Learn all about this fascinating and easy-to-grow groundcover
that positively thrives where so many other plants fail!
Sedum spurium, also called Caucasian stonecrop or two-row stonecrop, is a hardy succulent. This means it can survive even the harshest cold conditions. It’s a member of the Crassulaceae family and one of some 600 species of Sedum*. S. spurium is a dwarf herbaceous perennial composed of dense mats that can reach between 3 and 6 in (8 and 15 cm) tall and 12 to 24 in (30 to 60 cm) wide.
*Its official botanical name, as of 2017, is now Phedimus spurius, but you’ll still likely only find it under its old name, Sedum spurium, in garden centers.
This habit makes it an excellent groundcover, as it’s also slow spreading. It’s a better groundcover option than its more aggressive cousins, goldmoss stonecrop (S. acre) and tasteless stonecrop (S. sexangulare), which may spread with uncontrollable vigor.
In the wild, you’ll find this low-growing evergreen succulent in subalpine meadows and on rocky sites. It’s native to the Caucasus, a mountainous region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, as well as to Iran and Turkey.
This sedum’s leaves are colorful and vary according to cultivars and even to season. They are thick, succulent, obovate, alternate, and toothed towards their tip. They grow to about an inch (2.5 cm) long. The leaves are semi-evergreen: the lower ones drop off in the winter, but the upper ones turn red or bronze in the fall and persist through the winter. The species has pale pink flowers.
S. spurium has quite a few cultivars. (Cultivars are plant varieties that cannot be found in the wild, but have been bred by human beings.) Among them is ‘Roseum’, much like the species, but with deeper pink flowers. ‘Schorbuser Blut’ (sold as the commercial name ‘Dragon’s Blood’ in North America), whose leaves turn red over the summer, is probably the most popular cultivar. It has red flowers.
‘Tricolor’ has green leaves with pink and white edges and pink flowers. And ‘Voodoo’ has purple leaves and rose-red flowers, while ‘Red Carpet’ has green leaves that develop red edges. They turn red in the summer and purple in the autumn.
This sedum blooms from the late spring to mid-summer. It bears clustered star-shaped flowers. Each is about ¾ inches (1.8 cm) in diameter. The flower colors depend on the cultivars being grown. The flowers are natural magnets for bees and butterflies. These blooms bring life into the garden.
S. spurium is not considered poisonous to human beings, but you may suffer some gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting if you ingest it.
How to Use It
Due to its mat-forming abilities and drought-resistant nature, this succulent makes excellent as groundcover in outdoor gardens. It can also be grown as an edging succulent to bring color and to separate sections of the bed. Edging plants are those used to provide a well-defined border between features in your garden.
Let’s dig into the care of S. spurium!
How to Care for Sedum Spurium
Lighting and Placement
S. spurium can handle both full sun and partial shade. This versatility makes it a great choice great for outdoor gardens. You can plant it in the sunniest part of your garden or keep it in a pot on a covered patio. It will do great in either location. When exposed to proper light conditions, its bright green leaves can turn a lovely burgundy tint, especially on their edges. In autumn, the foliage can turn a pleasant-looking red. This plant is cold hardy to hardiness zone 3 and so can survive being outdoors during the winter in almost any climate. If you grow it indoors, place it near any sunny window. Even an east-facing window where it receives bright indirect light will do.
S. spurium is succulent, meaning it stores water in its leaves. It is drought-resistant and requires little to no watering in most outdoor gardens, usually being able to thrive on whatever rain Mother Nature provides. It’s sensitive to overwatering, though, so you need to let the soil dry out between waterings. Overwatering this sedum can lead to root rot and other fungal infections.
The most effective way of knowing when to water is the 2-inch (5-cm) soil test. Stick your finger in the soil to the depth of 2 inches (5 cm). If it’s still moist, there is no need for watering; however, go ahead and water the plant if it’s dry.
S. spurium handles neglect well, and you shouldn’t worry about watering regularly. In caring for the plant, just be mindful of signs that the plant is underwatered. They include the leaves wrinkling and losing their characteristic plumpness.
For your plant to thrive, it requires a light, well-draining soil or a potting mix for indoor plants. S. spurium plants are known for surviving in nutritionally poor soil. If you don’t know what the soil quality in your garden is like, this succulent is an excellent choice, because it will be able to survive any conditions. Just plant it outside in any rock garden.
An excellent commercial cactus and succulent mix would be perfect for indoor plant care, or for growing it in a pot outdoors. Or use regular potting soil, adding sand or perlite to the mix to increase soil drainage.
S. spurium requires only moderate fertilization. Although it grows quickly, don’t be fooled into thinking this means it needs a lot of help from fertilizers. It can positively thrive with few nutrients, so won’t benefit from frequent fertilization.
In fact, too much fertilizer can hurt the plants. Giving them too much nitrogen, one of the main ingredients in fertilizer, softens their leaves and makes them more susceptible to rot. Only fertilize S. spurium when it’s actively growing, so in spring and summer. They are dormant in the winter, and there is no need to feed the plant during this period. Use a soluble fertilizer and dilute it to half strength. A low nitrogen-based fertilizer is best.
Pruning and Grooming
This plant is easy to care for, but requires a little grooming now and then to keep it from growing out-of-bounds. Also remove shoots that lose their leaves. Many gardeners prefer trimming it back to ground level during autumn.
Pests and Diseases
Apart from fungal infections caused by overwatering, this plant is resistant to diseases. It’s susceptible to attacks from sap-sucking pests such as mealybugs, though, and to slugs and snails. These mollusks (slugs and snails) can devour sections of the leaves or apical shoots of younger stems.
Consider spraying your plant with neem oil once a week. It’s a great way to protect it from disease. Neem oil is an organic fungicide and insecticide that is lightly systemic. It can sometimes therefore work from inside the plant by making it unpalatable to pests.
You can control insect pests by spraying the plant with rubbing alcohol or liquid insecticide mixed with water. You can also use organic, contact insecticides such as pepper spray and garlic spray.
The remedies mentioned above work, but prevention is the best way to keep pests at bay. You can keep pests from getting your plants by taking the following measures.
- Fertilize your plant: every plant has internal mechanisms to fight pests and diseases. These mechanisms work best when the plant is healthy. Fertilize it lightly but sufficiently and it will be better able to withstand any onslaughts.
- Keep the plant clean: remove any dry leaves on the plant; this is where bugs tend to hide. Also, prune it as needed to allow proper aeration.
- Isolate infested plants: Put a plant into isolation if you notice pests to prevent cross infestation in the garden.
The best time to propagate is during the summer, but you can do it in the spring and fall too. You can multiply this plant in four ways.
- Through stem cuttings.
- Through leaf cuttings.
- Through division.
- Through seeds.
Gather the following products before you start.
- A sharp cutting tool such as a knife or hand pruner.
- Alcohol wipes, methylated or surgical spirit, and cotton wool.
- 3-inch (7.5 cm) pots depending on the number of plants you want to propagate.
- Well-drained soil.
Propagation Through Stem Cuttings
- Use a sharp and sterilized knife and cut out a stem at the base of the plant.
- Remove all the leaves from the lower part and allow the stem to dry and callous for a week or so.
- Dip the calloused area in rooting hormone (this is optional).
- Plant in a succulent mix or insert into the mother plant’s potting mix.
- Keep the plant indirect bright light.
It should root in a few weeks.
Propagation Through Leaf Cuttings
- Cut the leaf where it joins the plant and allow it to be dry and callous for a week or so.
- Dip the cut end of the leaf in rooting hormone.
- Plant it in a succulent mix, or the mother plant’s potting mix.
- Keep the plant in indirect bright light.
Roots will appear in 4 to 5 weeks, after which you can replant in the garden.
Propagation by Division
You should start the division process by shortening higher stems. Cutting them back makes it easier to handle the plant as you divide it. The following are the steps to follow as you divide.
- Dig around the plant using a shovel until it is possible to remove the root mass without seriously damaging it.
- Shake the soil from the roots carefully and check if any part of the roots is diseased.
- Cut off the diseased parts of the roots.
- Using a sharp, sterilized knife, divide the plant into sections. Each section should be at least 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Ensure each of the sections has as many roots as possible.
- Plant the sections in soil suitable for the growth of the adult plant.
This propagation method is easy, and the new plant gets established quickly due to its already established roots.
Propagation by Seeds
The best time to plant S. spurium seeds is at the beginning of spring when temperatures are between 40 and 70°F (4 and 21°C). You can buy the seeds from a commercial outlet or get them from the seed heads of your plants.
The seeds are tiny and don’t need to be covered with soil. Dampen the soil and press the seeds in. Then, allow them to grow. Keep the soil slightly damp to facilitate germination.
This is not a plant that self-sows too regularly. In fact, seeds rarely germinate on their own. They’re a bit difficult and can easily fail. Also, cultivars, like ‘Schorbuser Blut’ and ‘Tricolor’, don’t always come true to type from seed. For those reasons, it’s better to use other propagation methods.
This elegant plant is great for a laidback gardener. Its care regime is pretty simple; the most intricate part is ensuring you water it well while avoiding any sogginess of the soil.
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I have grown this for years. It does well in any soil and really makes a nice ground cover. I am trying to use it instead of wood chips for mulch areas. It looks great and who needs more wood chip mulch, anyway? We have temperatures down to 0 F., in the winter, and it always comes back.
I can’t seem to find any info on sedum root depth requirements. I have a huge boulder by my patio, and the patio crew just filled in the surrounding space with gravel, so…constant weeds. I think this sedum would work nicely here, to perfectly ring the boulder. I can dig out the gravel to a depth of about 2″-3″ and replace with appropriate soil. Will that be sufficient, or should I look for another compact/shallow-rooted ground cover?
Like many plants that grow on rocks in the wild, plant will grow in very shallow soil. 2 to 3 inches would be great… just watch the watering, as shallow soils dry out quickly.