variety Matrona is not suited for large autumnal displays.
The bottom line is that I still have not found the ideal tall sedum variety for our climate… but I have managed to find several tiny sedums that thrive in the cold!
Short Sedum Varieties
In spring 2016 we bought many short sedum varieties and planted them in a separate flowerbed. In the pictures below you can see how they grew in one year and which ones did not survive one of our mildest winters (lowest temperature -13°C). For more information on each sedum variety, see below.
Sedum acre “Yellow Queen”
Sedum Yellow Queen is truly amazing! It is one of the few plants that in the first year of planting managed to look exactly like in the picture from the catalogue. Sedum Yellow Queen creates a carpet of small yellowish leaves that in summer are covered with yellow flowers and bees. There are so many flowers that you cannot see the leaves anymore! What is even more stunning is that it covers quickly any surface and hangs down from stones and walls. Truly a queen plant and THE sedum to recommend.
This stonecrop is the “parent” of Yellow Queen. It is as hardy as its “daughter” but does not spread as much. In addition, the leaves of Sedum acre are purely green, with no yellow tinge, which is acceptable, although less decorative. It is a very good sedum to have in your garden, but if you can choose between the two, I would recommend Sedum Yellow Queen.
Sedum oreganum is also a great hardy stonecrop. It has similar yellow flowers to Sedum Yellow Queen, but its leaves are very different. They are plump and have two colours, red and green. Although Sedum oreganum is not as fast growing as Yellow Queen, it is decorative the whole summer due to its colourful leaves. This stonecrop is a great addition to any sedum border.
Sedum album is a hardy stonecrop variety that thrives in our garden. It has tidy, plump leaves that look very nice, but… I am not very fond of Sedum album. The problem is that I don’t like its flowers. They are very small and white. It flowers at the same time as its neighbour Sedum Yellow Queen, which outshines Sedum album. Compared with Yellow Queen, the flowers of S. album look shabby and boring.
Sedum album “Coral Carpet”
Sedum Coral Carpet has red-dark brown leaves. It produces small white flowers as the above mentioned variety. And for the same reasons as above, I am not particularly fond of it, although Sedum Coral Carpet is hardy and thrives in our garden.
Sedum kamtschaticum is thriving in our garden! It spreads with a good rate (although not as fast as Sedum Yellow Queen) and it produces tons of yellow flowers that attract a multitude of pollinators. Sedum kamtschaticum was the first stonecrop variety in our garden and it survived the coldest winter when the temperature dropped to -24°C. Sedum kamtschaticum is a great choice for any cold garden!
Sedum kamtschaticum floriferum “Weihenstephaner Gold”
Sedum Weihenstephaner Gold is taller than its other ground covering cousins. In spring it has the same height as the other sedum varieties, but when its flowering time comes, it releases long flower stems. This makes the plant less compact and messier looking. Probably it would look good in a large flowerbed with medium-sized perennials, but surrounded by other sedum varieties, Sedum Weihenstephaner Gold looks too messy. Despite my personal preferences, Sedum Weihenstephaner Gold thrives in our garden and survives well our winters.
Sedum cauticola, or Hylotelephium cauticola, is an autumn flowering sedum. It produces beautiful bright pink flowers and adds lots of colour to the autumn. Sedum cauticola gives lots of colour to the garden even when it is not flowering. It has beautiful leaves tinged with blue-gray… and as you will learn later, there are only few sedums with colourful leaves that are hardy enough for our winters. Although I wish this stonecrop would spread faster, I am very fond of this variety.
Sedum spurium “Album Superbum”
Remember that I did not like white flowering sedums? Sedum Album Superbum has white flowers, but I like it very much. Its flowers are big and attract pollinators. In addition, this sedum variety spreads very quickly and grows in half shade. Sedum Album Superbum is a very decorative and hardy plant for our climate!
Sedum spurium “Fuldaglut”
Finally here is another sedum with colourful leaves that thrives in our garden! Sedum Fuldaglut has beautiful red-green leaves and bright pink flowers. Most of the other sedums that survived here have yellow flowers, so some splashes of pink are very much welcomed! I wish we had more of this beauty…
Sedum spurium “Schorbuser Blut”
Sedum Schorbuser Blut did not survive its first winter in our garden. This was a disappointment as Sedum Album Superbum and Fuldaglut thrive in our garden. Lesson learnt: When choosing a Sedum spurium variety, be careful, not all of them are winter hardy!
Sedum spathulifolium “Purpureum”
Sedum Purpureum was a real beauty with its red-silvery leaves, however, it did not survive its first winter in our garden. Over the years we have tried buying several sedum varieties with silver leaves, however, they never thrived in our garden. If you want to have a good sedum display in cold weather, choose green leaved sedum varieties.
Sedum spathulifolium “Cape Blanco”
Sedum Cape Blanco is another beautiful stonecrop with silvery leaves that did not survive the winter. Sedum spathulifolium do not seem to be suited for our cold climate.
Caring for sedum
The most important aspect of growing and caring for sedum is planting them in the right spot. Choose a sunny location. Drainage is also very important, sedums don’t like sitting in the water.
For tall sedums, don’t repeat my mistakes and plant them in a spot where they will get maximal sun and air circulation, not behind other perennials.
For short sedums, I find it better to plant them in a raised bed, where they are closer to your eye level. On top of a supporting wall is ideal, or next to a bench where you will sit and observe them.
Once planted, sedums don’t require much attention. We don’t feed them, and they still grow well. Cut the spent flowers of the varieties that have tall flower stems. Besides that, there is not much else to be done, besides enjoying them.
Design with sedum
During the first years of gardening, we tried growing sedums mixed with other perennials. This experiment worked well with Sedum kamtschaticum which has a strong will to live and expand. However, many other sedum varieties were just lost inside a flowerbed. We could not see them, and they were not strong enough to out compete the tall perennials.
In 2016 we have created a special sedum border on top of a supporting wall. It is just a 20 cm wide and 1.5 m long border where we have planted the different sedum varieties. Such planting works very well. It is a miniature garden on its own, that is decorative the whole year due to the difference in the sedum leaves. Once it is flowering, this garden is visited by bees and other pollinators that walk through the miniature plants like humans in a shopping centre. We like sitting next to the supporting wall and observing the insects, while admiring the flowering stonecrops.
Another popular way of arranging sedums is planting them on the roof of sheds and other not overly high buildings. It is truly stunning seeing a roof inhabited by sedum plants!
Finally, here is the list of sedums that deserve the Amberway Approval, starting with the ones that performed best in our garden:
- Sedum acre “Yellow Queen”
- Sedum kamtschaticum
- Sedum “Fuldaglut”
- Sedum oreganum
- Sedum spurium “Album Superbum”
- Sedum acre
- Sedum cauticola
- Sedum kamtschaticum floriferum “Weihenstephaner Gold”