Cultivation Notes on Phedimus Raf.

Phedimus stellatus
Phedimus stellatus

About the genus

Phedimus is a genus of the succulent Crassulaceae (stonecrop family), with about 18 species, distributed in eastern Europe and Asia. Most growers of succulents may be unfamiliar with the name Phedimus but this is probably the most widely grown genus of succulents in the UK. Until detailed DNA results of 1998 were published, all species of Phedimus were included with Sedum. The main differences are that Phedimus have flat leaves and are mostly herbaceous. The majority are perfectly hardy, and ideal for the rockery or scree garden. Some botanists still prefer to separate the yellow-flowered Far Eastern species from those further west with yellow, pink or purple flowers.

Phedimus spurius comes in more than a dozen selections ranging from pure green leaves with white flowers to bright red foliage and flowers (‘Raspberry Red’) to deep purple foliage and purple flowers. Choose your garden centre specimen when in flower to be sure of the flower colour.

<i>Phedimus aizoon</i> 'Aurantiacum'
Phedimus aizoon ‘Aurantiacum’
<i>Phedimus spurius<i> 'Raspberry Red'
Phedimus spurius ‘Raspberry Red’

How to grow them

Many of us fill our greenhouses to overflowing and wish we could keep some of our plants outdoors. Phedimus make excellent hardy plants for outdoors, and need little tending. They do spread but are never a nuisance, and they can easily smother unwanted weeds. Plants prefer poorer soils or can be gown on dry stone walls. They prefer tumbling over rocks and often vacate rich soil pockets in favour of a concrete or gravel path. Never feed plants; it is not necessary and remember your garden seems like paradise to plants originating from Siberia. These plants can tolerate partial shade but prefer full sun. It would be difficult to walk along a street in the UK without spotting a garden Phedimus though most owners would probably be unaware of this name.

Propagation by division is easy and usually very successful. Divide in spring when new green shoots are seen, and replant the divisions as soon as possible so they do not dry out. Divide your Phedimus every 3–4 years to control the size and maintain health. Phedimus is also easily propagated from cuttings. Using a healthy plant, take cuttings and remove the lower leaves. Allow them to dry out before planting in well-drained soil.

The type specimen is a biennial species (P. stellatus) which is a winter-grower, seeding in autumn and flowering in spring. This is the only species which you can allow to self-seed. It likes popping up in cracks in pavements. As with the majority of Phedimus, they will grow in garden conditions without any horticultural preferences, but well-drained soil is best.

The yellow-flowered Far Eastern species: Phedimus ellacombianus, P. hybridus, P. middendorfianus and P. kamtschaticus are all very similar, producing dense mats of growth in summer. All make excellent ground cover and are much more interesting than grass!

Two taller species are readily available: P. aizoon from Siberia (the slightly shorter ‘Aurantiacum’ or ‘Euphorbioides’ is more colourful) and P. takesimensis from Korea, which  is evergreen.  A variegated form of it has recently been mass-produced with the inappropriate name ‘Atlantis’.

Text & photos by Ray Stephenson

No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. Copyright BCSS and the Author 2024

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