This Sedum Coral Reef was spotted at Lowe’s Bayshore Nursery & Garden Center in Stevensville, Md. (Photo by Micheal Rhian Driscoll)

The succulents known as sedums are renowned for bringing joy to even the least practiced gardener.
Available in about 500 varieties, they’re among the most fuss-free florae to grow and care for, easy-going about soil type and water required (as succulents, they carry their own water within their leaves).
Sedums are also called stonecrops, based on being hardy enough to flourish even in dry, rocky ground.
But a subset of sedums brings extra joy this time of year.
While “mums” are usually the go-to word when summer blooms fade, autumn stonecrops can also rescue garden plots gone drab.
Of these, Autumn Joy is the best known and most widely grown, renowned as a “top 10” classic perennial.
Autumn Joy’s botanic moniker, Hylotelephium herbstsfreude, reflects its origins as a hybrid joining of a sedum and an ice plant.
It also indicates a change in classification which occurred in that sphere, when plants formerly grouped with and marketed under the umbrella name “Sedum” and were separated and referred to as “Hylotelephium.”
Academic change notwithstanding, nurseries, garden centers, and catalogs list them both ways for easier public identification.
With its taller standing stems, trademark attributes of what are often referred to as “border” sedum varieties, the familiar name Autumn Joy refers to its large clusters of flower heads which first turn pink in late summer then morph into rosy russet by late autumn.
In recent years new varieties like Autumn Joy, but even showier, have appeared on the market.
A few were derived as sports, or sports buds (a chance genetic mutation appearing on the original plant) from Autumn Joy.
Among these are:
• Autumn Fire: Developed in Quebec as a more compact grower than Autumn Joy, featuring stronger stems, topped with massive flower head clusters which bloom dusty rose in late summer and deepen to rusty red in fall;
• Sedum “Jaws:” Cultivated in Tennessee, this sport features similar dusty rose — salmon flowers but greater foliage interest, its curled, cupped leaves clustered in a blue green mound, with edges clipped;
• Autumn Charm (Lajos): Reportedly discovered by innovative Sedum specialist Brent Horvath at a nursery in Illinois, this variegated sport of Autumn Joy features green foliage edged in creamy white with large flower clusters of dusty rose, light pink, and salmon, blooming late summer through mid-fall, with seed heads turning reddish brown in winter; and
• Autumn Delight (Beka): Slightly farther down the family tree, Autumn Delight is a sport of Autumn Charm, with chartreuse leaves featuring slender borders of blue-green and delicately-colored pink flowers changing to bronze by winter;
Others not directly related to but clearly inspired by Autumn Joy are tagged Showy Stonecrop or Sedum Spectabile:
• “Mr. Goodbud:” Awarded the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Garden Merit, tiny pink flowers deepen into shades of rich mauve through fall.
• “Brilliant:” Also awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit, this variety’s floral canopy is composed of deep pink/mauve lilac clusters 3 to 4 inches across which become rusty red through fall.
• “Neon:” Reportedly a sport of ‘Brilliant,’ Neon is considered an upgrade by some in terms of slightly shorter stem height and more intense color and bigger, rounder flower heads. The petite star like flowers of magenta/deep pink bloom from August through October; and
• “Hot Stuff:” Atop gray green foliage mounds, the bright pink floral clusters of this variety bloom on more compact stems, less inclined to ‘flop’ over, through mid-fall.
Other sedum varieties fall outside the Autumn Joy model, but bring added oomph of their own unique style to the fall garden:
• “October Daphne” (Sedum Sieboldi ‘Mediovariegatum’): Less towering at just 6 to 8 inches tall, the striking silver blue scalloped foliage of this fall favorite is almost as eye catching as the soft pink starry clusters of flowers, which bloom through mid-fall;
• “Dark Magic:” This dwarf stonecrop bears glossy purple/black leaves and large floral cluster crowns of deep pink blooming through late fall;
• “African Sunset” also known as “African Pearl” (Sedum Telephium): The striking border varietal wows with dark mahogany red foliage, topped by cherry red flowers on branching stems blooming through mid-fall; and
• “Weihenstapher Gold” (Sedum Floriferum): One of several varieties whose foliage color change grabs the fall spotlight, this low growing ground cover’s green leaves transform to red as the weather cools.
Enjoy discovering the simple, surprising joys these and other dazzling but down to earth sedum selections can bestow on your fall garden.