Look at those neat flowers! Can you Sedum (see-dum)?

Sedum spp and hybrids: Stonecrop

By: Lauren M. Liff

         When it comes to versatility and reliability, sedum is pretty high up there on the list. Sedum ranges in height, habit, garden use, bloom time and color making it a great addition to just about any garden. Some varieties are spreading groundcovers while other varieties are taller and more upright while still others are small enough to be planted in containers and cared for as houseplants. Whether you’re looking for a ground cover to add to your rock garden or a late summer bloomer in your perennial garden – there is a sedum variety to fill almost any position.

         Most of the low-lying flowering varieties will bloom in the spring, as the taller varieties tend to bloom in the late summer or early fall. The low growing varieties are have a spreading/creeping growth habit and the taller varieties can get up to 2 feet tall or more. The blossoms of flowering sedums are star-shaped and bloom in clusters. The flowers range in color: shades of white, red, orange, yellow, lavender and pink – with all the varieties and sedum hybrids, each one is unique. All sedum varieties have thick leaves that grow in clusters around their stems. Some varieties have hairy foliage where as others have leaves that are waxy, some varieties have colorful leaves while others are adorned with light green foliage.

         Even though the varieties of sedum are all different, they are all succulents. As succulents they store water in their foliage, just as a cactus so they prefer to be in well-drained soil and thrive in full sun. Newly planted sedums should be well watered but once they are established they are drought tolerant. Sedums are fairly low maintenance requiring a light layer of compost in the spring each year, division to keep them in check, pruning to keep them healthy and pinching if you prefer to keep them small.

         Sedum can tolerate part sun however this may cause your plant to become leggy and flop over. If this does happen, a cage can be used to keep them upright or pinching the new growth in the spring to promote additional branching – this will also help to keep your sedum on the shorter side. They can be easily divided – in older plants the center of the “clump” will start to die out. To do this, simply divide your sedum into wedge-shaped sections and be sure to replant it in a similar location as to not shock the plant. Sedum cuttings also root rather easily; simply take the cutting and plant it into the soil – with proper watering and an ample amount of sunlight, the cutting will take root in no time! There is no need to deadhead sedums as the spent flower heads are almost as attractive as the blooming flower head – you can cut the whole plant back to the ground after the first freeze (the tops can be composted if you like).

         Sedum attracts a wide variety of pollinators and they are very much adored by butterflies making them the perfect late blooming perennial for your butterfly garden. When used in a butterfly garden or perennial garden, the taller varieties of sedum can be planted amongst coneflowers, rudbeckia and Russian sage. This combination of summer bloomers will give you an extra burst of color later in the season. When using a creeping sedum variety in your rock garden or as a low-lying border, it can be paired with other low growing and/or spreading flowers such as alyssum. With all the different varieties and sedum hybrids, it’s quite easy to find the perfect spot for it in your garden. In your flowerbed, amongst the rocks, on your windowsill or in a planter – sedum is truly one of the most interesting and versatile plants around!


Kopper King: The Hibiscus With Larger Than Life Flowers

Hibiscus x moscheutos 'Kopper King': The Kopper King Hibiscus

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs


            In New Jersey, the tropical hibiscus is one of the more sought after annuals seen quite frequently in entryway urns, patio planters and especially surrounding pools – but did you know that there are hibiscus plants that are actually hardy for our area? The Kopper King hibiscus is stopping people in their tracks wherever they are seen and for good reason! Becoming more popular in the New Jersey landscape, this perennial beauty is absolutely breathtaking with its massive blossoms, striking colors and stunning foliage. As opposed to the tropical hibiscus, this perennial is easier to grow and maintain and will be your landscape show stopper year after year.

            With a sturdy, compact and slightly rounded habit, this woody-based perennial grows to be about 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. The size of the flowers is comparable to that of a dinner plate measuring from 10 to 12 inches in diameter. The remarkable size of the blooms makes them one of the largest flowers produced by any perennial in this area. The flowers resemble that of its cousin the hollyhock; they are light pink with showy red veins leading to a bright red center. These massive blooms sit atop foliage that has a striking deep purple-red color, giving the plant its name ‘Kopper King’. One of the wonderful characteristics of this perennial is its extended bloom period, which goes from mid summer to early fall and sometimes even to the first frost.

            The kopper king will thrive in full sun but can tolerate some light shade. To produce sturdier stems and the best flowers, make sure to plant it in medium to wet soil with good air circulation – this will also help the plant to be stronger and better at resisting diseases. This perennial is susceptible to wind burn so be sure to plant it in a protected area to minimize its risk. Once established, the kopper king does not like to dry out, deep and consistent watering will help to ensure a happy healthy plant! When the flowering season is completed in late autumn, you can prune the stems back 3 to 4 inches to allow for new growth in the spring – this perennial will also benefit from organically rich soils and regular fertilizations during the growing period.

            The kopper king has many uses in the landscape; it can be used as a border, a specimen plant or, for a greater impact, you could use it as a massing plant. Since this plant prefers moist soils, it does very well along streams or ponds and in low or wet areas on your property. This unique plant is the perfect combination of a tropical vibe and a sophisticated appearance. With its beautiful foliage and massive blossoms, the kopper king is a no-brainer when searching for a landscape plant that is a definite head-turner while still being beautifully elegant at the same time. 

Asclepias tuberosa: The Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed: The Monarch Magnet

By: Lauren M. Liff for Dabah Landscape Designs

            It’s quite easy to imagine how the butterfly weed earned its name. Asclepias tuberosa is a beautiful perennial with nectar and pollen rich flowers that attract tons of beneficial insects and pollinators including hummingbirds, bees and yes, you guessed it, hordes of butterflies! This beautiful perennial produces unique clusters of blooms all summer long and they range in color from bright orange to yellow and red. Being that the butterfly weed is a North American Native, it is fairly easy to grow and once established, requires little effort in terms of maintenance.

            Cousin to the milkweed, butterfly weed plants typically reach heights between 12 and 36 inches. The brightly colored blooms sit atop fuzzy green stems surrounded by lance-shaped leaves. Although it is related to the milkweed, this species does not have the milky-sapped stems as the other milkweeds do. This beauty normally grows wild in meadows, open woods, prairies, fields and along roadways however it has enormous garden bed potential. For garden use, they look fantastic when planted in wildflower meadows, garden borders, rock gardens and even as a mass planting in a perennial bed. They require full sun and will thrive in sandy or rocky soil; once established, the butterfly weed is also drought tolerant.

            When planting the butterfly weed, make sure to put it in its permanent place in your garden as the roots are long and very sturdy making transplantation incredibly difficult. Once planted, keep the soil moist until the butterfly weed is established and starts showing new growth – after that it requires occasional water (but keep in mind, it does prefer dry soil). When pruning your butterfly weed, you can trim old growth every spring to keep it happy and healthy. Do not fertilize this perennial as it might actually do the opposite of what is intended and harm the plant. The butterfly weed is susceptible to mealybugs and aphids however these can be easily controlled with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil.

            In the fall, the flowers give way to spindle-shaped seedpods, which are admired when cuttings are used in arrangements of dried flowers. The butterfly weed is self-seeding unless the seedpods are removed. The pods split open and the silky-tailed seeds are dispersed by the wind. An interesting fact about this perennial is that aside from going by the name “butterfly weed” it is also referred to as pleurisy root due to the fact that the plant roots were previously used for medicinal purposes to treat lung inflammations. 

            Asclepias tuberosa will obviously work famously in a butterfly garden. Not only do the blooms provide nectar and pollen, but also the thick leaves are perfectly designed for chrysalis formation. To start a butterfly garden, plant your butterfly weed alongside Coreopsis, Echinacea and butterfly bush (to name a few). Throw in a birdbath to provide water and some large rocks to give the butterflies a spot to catch some rays and before you know it, you will have your very own backyard butterfly sanctuary!