«Autumn Joy» is a stonecrop or cold-hardy succulent, once classified as a sedum and still often sold as one. The stonecrops (Hylotelephium herbstfreude) like «Autumn Joy» originated from China and Korea. It stores water inside thick, light green leaves during the growing season. This plant is drought-tolerant and seldom needs watering. It also has few pests other than deer, solved by applying deer repellent.
«Autumn Joy» grows into a tidy mound about one to two feet tall and two feet wide. Flattened clusters of tiny, light pink flowers appear in late summer. As they age, they deepen in color to copper and rust. Butterflies, mainly cloudless sulphur butterflies, find them irresistible. Stonecrop attracts bees as well. There are plenty of reasons why every garden should include «Autumn Joy,» as it is a plant that stands the test of time.
|Common Name:||«Autumn Joy» Stonecrop, Stonecrop, Sedum, Rock Moss, Gold Chain|
|Botanical Name:||Hylotelephium herbstfreude|
|Plant Type:||Perennial, Succulent, Herbaceous|
|Mature Size:||1-2 ft. tall, 2 ft. wide|
|Soil Type:||Sandy, Clay, Well-drained|
|Soil pH:||Acidic to Neutral (6.0 to 7.5)|
|Bloom Time:||Summer, Fall|
|Flower Color:||Red, Pink, Orange|
|Hardiness Zones:||Zones 3-10 (USDA)|
|Native Area:||North America, Europe, Asia|
«Autumn Joy» Stonecrop Care
This plant is easy 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 sure to hit both sides of every leaf.
You can grow «Autumn Joy» in a container or in a mixed border with perennials that bloom around the same time from spring to fall. Options include salvia, black-eyed Susan, Russian sage, goldenrod, and asters. 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.
«Autumn Joy» is a drought-tolerant perennial that thrives in full sunlight needing at least six hours daily. Stonecrops can grow in partial sunlight in harsh summer climates, especially during mid-afternoon heat, but these plants will not have ample blooms.
Stonecrops grow best in soils with moderate to low fertility—areas with rich soil produce heavy blooms that drop over weak stems. Soil conditions can vary from clay to sandy and gravelly, but as long as it has good drainage. «Autumn Joy» grows in rock gardens and prefers not to be constantly wet.
As a drought-tolerant succulent, «Autumn Joy» requires infrequent watering in most climates. Stonecrops need light watering every one to two weeks during the summer unless they grow in arid climates. Increase watering in dry climates. Make sure to grow in an area with excellent drainage and only water after completely drained. Wet roots lead to rot.
Temperature and Humidity
Tolerant to various temperature conditions, «Autumn Joy» survives in extreme heat and winter frosts. While this plant thrives in heat and humidity, as a fall plant, it continues to bloom through the initial frosts before going dormant for the season. Humidity levels only impact plants in areas that retain too much moisture. Grow in well-draining, rocky environments in regions with high humidity.
«Autumn Joy» does not require fertilizer unless growing in soil that needs amending. These plants grow leggy in soil too rich in nutrients, so only add a balanced fertilizer during the spring if necessary.
Types of Stonecrops
«Autumn Joy» is a popular stonecrop, but several similar varieties will also pair well in rock gardens, along borders, and with ornamental grasses. Here are a few stonecrop varieties:
- «Ruby Glow» Stonecrop: These blooms, growing eight to 12 inches tall, sit on top of blue-green leaves and are adaptable to various soil conditions.
- «Starry» Stonecrop: A succulent with simple or branched stems and white, pink, or purple-red flowers emerging from spring to summer.
- «Coral Reef» Sedum: A heat-tolerant plant, this sedum variety grows three to four inches tall when established.
«Autumn Joy» pruning helps to prevent plants from becoming too leggy and promotes healthier blooms the following season. Keep plants in shape by removing damaged or diseased branches and stems. Pruning «Autumn Joy» in the spring or summer by cutting the plants back half the way to the ground encourages a second showing of blooms in the fall. Depending on your preferences, prune or leave flower buds on top of the steps from summer through winter. The flower buds will change from chartreuse to pink and fade to bronze or chestnut brown.
Propagating «Autumn Joy» Stonecrop
«Autumn Joy» needs to be divided every two to three years, which is one way to propagate new plants. Divide plants after blooming in the fall or before new shoots emerge in the spring. Despite being relatively drought-resistant once established, new plants need more frequent watering during the first year. Here’s how to propagate «Autumn Joy» through division:
- Every two to three years, or upon seeing a dead area in the center of a plant, divide existing plants during the fall or spring.
- Cut stems to six inches above the ground.
- Use a garden spade to gently dig around the crown without breaking the roots.
- Gently shake the soil from the plant’s crown. Use your hands or garden spade to separate clumps into sections. The area should be around 12 inches in diameter to establish a new plant.
- Replant new divisions in well-draining soil with access to full sunlight. Water thoroughly while establishing.
How to Grow «Autumn Joy» Stonecrop From Seed
Growing «Autumn Joy» from seed is not recommended as it will not yield identical results as the parent plant—Use existing plants to propagate new plants. If purchasing new plants, here is how to grow «Autumn Joy» from seed:
- After the last spring frost, plant seeds in a shallow container or seed-starting tray—aim to sow seeds about four to six weeks before the last frost.
- Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil and place the container in indirect sunlight or use a garden lamp.
- Keep soil temperatures high, around 70°F to 80°F, while seeds germinate. Maintain moist, well-draining soil.
- Thin plants into different containers after seeds start to establish, allowing enough room to expand, at least six inches to two feet apart.
- Transplant outside after the threat of frost passes.
«Autumn Joy» Stonecrops do not require a lot of winter care. As a relatively cold-hardy succulent plant, the «Autumn Joy» tolerates winter weather until dying back for the season.
If growing in containers, keep plants guarded against strong winds and water more frequently than outdoors. These plants are better when experiencing a dormant period, so be mindful of fluctuating temperatures as new growth emerges in the spring. Pruning is optional during this time, but reduce water unless the soil is extremely dry. Too much water will cause root rot.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
«Autumn Joy» plants are susceptible to aphids, mealybugs, slugs, and weevils, but these pests are treatable with neem oil if the infestation gets out of control. Most pests are present because of a watering imbalance causing rot from poorly drained soils. As they eat the foliage, rabbits, deer, and birds might be an issue.
Diseases that impact «Autumn Joy» includes fungal issues related to root rot, blight, powdery mildew, rust, and leaf spots. Maintaining well-draining soil and plenty of sun exposure helps prevent these diseases. Growing in nutrient-rich soil and using too much fertilizer can also encourage conditions to form.
How to Get «Autumn Joy» Stonecrop to Bloom
Full sun and well-draining soil increase the frequency and health of «Autumn Joy» blooms. Partial shade, too much fertilizer, and wet soil will prevent flowers from blooming. Adjust your plant care to achieve better flowering results. Removing spent flowers will encourage new blooms.
Common Problems With «Autumn Joy» Stonecrop
In addition, to being infested with the occasional pest, some diseases and care conditions make growing «Autumn Joy» Stonecrop more challenging. Here are some issues to be aware of when growing this plant:
Plant Leaves Falling Off
Soil fungi called crown or stem rot, cause a discoloration of the plant at the soil line and cause the foliage to drop as the plant dies. This fungus spreads through the soil, so infected areas need removal. Foliage might have reddish or brown bumps near the plant’s base. If leaves and flowers dry out with dead spots before falling, this often indicates that leaf blotch is present. Keep plants healthy by removing diseased, damaged, or yellowing leaves and branches, maintaining good airflow, and continuing proper care.
Leaves Turning Yellow
Leaves that have yellow spots might indicate an aphid infestation. Aphids leave sap along the foliage as they eat it, creating tiny holes throughout the plant. These pests remove the nutrients and damage the plant tissue by injecting toxins into the leaves. Most aphid issues resolve by spraying the plants with soap and water, but insecticidal soap is sometimes necessary.