Hylotelephium

These hardy succulents look as good in bud as they do in brilliant bloom.

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Most people know them as sedum, while botanical name-changers decreed the upright larger leaved varieties should be hylotelephium, but whatever you prefer to call them these deciduous hardy perennials are some of the most durable and impressive late summer performers. They will endure hot, dry conditions and poor soils, producing steadily expanding mounds of shapely rounded slightly toothed succulent foliage that has architectural appeal. By mid-summer clusters of buds appear which slowly expand further adding to the drama until finally opening into flat heads of small, starry flowers in shades of red, pink to rustic tones, and of course white, which provides a welcome cool tone among late summer colour. Now laden with nectar the flowerheads are magnets for bees and butterflies who frantically drink in all that’s placed on offer. Spent heads offer further use as decorative features in the autumn and winter garden.

There are two main species which have created the main roster of varieties, namely H. spectabile from China and Korea and the more widespread orpine, H. telephium from Asia, which has a number of distinct wild forms. These species were crossed to produce the well-known hybrid ‘Autumn Joy’ or ‘Herbstfreude’, but others in the 30 or so species that make up the group were involved in creating the spate of hybrids.

Hylotelephium prefer moist, well-drained soil, that’s not too rich in full sun, but once established will endure dry conditions. Over-rich conditions will cause taller varieties to flop when in blossom. Their distinctive appearance makes the ideal for use in borders and gravel gardens in both traditional and modern styles, blending well with silvery foliage and other coloured low-growing and groundcover plants. They also look good in pots, especially those with strongly coloured or variegated foliage and it doesn’t matter if you pots inadvertently dry out on occasion either.