Plant Some 'Autumn Joy' Stonecrop
Some plants stand the test of time. 'Autumn Joy' stonecrop is one. I've enjoyed it in my garden for more than 30 years and know I can count on weeks of blooms in late summer and fall every single year. There are plenty of reasons why every garden should include 'Autumn Joy.'
About 'Autumn Joy'
'Autumn Joy' is a stonecrop, or cold-hardy succulent that used to be classified as a sedum (and is still often sold as one). Hylotelephium spectabile stonecrops like 'Autumn Joy' originated from China and Korea. During the growing season, it stores water inside thick, light green leaves. This means it's quite tolerant of drought and seldom needs watering. I like that. It also has few pests other than deer (which can be solved by applying deer repellent). I like that too. 'Autumn Joy' grows into a tidy mound about 1 to 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide. Flattened clusters of tiny, light pink flowers appear in late summer. As they age, they deepen in color to copper and finally to rust. Butterflies, particularly cloudless sulphurs, find them irresistible. Stonecrop attracts bees as well.
How to Grow 'Autumn Joy'
Adapted to USDA Zones 3 to 10, this is one easy plant to grow. Just give it well-drained soil and full sun or light afternoon shade. The plants will grow weak and floppy in too much shade or rich soil. Skip the fertilizers and add a little compost if needed. Sometimes an infestation of leaf-sucking aphids can disfigure the leaves—spray them with a strong stream of water from the hose or with neem oil or insecticidal soap, making certain to hit both sides of every leaf.
You can grow 'Autumn Joy' in a container, as shown above, or in a mixed border with perennials that bloom around the same time, such as salvia, black-eyed Susan, Russian sage, goldenrod, asters, blue mist Caryopteris, wild ageratum, and Joe-pye weed. Or, grow this clumping plant in a rock garden with prairie flowers, fall-blooming grasses, and other succulents. 'Autumn Joy' can rot in soggy soil, but plants appreciate regular watering in containers or during hot, dry spells.
If your area has cold winters, the foliage will die back each winter and reappear in the spring. Cut stems last a long time in water and also dry well. Or, you can leave the dried seed heads in the garden for songbirds and for winter interest.
Where to Buy 'Autumn Joy'
With so many good traits, you'll find this winner available at most garden centers. White Flower Farm is a good online source. You can plant anytime from spring to fall, so it's always time to spread some 'Autumn Joy.'