As part of our series on ground covers for every type of landscape site, this month we explore planting options for the sunny, dry spaces in your yard.
Sedum is part of the family Crassulaceae, also known as stonecrop, a large genus of flowering plants and leaf succulents that include anywhere from 400-500 different species. The range of sedum include annuals, perennials, ground covers and shrubs. Their water-storing leaves help to make them quite drought tolerant, but most do need some water after extended dry periods and/or intense sun.
An interesting aspect of sedum is that it has been used as a green roof covering for some major industrial buildings, such as Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan Truck Plant, which has 454,000 square feet of Sedum, Nintendo of America’s roof (75,000 square feet), New York City’s Javits Center (292,000 square feet) and the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars plant in Goodwood, England (242,000 square feet).
Some species of Sedum are particularly attractive to butterflies and their larvae, such as Sedum Spathulifolium and Sedum Lanceolatum, but these are just two of many Sedum species popular with pollinators. Sedum are generally divided into two main groups: Tall Sedums and Creeping Sedums. Tall Sedum grow, on average, from 1-3 feet tall, with fleshy leaves and colorful clusters of flowers. Newer cultivars have been bred to be a little shorter to avoid flopping over, with leaves that boast beautiful shades of purple and copper.
Creeping Sedums, such as Sedum Tetractinum, are excellent groundcovers, forming colorful mats of color in the garden that can include various tones of green as well as blue, garnet, gold and copper. Many varieties have tiny blooms that add additional color, and there are cultivars that have graceful draping forms that help soften garden hardscapes such as rock walls, walking paths and even edges of container gardens.
Creeping Sedums are as attractive as they are easy to grow and maintain and are a beautiful addition to any garden or landscape. There are so many varieties from which to choose, that it really comes down to a matter of personal preference as far as color and bloom time go. Here are some options to consider:
- “Album” is a popular choice that blooms in early summer. It has small white flowers and green foliage that turns red in autumn.
- Another early summer bloomer is “Murale” with beautiful bronze foliage and pink flowers.
- For midsummer blooms, consider Sedum “Divergens”. Sunny yellow flowers pop against reddish tinged, green leaves.
- For late summer blooms, Sedum “Ewersii” has soft, blue-gray leaves complemented with pretty pink flowers.
- Sedum can work well as “transition” plantings around ground-sprawling evergreens like yews or junipers. “Petrosedum Rupestre” has blue, needle-like leaves that can work beautifully in such areas.
- “Purple Emperor” has stunning plum foliage that looks brilliant alongside silver-foliaged plants as well as yellow flowers in the garden.
- “Angelina” is a gorgeous, gold-leafed Sedum that transitions to a beautiful bronze in the fall.
- Versatile “Sublime” is a green Sedum that can sub for turf in places where grass or other ground covers can’t grow.
Candytuft is another great ground cover for sunny, dry spots in the garden. “Iberis Sempervirens,” the evergreen or perennial Candytuft, is a species of flowering plant from the Brassicaceae family (like broccoli, brussell sprouts and kale).
This herbaceous groundcover spreads via trailing-roots that extend from the plant’s central root system. The dense, dark green, glossy leaves are a stunning backdrop for the plant’s abundant white blooms with tiny yellow centers, that put on a show from spring through early summer. Its neat growth habit makes it a perfect choice for edging along perennial borders and garden walkways, but it also looks effortlessly at home in less linear structures such as rock gardens. Candytuft can reach a height of 10-12 inches with a 3 foot wide spread, but more compact varieties are also available. The plant thrives in full sun, where it blooms to its fullest, and is also deer and rabbit-resistant. It’s also a wonderful addition to “moon” gardens, where it’s brilliant white blooms practically glow in the moonlight.
Here are some varieties to consider, including those that bloom twice a year, in spring and fall:
- “Purity” – A low mounding variety that only reaches 8” in height. Prolific flowering from early spring through summer, and sometimes re-blooming in fall.
- “Alexander’s White” – Spectacularly pure white flowers that appear in late spring and again in early to mid fall.
- “Snowflake” – growth height under 1’ foot, with a 2’ foot wide spread. Blooms in spring to early summer.
- “Autumn Beauty” – Also less than a foot high at full growth, Autumn Beauty blooms in early to late spring and again in mid to late fall.
- “October Glory” – One of the latest blooming varieties in the fall, October Glory has a compact, mounding growth habit, blooming in the spring and well into the fall.
Ice Plant is hard to beat when it comes to hardy-no-maintenance plants for unforgiving dry sunny spots. The Ice Plant (Delosperma) is a perennial, evergreen succulent with masses of bright, daisy-like flowers. How did such a heat-tolerant plant get the name Ice Plant? Because the flowers and leaves take on a frosty, shimmer-like quality in the sun. Ice Plants bloom throughout the summer and into the fall, with a manageable 3”-6” growth height and 2’-4’ foot wide spread. Although an evergreen, the plant does experience some die-back over the winter.
Deer, pest and disease-resistant, the Ice Plant attracts pollinators such as bees and butterflies. It can handle high humidity as well as drought and extreme radiant heat, which makes it a great choice along pavements, walkways and driveways. And if all that weren’t enough, it even tolerates light foot traffic! Ice Plant comes in a variety of show-stopping colors – here are some of our favorites:
- “Cooper’s” – One of the most common varieties, Cooper’s is a fast growing plant that produces a carpet of purple/pink blooms.
- “Firespinner” – Like a little fireworks show in your garden, Firespinner offers a unique tri-color bloom (orange outer petals that shift to red with a lavender center).
- “Hardy Yellow” – Feathery, sunshine yellow flowers are a beautiful balance against the plant’s thick, fleshy green leaves.
- “Starburst” – This variety lives up to its name, boasting hot pink flowers with bright white centers that look like a sprinkle of stars in the garden.
- “White Pearl” – Delicate, little white flowers with a daisy-like dot of a yellow center.
- “Ruschia” – (Creeping shrubby Ice Plant) – Succulent, blue-green leaves are a backdrop to the plant’s electric, shimmering, fuchsia-pink flowers. A favorite of bees, and not bunnies.
Main Image Photo Credit: Monrovia – Fire Spinner Ice Plant