If you are designing mixed containers this year for the porch, patio or deck, then by all means consider the little sedum or stonecrop from Mexico.
The botanical name is Sedum mexicanum. It couples dazzling color along with a tough-as-nails performance for the long growing season ahead. Actually in Zones 7-11 you will be getting a rock-solid, drought-tolerant perennial.
No matter where you live you probably will find a garden center with either Lemon Coral or Lemon Ball for sale. In Mississippi State University trials, Lemon Coral flew through last year’s long summer months with an average of rating of 4.2 on a 5 scale. I planted Lemon Ball in several places at my home in the Savannah area in October and I would be giving them a 5 rating if they were in a trial. So the point being is the Sedum mexicanum is sensational, whether temperatures are pushing 90-plus, or dipping down to those cold frosty mornings.
Succulents such as Lemon Coral and Lemon Ball are persevering summer performers because they store moisture in their roots, leaves and stems. Drought-like conditions can wreak havoc on most container-grown plants, but not succulents. In fact, the archenemy will be too much water or inferior drainage. They are low-maintenance in that they require very little fertilizer, no constant deadheading.
Regardless whether you plant a cool-season container like I did or one for the scorching temperatures ahead, the containers must drain freely, as soggy soil usually proves fatal. So in addition to adequate drainage holes, your potting soil is the next crucial element. For this choice, remember cheaper is rarely the best choice. Premium brands are normally sold by the cubic foot or yard. Even though they are larger, they are lighter and easier to pick up than cheaper brands. In addition to being light and airy, many also have added controlled-release fertilizers, which help get plants off to a good start.
Planting in containers is much the same as planting in the landscape. Place all of your plants with the top of the root ball even with the soil line. Place larger plants in first, then plant smaller filler and spiller plants around the perimeter and in pockets. For my cool-season containers I used Iris virginica in the center with pansies as fillers and Lemon Ball as spillers.
Whether you grow your sedum in cool or hot temperatures, you will find your container will need supplemental water from time to time as well as a little fertilizer. Since containers grow full in a very short amount of time, you will most likely find it a best practice to use a water soluble fertilizer that you either mix up or use with a hose-end sprayer.
Though I am touting the Lemon Coral and Lemon Ball for the way they tumble over the edge of pots, boxes and hanging baskets, know that you could hardly pick a better plant for rock gardens or those areas of the landscape where an electrifying dash of lime green or chartreuse would create an immediate impact. If you live north of Zone 7, then by all means you need to consider Angelina an award winning sedum known as Sedum rupestre. It is cold hardy from Zones 3-11 and gives you a range of colors from lime, to gold and orange depending on the time of the year.
Designing mixed containers is one of the most enjoyable aspects of home gardening. Plants such as Lemon Ball and Lemon Coral sedum have that uncanny ability to make us all look like pros. I hope you will give them a try.
Follow Norman Winter at @CGBGgardenguru.