By Debbie Roland and Emmy Ulmschneider, Master Gardeners
In 2016 and 2017 Master Gardeners planted and maintained a small trial for perennials in West Texas. One of the plants involved in that trial was Autumn Fire Sedum (Hylotelephium spectabile “Autumn Fire”) which is an improved variety of “Autumn Joy” Sedum. The improved plant is larger. The blooms are also larger and bloom longer.
This old-fashioned perennial comes from Eastern Europe to China and Japan, and has much to tell us about living in dry conditions. Although it is not native to North America, it has become naturalized. One common name for it is “live-forever” and tells us that this is a tough plant able to survive tough conditions.
Hylotelephium spectabile “Autumn Fire” was originally described as Sedum spectabile, a name that is still often used by nurseries. But with new knowledge, botanists now recognize these taller stonecrops as a different genus: Hylotelephium. This new name honors Telephus, King of Mysia. As the son of Hercules he is woven into some of our favorite stories of Green mythology. The species name, spectabile meaning spectacular, epitomizes is colorful, showy nature.
This is a xeric plant whose mature height is 2’ with and 18” widespread. Full sun is required – at least 6 hours per day. Dig the hole twice the width of the plant and the same depth as the pot it is purchased in. Adding some compost when planting will help with the growth. Always check the roots to be sure they are not root bound in the pot. If they are, gently spread them apart before planting. Water after planting.
If your plant is either a tap root or a bare root, it should not be watered for a couple of days when planted. This will allow the roots to callus over damaged areas caused by transporting and planting.
The sturdy stems of Autumn Fire Sedum have green-blue foliage with flower heads that are a rose-pink color. The flowers appear during the late summer and are beautiful even when they fade so leave them on until late winter trimming. The blooms make beautiful cut flowers and are great for dried arrangements.
They attract butterflies and bees and are deer and rabbit resistant.
This plant is the only one of ten plants in the perennial trial that survived in every planting area. So if you want a tough, showy plant that has taken its name from Greek mythology, then this is the plant for you.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.