How to Grow Sedums for Floral Design
Sedums are one of the most underrated and least frequently grown plants that flower farmers grow.
I think it’s a shame because sedums are one of the easiest perennials to grow, tolerating even the most harsh and unfavorable conditions while still getting bigger and better every year with little to no care whatsoever.
If you’ve been suffering with trying to grow finicky flowers like lisianthus and poppies and ranunuculus, you will find growing sedums to be very relaxing, carefree and allow you to spend your time on other things like tying sweet peas and staking dahlias. They literally require no care whatsoever aside from planting, are incredibly easy to propagate and maintain, and will provide you with a nice fall crop that is a break from the constant march of zinnias and dahlias all season long.
They are a very unique plant - being one of the few succulent plants aside from euphorbia that has any sizeable stem to be used in floral design - and are a great textural contrast to all the other flowers that we grow.
Also important is the fact that all sedums are very drought tolerant (due to their succulent fleshy leaves) very hardy (most will survive Zone 3 wet and cold winters with no issue) and will perform no matter the weather or temperatures or rainfall.
LITTLE KNOWN FACT: Sedums are in fact edible for the most part, although they have a sour, astringent taste. Certain types can be toxic - Sedum rubrotinctum and Sedum acre in particular.
sedum or hylotelephium?
When I’m talking about sedums (or stonecrops) for floral design, I’m talking about sedums in the family Hylotelephium.
Although the other types of succulent such as jelly-bean succulents (Sedum rubrotinctum) Russian stonecrop (Sedum kamtschaticum) and Dragon’s Blood sedum (Sedum spurium ‘Dragon’s Blood’) are excellent plants for the garden as well (and can be used in floral design for small details in personals for wedding work as well as very low centerpieces) if you want any length of stem above a few inches, you’ll want to be growing the Hylotelephium varieties.
You’re probably going to be most familiar with the variety of Hylotelephium ‘Autumn Joy’ - it’s the prototypical sedum that is commonly used in landscaping and gardening applications with its large flowers and wide fleshy leaves. It gets a couple feet tall and grows in a very handsome and compact way that allows for its structural form to show off.
I’ll go over more varieties of Hylotelephium to grow in the next section - but just know that these are the type of sedums you’ll want to be growing as a cut flowers.
Varieties of Sedums to Grow for Floral Design
While you can grow many types of sedums for use in low centerpieces and boutonnieres and small decor like haircombs and flower crowns, there are only a few long-stemmed varieties that are good for using in bouquets.
Our favorite is the good old-fashioned showy stonecrop ‘Autumn Joy’. With its big broccoli-shaped flowers and large fleshy leaves, it’s familiar to most as a garden plant or landscaping plant but is also brilliant as a cut flower material.
Another variety is ‘Neon’. Similar in structure and shape to Autumn Joy, it has a more golden, chartreuse cast to its leaves and a saturated bright fuchsia-pink for its flowers, but just as easy to grow and just as showy.
Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ has beautiful inky-almost-black-purple foliage and stems with dusty rose-blush flowers - always a hit with floral designers - and although shorter than ‘Autumn Joy’ gets decently sized at around a foot or so, long enough for cutting.
Sedum ‘Red Cauli’ has brilliant carmine red flowers that are almost spherical in shape (as opposed to the large umbellifer heads of most other sedums) that almost remind me a bit of castor bean seedpods as far as their shape and texture
Sedum ‘Crystal Pink’ is a gorgeous specimen with light lime-green leaves and bright white-pink flowers that are the color of cotton candy - similar to the lighter pink tones of Cafe au Lait dahlias and pink Double Click cosmos (that they pair well with incidentally).
Sedum ‘Night Embers’ is another dark-foliage beauty with more spherical-shaped flowers of deep rose and golden cream - reminding me of the colors you would find in the interiors of a fig - and is much taller than other dark-foliaged sedums at 24-26”.
(Photos courtesy of Walters Gardens, Bluestone Perennials)
How to Grow Sedums
Sedums grow best in full sun with well-drained soil, but will also do OK with part shade and poor draining soil. Although our specimens in full sun are much more upright, robust and larger, the ones in the shade still grow just fine, albeit a bit smaller, shorter, and more sprawling in form.
The best soil is neutral to slightly alkaline well-drained soil. They do well with sandy soil - a natural for rock gardens and xeric plantings. Be careful of overly saturated soil that remains wet for a long period of time - they can rot if they sit in waterlogged soil for too long.
We cluster our sedums together to maximize space for growing a lot of flowers in a small space when growing for cut flowers. They also very effectively corral themselves together, allowing for them to support each other as opposed to requiring staking. You may find in moister growing areas
To get nice and long stems, ensure they are kept well watered and fertilized during the growing season. This will give them the nutrients and moisture they need to put out good growth.
How to Propagate Sedums
We are growing our collection every single year, taking cuttings off the mother plants and rooting them. Sedums are one of the easiest perennials to propagate from cuttings - and you’ll want to grow them cuttings to maintain the characteristics of the original plant as well as ensuring you get a larger plant much more quickly and more easily*.
In most parts of the country, you’ll be able to just stick a stem into the ground and it will end up rooting without any extra care or effort. We do not live in one of those areas - so we have to take extra measures to ensure the cuttings root.
I exaggerate though - rooting sedum cuttings isn’t that much more effort. We simply insert the cuttings into moist potting mix and wait a couple weeks until they form a nice root structure that can then be transplanted out.
*NOTE: Some varieties of sedum are patented. Ensure that the variety you are growing isn’t patented, especially if you’re a grower that will sell plants to other customers.
How to Harvest Sedums for Floral Design
Sedums are one of the easiest and foolproof materials to harvest for cut flower design. Needing no hydration or special treatment, you can harvest sedums at any time.
Cut the stem down towards the base of the plant - if cut early enough in the season, you may get some side stems that can grow large enough to cut again later. We will strip at least the lower half of the stem of any foliage and sideshoots, leaving the top buds and flowers.
You can also harvest sedums earlier in the season when in the green bud form - they will lend a very different texture and effect, but are lovely in their own way as a great contrast to other fluffier, many-petalled materials.
You can even harvest sedums as a dried flower. The actual flowers themselves will fade on the stem, creating lovely dark-red brown seedheads that are also a great textural addition to dried floral arrangements and keep indefinitely. Just make sure to harvest them before fall rains and snows crush and turn the stems into mush.
Where to buy sedums?
Many of the sedums I mentioned are available through two places.
The first is fellow flower farmer and grower Bailey Hale. Bailey has worked hard to curate and make available plugs for flower farmers, and his perennial selection is quite excellent (I could easily drop hundreds of dollars at any given point). Check out his website Farmer Bailey Perennials
Another good source for sedums is going to be Bluestone Perennials - one of the biggest and best selections of perennials out there, especially for the fancy and ultra rare varieties that you can’t seem to find anywhere else.
Hardy. Drought Tolerant. Gorgeous Structure. What’s not to Like?
I hope that you’ll consider growing sedums, whether you are a home gardener or a flower farmer. They are some of the easiest, most beautiful and most productive plants that we grow here, and consistently produce flowers for us year after year after year, getting bigger and better with time.
There’s really something to be said as a flower farmer about a plant that is low maintenance and so tough and yet so delicate and beautiful at the same time. If only every crop we grew were this easy!
If you like growing sedums, you should definitely check out our eBook on Growing Perennials for Cut Flowers.
Our local floral designers generally buy our sedums too, marveling at the freshness and beauty of each and every stem. If you’re interested in learning how to grow (and sell) cut flowers to florist, we wrote an eBook on our experiences and advice on selling your flowers to florists.
And lastly, if you’re new to flower farming, have thought about flower farming, or want to learn more on how to up your game as a flower farmer, you should check out our eBook bundle here - the perfect 7 books that are the ultimate starting guide for setting up and creating a successful flower farm.