Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Fountain Grass are two of my all time favorite plants! They are true work horses in the flower garden! Both of these plants flow seamlessly through all the seasons, providing interest in all of them. At the same time, they require very little work. Both are drought tolerant plants that require no special care. Planted together, they harmonize on colors and textures creating a stunning display. They are especially beautiful in the fall when the Sedum Autumn Joy’s blooms turn russet red, reflecting the pale lavender-pink colors of the Fountain Grass’ feathery plumes.
I had a difficult area out by the roadside at my house that I wanted to brighten up a bit. Last year, I put in this small 36″ x 36″ flower bed to give it a little curb appeal. It was easy to create an interesting focal point using the Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Fountain Grass. I chose these plants because I knew the heat in this area would be blistering and at that distance from the house, watering would be an issue. I needed drought tolerant plants that could stand the heat!
Let me show you what I did and I will share a handy shortcut to putting in a flower bed quickly.
Drought Tolerant Plants: Sedum and Fountain Grass Flower Bed
Items needed for a 3’x3′ bed:
2 Fountain Grass plants
2 Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ plants
potting soil or top soil
mulch, small amount (I used chopped leaves)
landscape timbers, or other garden border item of choice, cut to size to outline bed
stack of newspapers
Place your landscape timbers, or other garden border item in place
Lay newspapers inside, at least 5-6 sheet thickness. You can lay the newspaper right over any grass that is already there. No need to dig it out! The newspapers will prevent the grass from growing!
Cover with 2-3 inches of potting or top soil.
After deciding placement of your plants, use the spade to cut through the newspaper to make a hole for planting. Do this for each plant. I placed my Fountain Grass behind my Sedum for visual effect from the road (the grass will get taller than the Sedum).
After planting the plants, top the soil with mulch. The mulch will keep the soil from washing away while the plants take root. Eventually, the newspaper underneath will breakdown and act as compost in the soil. The newspaper will also keep it weed and grass free, except the grass you planted of course
NOTE: After a year or two, the newspaper will break down. This will require toppings of mulch to keep the bed weed free. A simple enough fix.
Water lightly and you’re done! Wasn’t that easy?!
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Stonecrop)
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ or Stonecrop is a hardy perennial with thick succulent foliage. It’s quite a beautiful plant with only the thick fleshy leaves and the purple stems. But, late in summer, Autumn Joy has clusters of pink blossoms that arrive! These blossoms darken to a russet color by the end of the fall season. This is a favorite plant of mine because of it’s easy growth habit! Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ thrives on neglect.
It is drought-resistant and tolerates poor, dry soil. As a matter of fact, if you give it too much water, rich soil or fertilizer it can cause the plant to droop. This makes it a favorite for difficult places.
The blooms appear in late spring and create lime green broccoli like clusters of visual interest. By summer they bloom with their gorgeous pink blossoms. Transitioning into fall, the blooms turn a deep russet color. Then by leaving the flower heads on after they are spent, the dried flower heads continue to add interest to the flower garden in the winter time.
If the Autumn Joy starts to appear crowded and your blooms are getting smaller, the plants would benefit from division. Divide your Sedum Autumn Joy as soon as new growth begins in spring. This will give the new divisions time for the roots to establish in their new location before the stress of the summer heat. You can plant your new division in a new bed, an existing bed or maybe share with a friend!
Sedum ‘Autum Joy’ in a nutshell:
- Drought tolerant, four season interest
- Care level: Easy
- Blooms: Aug-Oct
- Height: 18″+
- Spacing: 18-24″
- Exposure: Full Sun
- Soil: Average, well drained
Fountain Grass, botanically known as Pennisetum, is a beautiful, mounding plant that offers a beautiful shape. It adds graceful movement and texture to the garden, as well soft, feathery plumes that dance in the breeze. It has year round visual interest in that it changes colors throughout the seasons and leaves the dried flower heads.
Fountain Grass works well in flower beds, and it’s also stunning when used in a cluster by itself to form a focal point in the lawn. The seed heads (plumes) look amazing in flower arrangements. As an added bonus, Fountain Grass will also attract birds to your yard!
The leaves of the variety of Fountain Grass I have are green in the spring and summer, while sending up it’s feathery pale lavender plumes. In the fall, the leaves develop a slight reddish lavender tone to them. During the winter months, I leave the dried grass and flower heads as visual interest in the bed. This Fountain Grass reaches about 4 feet in height.
Purple Fountain Grass is another all time favorite of mine. This grass is slightly shorter, with red blades and rose tinted plumes.
Even though fountain grasses are perennials, they are considered only half-hardy. They are frost tolerant, but are hardy only to zone 8. Even though I live in zone 7, so far I have not lost a plant due to the cold.
When planting Fountain Grass, choose a sunny site. Like other ornamental grasses, it grows best in full sun. It likes average, but well drained soil. Fountain Grass is a tough drought tolerant plant. Once established, only water in periods of drought.
Fountain Grass in a nutshell:
- Perennial and annual varieties
- Features: Drought tolerant, four season interest
- Care level: easy
- Blooms: July-Oct
- Height: 12″ to 3 ft
- Spacing: 18-24″
- Exposure: Full Sun
- Soil: average, well drained
Sedum Autumn Joy and Fountain Grass work well together
The plants work well together because they like the same conditions. Both are drought tolerant and like average well drained soil and full sun. While the Sedum Autumn Joy has rounded shapes and thick succulent leaves, the Fountain Grass is spiky in shape with tall thin graceful movement. The contrast in the shapes makes them beautiful together. Both of these drought tolerant plants also provide four seasons of interest in the flower garden making them every flower gardeners dream plants!