Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wildflower Wednesday: Sedum ternatum

Sedums are a must have, hot plant these days. I've seen them for sale at local grocery stores and even at a chic furniture store. Yes, I agree, they're adorable and while, they may be a decorator's must have accessory, our Wildflower Wednesday star is the real deal. It's an easy peasy native wildflower you'll want for decorating your garden/woodland floor, not your dining room table!

Sedum ternatum, is commonly called three-leaved stonecrop or wild stonecrop. It slowly creeps to form an attractive green patch. It's happiest in average, well drained soil, in bright to filtered light and is naturally found growing in damp locations along stream banks, bluff bases and stony ledges. You can try growing it in full sun if your soil is consistently moist. I planted it along the front path with visions of it cascading over the limestone wall, but, the clay soil is too dry during the summer and it's never spread like I hoped.

Sedums are often touted as drought tolerant, because their fleshy leaves can hold moisture, but, wild-stonecrop needs moisture. Don't plant it in dry sandy soil and expect it to thrive. It's a woodland plant.

It's short, usually around 8 inches tall and will tuck nicely under shrubs and taller, leggy perennials. It has small, fleshy, succulent-like leaves that are arranged in whorls around the stems. It's even more attractive when in bloom. The flowers are small white stars with noticeably purplish stamens and a hint of scent to delight the gardener's senses and provide for early visiting pollinators.
blooming in my middle Tennessee (zone 7a) garden right now

I adore it and planted more, this time in moister soil.
The flowers are small white stars with noticeably purplish stamens.

Three leaved Stonecrop is a member of the Sedum/Crassulaceae family. Almost all family members have star shaped flowers and succulent leaves. They're enormously popular plants and propagate relatively easily. Propagation is simple: by division or cuttings. Sometimes little bits of the plants break off, fall to soil and root. Now that's easy.
kind of beat up after 3 inches of heavy rain

Plant it with Aquilegia canadensis, Phlox divaricata, Mertensia virginica, Iris cristata, Polystichum acrostichoides, Tiarella cordifolia or Heuchera Americana. My new planting is in a bed of moisture loving Phloxes and Sedges. The beds are mulched with leaf mold to keep the soil moist. It's going to look lovely at the base o Baptisia australis and cuddling up to the pink Phloxes.

My dears, it loves shade, doesn't take over, has attractive flowers, feeds the bees and looks good...This may be the groundcover you've been looking for!

The particulars
Sedum ternatum 
Common Name: three-leaved stonecrop, wild-stonecrop,
Herbaceous perennial, in warmer gardens it might be evergreen.
Family: Crassulaceae
Native Range: Eastern United States, has escaped in eastern Canada
Zone: 4 to 8
Size: less than a foot tall and might spread a foot
Bloom Time: April to May with a showy star flower
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium: which means it is not a drought plant, although, listed as drought tolerant, it does not thrive in a truly dry garden.
Maintenance: Low
Propagation: Division or cuttings. Seeds take a very long time.

The seed heads are pretty cool, too.

Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize, perfect in a rocky, moist spot. I have it planted with Phloxes that like it moist. Tuck it between rocks or  under leggy perennials.
Wildlife value: The flower nectar and pollen of stonecrops (Sedum spp.) attract various kinds of bees, including Andrena forbesii. Less often, wasps and flies visit flowers of these plants. Insects that feed on the foliage of Wild Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) include the Sedum Aphid (Aphis sedi) and the aphid Aphis acrita. The Eastern Chipmunk eats the roots of this plant. (Illinois Wildflower source)
Comments: Deer proof, but, chipmunks may eat roots. This sedum tolerates more shade than other sedums.

Where to find: Middle Tennesseans can buy them at GroWild a local native plant nursery this weekend (April 27-28) at their Native Plant Festival or, order them from Prairie Nursery.
I hope spring has finally arrived for my northern gardening friends. It's been a rough spring and soon, your wildflowers will be making your heart sing.


Welcome to Wildflower Wednesday and thank you for stopping by to see our April star. Sedums are popular plants known for their easy care, it's a too bad that growers over look our natives in favor of exotics. Sure they're lovely, but so are our local wildflowers, especially Sedum ternatum with it's star flower! Thanks for joining in and if you are new to Wildflower Wednesday, it's about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if your wildflower is in bloom or not and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.

Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. I have seen this sedum in the park we frequent. It is a pretty little thing. It grows on a hillside there just above a creek. I would love to get some of it started in my garden. Thanks for reminding me. Happy WW.

  2. It's so lovely. I need to find wet shade. Most of my woodland garden is pretty dry.

  3. Those tiny, star-like flowers are adorable. I may need to order some. ~~Dee

  4. The little flowers are cute! However, moist shade does not exist in my yard except for the spot under the garden faucet.

  5. I didn't know there was a native sedum--love it! I have several places where this would be perfect as a groundcover, but may have to test out just a few to start with to see if it's moist enough for them.

  6. I have a patch of Sedum ternatum. I can attest, it needs moisture! Otherwise, it sulks and disappears.

  7. Oooo, a cute, little plant. I think I need this, and I have a place in mind... Thanks for hosting, Gail!

  8. Beautiful!
    Happy Wildflower Wednesday!

  9. Thanks for this great write-up. During my native plant sales, people often overlook this sweet little plant, so I shared this post today. I planted this on the north side of our house under the basement daylight windows where we can see it and it does not block the light.

  10. Hello Gail--How exciting to see your Golden Alexander post from a year ago today (it was the first that came up when I searched for Wildflower Wednesday). You'll see when you read my post!

    Thank you so much for providing this great resource. The wildflower and native journey--back to the wild place(s) where we all should be :)

  11. I love sedums & want to get MORE! I have a few of these creepers around the garden & I am always amazed at how they come back every year, even though some are in containers (a rarity in our climate).

  12. This is a new one to me. I didn't know there was a native sedum. Yes, spring is finally here in SE Nebraska. I am having trouble sharing the link to my post. I will try it here: https://acornergarden.blogspot.com/2018/04/april-2018-wildflower-wednesday-day-late.html

  13. I've seen this one. I should see how it works as a groundcover in a patch of the back garden.

  14. A moisture loving sedum? Who knew?

  15. My equivalent would be Crassula multicava. Dry shade and the flowers dance above the plant.

    1. I thought it was from South Africa. Is it really a local native?

  16. What a fabulous native....I hope to see any of mine waking up soon as we are weeks behind wth spring.

  17. Another plant I'd like to try. I need to ask the neighbors if I can take over part of their yards!


  18. I loved knowing this species.
    Good week-end entry.


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson