Dependable, easy-care plants are always welcome in garden borders, but "Autumn Joy" showy sedum (Sedum "Autumn Joy," syn. Sedum telephium "Autumn Joy" and Sedum spectabile "Autumn Joy") earns a special spot with its dazzling fall display. Most flowering plants wind down as fall approaches, but this hardy perennial grows more striking every day. Low-maintenance and undemanding, "Autumn Joy" showy sedum flourishes with simple, basic care.
Like other succulents plants, "Autumn Joy" can store water in its fleshy leaves. Though the plant tolerates drought, it still prefers consistent watering. Proper watering goes hand in hand with excellent drainage; because "Autumn Joy" won't tolerate waterlogged soil.
In full-sun locations, where "Autumn Joy" does best, water deeply. Then allow the soil to dry out before watering again. Check the soil by hand before watering; if it's moist, wait. Overwatering or poor drainage leads to root disease and floppiness in otherwise sturdy stems. Too much shade accentuates both problems.
A simple annual layer of compost supplies "Autumn Joy" with sufficient nutrients in average garden soils. Overly rich soil causes weak growth and floppy stems, made worse by the weight of spectacular, large flower heads.
Avoid high-nitrogen fertilizers, including turf grass products, near "Autumn Joy" and other flowering perennials. High nitrogen stimulates lanky growth and inhibits flowers.
"Autumn Joy" flowers begin as dusty pink blooms in midsummer. By fall, the flowers mature to rusty, copper-red. Too much fertilizer diminishes the six- to eight-week floral display that runs through fall -- and the butterflies and pollinators that flock to the nectar-rich blooms.
Pruning and Trimming
"Autumn Joy" dies to the ground each winter, but the dry stems and seed heads provide lasting interest. Left standing, stems complement winter landscapes and birds seek the seeds for food.
In the spring, trim the plant back to the soil before new growth begins. Don't disturb emerging new stems. Sterilize garden shears with household disinfectant before and after you trim. If you prefer tidy winter gardens, cut "Autumn Joy" back in the fall.
If the spring finds plants lanky because of excess water or fertilizer, trim them back by one-half to restore bushy form. "Autumn Joy" plant parts may be toxic if eaten, so keep trimmings away from curious children.
Protection and Pests
"Autumn Joy" roots withstand winter in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 10. Keeping stems intact at season's end adds a protective layer that helps hold insulating snow cover in place.
An added layer of mulch or leaves helps stabilize soil temperatures and prevent freeze-thaw cycles that heave plants from soil. Wait until the ground freezes, then apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of added mulch. Remove the mulch in the spring when soil warms.
When cared for properly, "Autumn Joy" has few problems with insects or disease. If aphids trouble the plant, a hard blast of water from a garden hose sends the offending pests on their way.