What is Sedum?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Sedum, or stonecrop, is a genus of leaf succulent plant of the Crassulaceae family. There are over 400 species, comprising annual herbs, creeping herbs, and shrubs. Plants in this genus are popular in gardens as a groundcover because of their hardiness and attractive appearance. Most have five-petaled flowers and come in green, red, pink, golden, and yellow varieties.

Sedum reflexum is often used as a salad green in parts of Europe.
Sedum reflexum is often used as a salad green in parts of Europe.

While sedum is most often grown as a ground cover, some varieties are popular house plants. These include Sedum morganum or donkey tail, a light green succulent with bright pink flowers, and Sedum rubrotinctum, also called the jelly bean plant, which has round green and red leaves. These houseplants are fairly easy to care for and most can be grown from cuttings. They are susceptible to overwatering, particularly in months when they are dormant.

Historically, sedum was used medicinally to induce labor, cure epilepsy and treat skin conditions.
Historically, sedum was used medicinally to induce labor, cure epilepsy and treat skin conditions.

Like all succulents, sedum plants store water in their leaves, giving them a swollen, fleshy appearance. Most varieties are native to dry areas, and while some need heat and cannot tolerate cold, others are cold-tolerant but do not do well in the heat. All types are hardy and low-maintenance, and this quality makes them popular for inexperienced gardeners and as a cover for large areas. They are also sometimes preferred to grass as a cover for green roofs — building roofs that are completely covered with vegetation. Sedum lineare or needle stonecrop, a species native to East Asia, has been suggested for green roofs in Shanghai, China.

One variety, Sedum reflexum, is used as a salad green in Europe. It has a sour, astringent taste and is commonly called prickmadam, stone orpine, or crooked yellow stonecrop. Another variety, Sedum acre or biting stonecrop, is sharp and acrid in taste and somewhat toxic. Historically, it was used to induce miscarriage and to cure epilepsy and skin conditions. Eating too much can cause cramps, irritation of the mucous membranes, or paralysis.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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Discussion Comments

SarahSon

I have never had a sedum that was not easy to grow. It seems like no matter if they get sun or shade or even what the soil is like, they still do well for me.

I also have a very colorful sedum succulent that I purchased and have growing in my sun room. I bought it because it had such bright, beautiful leaves and it has also done very well.

I am a little bit better at making sure it gets regular fertilizer and water, but most sedums are quite hardy and will quickly become favorites whether they are planted outside or inside.

golf07

I had an area in a front flower garden that received sun most of the day, and I was looking for a ground cover that would complement the purple, pink and blue flowers in that area.

I chose a sedum plant called Dragon's Blood Sedum that was a dark pink and green ground cover. That one plant has easily spread to cover a much larger area and does well in the hot sun that does not always get regular watering.

I have also transplanted it to other areas, and it grows quickly and will spread wherever you plant it.

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