If you’re short on space, with little time to garden, sempervivums, saxifrages and sedums are the perfect plants for you. Also known as houseleeks, rockfoil and stonecrop, they thrive on neglect and look great wherever they’re grown.
Sempervivums (aka houseleeks) are hardy, low-growing succulents, forming geometric whorls of fleshy evergreen leaves. With their striking structure, they make beautiful and unusual pot plants.
Sempervivums are very undemanding, but they do need a very well-drained medium to grow in. A shallow bowl or trough filled with a 50/50 mix of peat-free compost and horticultural grit is ideal. Plant them slightly higher than the level of the compost and topdress with a thin layer of grit or gravel to reduce the danger of rotting. Although sempervivums are very drought-tolerant, they will appreciate being watered during very dry periods, but always let the soil dry out between waterings.
The only snag about sempervivums is that after they’ve flowered, they die. Luckily, however, while they’re growing they produce little offshoot rosettes, which can be detached and potted on to make new plants.
Growing saxifrages and stonecrops
Saxifrages, also called rockfoil, are alpines, producing masses of tiny red, pink or white flowers in summer. Some grow into low cushions of small green leaves, while others bear rosettes of fleshy foliage. One of the toughest and best-known saxifrages, Saxifraga x urbium ‘London Pride’, will grow practically anywhere, forming a dense mat of green foliage that very few weeds manage to penetrate.
Saxifrages like very well-drained soil, so dig in lots of grit if planting them in borders. They need regular watering in very dry periods.
Stonecrop is the name given to low-growing sedums to distinguish them from the larger sedums known as ice-plants. Stonecrop sedums grow happily in very poor soils and like lots of sun. Their succulent evergreen foliage makes a very attractive ground cover, and their clusters of tiny flowers in summer and early autumn are a magnet for bees.
Choosing your plants
With so many gorgeous varieties available, it can be tough to choose between them, but here are a few names to look out for:
Sempervivum tectorum – the common houseleek, with rosettes of blue-green, red-flushed leaves and pink flowers in summer
Sempervivum arachnoideum - the cobweb houseleek, with rosettes of green leaves linked by delicate cobwebby strands, and pink flowers in summer
Saxifraga x urbium ‘London Pride’ – very tough, with scalloped green leaves and wiry stems bearing tiny pink flowers in late spring
Saxifraga fortunei – happy in shade, producing masses of small starry white flowers in autumn
Sedum ‘Sunsparkler Lime Zinger’- eye-catching lime-green leaves edged with red.
Sedum cauticola ‘Coca Cola’ – beautiful ground cover, with blue-green leaves and purple-pink flowers from early summer into autumn.
If you’ve got gaps in your borders or pots that need filling, pop down to our garden centre, where we’ve got everything you need this autumn to keep your garden looking great.