Deb Babcock: Try sedums in hard-to-grow areas |

Deb Babcock: Try sedums in hard-to-grow areas

Deb Babcock

— We all tend to have an area in the yard or garden where nothing seems to grow. It's too steep, has poor soil, doesn't get rainfall or is baked by the relentless sun or windblown dry.

For me, it is a south-facing slope that only seems to attract weeds and sparse grasses — until I planted sedums.

Now the many-hued, succulent groundcover plants cascade over the rocks, cover up an unattractive intake pipe to the house, and really look nice. The great weather we've had this summer has helped it become lush in its third year on this slope.

If you are looking for easy care perennial plants for your Steamboat garden, sedums are a great choice. Sedums are succulents; plants that hold water in their leaves and stems. This is how they adapt to our dry conditions in Routt County.

Sedums range from 2 inches to 2 feet in height and offer a variety of flower colors. Attractive to butterflies and bees, sedums are one of the easiest plants to propagate by root cutting or division of plants. They also are cost effective as a small piece of a sedum plant will usually grow if planted in sandy loam. In only a few years, you can have many sedums growing in your garden.

Sedums prefer alkaline, well drained soil and full sun, though some plants will tolerate part shade and even our hard-baked clay soil seems enough to sustain them once you get them started. Most sedums grow by off-shoots or runners. The better the soil conditions, the better the growth of the plant.

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Prepare the area for planting by removing all weeds. Apply glyphosate (Roundup or Kleenup) a week before planting. These products do not leave any residue in the soil, and will kill most existing plants in the area where you want to plant. Add organic material to the soil and plant the sedum. Be sure to water the plants more frequently when they are freshly planted.

Sedums grow very well on hot, dry slopes, in rock gardens, between stepping stones and between rocks in a rock wall. There are many varieties adaptable to our area. You might want to check out the large variety of sedums that grow well here by stopping by the Yampa River Botanic Park. Several kinds of sedum are grown in its south-facing rock garden and its beautiful September charm garden.

These succulents will add texture and color to your flower beds. They will thrive with little attention in difficult-to-grow areas of the garden. Sedums are attractive, cost effective and easy growing plants — works for me.

Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. She was assisted with research on this article from former resident and Master Gardener Camille Fisher. Products mentioned in this article are not endorsed by Master Gardener program but simply presented for informational purposes. Call 970-879-0825 with questions.

What to plant

Consider planting the following sedum varieties in your garden this year:

■ Sedum Acre, also known as Mossy Stonecrop, is often used as a ground cover or between stepping stones as it will tolerate light traffic. This is a short growing green plant that produces yellow flowers. This plant grows easily from cuttings or pieces pulled off of the main plant. I like these plants growing between patio stones.

■ Sedum Dragon’s Blood is a low-growing, red-leaf plant that produces dark red flowers for most of summer.

■ Red Carpet sedum is a ground cover that bears red flowers and has reddish-colored foliage.

■ Sedum Autumn Joy may grow 2 feet high and blooms pink flowers that turn to rusty red in fall.

■ Sedum Sieboldii grows 6 to 9 inches and has bluish-green leaves that produce pink flowers.

■ Sedum middendorffianum, or Chinese Mountain Stonecrop, features evergreen foliage, red flower stems and fabulous multicolored yellow to orange-red flower clusters. This ground-hugging carpet is easily grown on harsh sites.

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