Autumn Fire SedumHylotelephium (Herbstfreude Group) ‘Autumn Fire’
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Hylotelephium (Herbstfreude Group) ‘Autumn Fire’
Outdoor Growing zone
The Autumn Fire Sedum should find a place in every garden, it is such a fabulous addition to fall. For weeks the large flower heads change from bright pink to the richest of reds, as the nights cool. From spring onwards, the blue-green foliage, tipped with red, is always attractive, and so are the green flower heads as they develop. No plant is more useful for fall coloring and it has a particular affinity for ornamental grasses, which also look great in fall. It is perfect for edging beds, filling rock gardens, decorating walls and slopes, and even in planters for late color. It is also very attractive to bees and many butterflies.
Always plant the Autumn Fire Sedum in full sun for the best growth. This tough plant will grow in any soil that isn’t always wet, from rocky gravels to heavy clays. It is unaffected by cold winters or hot summers, and untroubled by deer or rabbits. Pests and disease almost never bother it, and it just takes an annual cutting back of the stems in fall or early spring to keep it always perfect.
We all want gardens that look beautiful, for as long as possible, right? Well, for that you need to focus some attention on the end of summer, fall and the early parts of winter. Traditionally we depended on trees for fall color, but it doesn’t have to stop there. About 65 years ago the German plant breeder and nurseryman Georg Arends gave us an amazing plant called Autumn Joy Sedum – you can find it on our website. This plant revolutionized fall planting because it gave us weeks and weeks of rich pinks and reds through fall and into winter. Tough and easy to grow, it has become a ‘garden essential’. After that many years, though, we all need some improvement, and that’s exactly what the team at Norseco Nursery in Quebec, Canada, decided to do. The result? The Autumn Fire Sedum. This plant tackles all the issues we can have with Autumn Joy – a tendency to become floppy, meaning time spent tying it up; a slow start to the color, when we wish it would start earlier, and last longer, and muted tones when we might want something stronger. These great breeders gave us all this to take these fall sedums to the next level of beauty.
Autumn Fire Sedum is an herbaceous perennial plant that re-grows each year from a permanent root. It grows as an upright cluster of many stems, reaching a height of about 2 feet tall, in a 2-foot wide clump, by late summer. The leaves are roughly triangular, with undulating edges, and 2 to 4 inches long, with the largest leaves near the base. They are thick and fleshy, an attractive light green with bluish powder over it. The upper leaves often have red edges, a novel feature in this variety. Even before the flower buds develop the foliage is attractive and valuable in the garden.
In mid-summer you will see the first of the flower buds, topping every stem. At this stage they look a bit like broccoli, forming flattened heads that will be 6 inches across by fall. Each head is made up of hundreds of small star-shaped flowers, which in bud are greenish-blue like the leaves. This soft effect is also very attractive in the garden, adding to the interest of your summer beds. By late summer the flowers begin to color, turning whitish and then light pink. Gradually the color darkens until by mid or late fall they are a fantastic deep burgundy-red. In winter they turn to a salmon-tan. Throughout all its color stages, the Autumn Fire Sedum is richer and bolder than the older Autumn Joy variety. The flowers are huge magnets for pollinators like bees, and also for butterflies, including migrating monarchs heading for Mexico.
The Autumn Fire Sedum is a great addition to your garden, and one of the few plants that always looks good, from spring to fall, without attention. Grow it among shrubs and flowers, or around rocks, walls and gravel beds. It is especially beautiful with ornamental grasses, which are often also at their best in fall. Because it thrives in drier places it’s perfect for those hot, dry areas that can be hard to fill with interest. Use it too in planters and pots, mixed with other flowers, to keep them attractive for even longer.
Autumn Fire Sedum is hardy all the way from zone 3 to zone 9, and it does well in everything from hot, dry climates to the heat and humidity of the southeast, as well as in cooler areas.
Always grow your Autumn Fire Sedum plants in full sun. Shade will give poor results. It is adaptable in all soils that aren’t poorly drained, from shallow, rocky and dry soils to the richer soils of flower beds – and everything in between. Once established it is very drought resistant and ideal for open, dry places.
You won’t have any pests or diseases attacking your Autumn Fire Sedum, and deer and rabbits almost always leave it alone – although it isn’t toxic to humans or pets. Each year, between late fall and early spring, cut the stems back to ground level – that’s all the care it needs. This variety is less floppy than the older Autumn Joy Sedum, and normally doesn’t need staking. If you want smaller plants, cut the stems back by 50% in May – the plant will branch out and flowering won’t be affected at all, but they will be bushier and shorter.
Often still called Sedum spectabile, the wild parent of this plant is today more correctly called Hylotelephium spectabile, after DNA research helped sort out the large sedum group. It can be found growing wild in China and Korea, arriving in the West via France around 1860. The most famous variety is the Autumn Joy Sedum, called ‘Herbstfreude’ when it was first released in 1955. It was created by the German horticulturist and nurseryman Georg Arends, who gave us many of our best perennials. Since then other plants have been bred from it, so now we have a group of hybrids called the Herbstfreude Group. The variety called Autumn Fire was created in Quebec, Canada by breeders at Norseco Nursery. We don’t have any details, or when it was created, but perhaps it was a seedling from a batch of seeds produced by ‘Herbstrfreude’.
Sometimes improved versions of older plants are not so good, but everyone who has grown it agrees that the Autumn Fire Sedum has stronger colors for a longer time, is more compact and less inclined to flop, and is enhanced by the red coloring on the leaves. So go for the best, and order now.