Orpine – planting, care and tips

Orpine (Sedum telephium)
Orpine (Sedum telephium)

If you are looking for a perennial that has something to offer all year round, then you are in the right place with the varieties of the orpine: They come up trumps with an attractive shoot, ornamental foliage and stable flowers.

Profile of orpine:

Scientific name: Sedum telephium

Plant family: stonecrop family(Crassulaceae)

Other names: livelong, frog’s-stomach, harping Johnny, life-everlasting, live-forever, midsummer-men, Orphan John, witch’s moneybags

Planting time: spring or autumn

Flowering period: August to October

Location: sunny to partial shade

Soil quality: gritty to loamy, moderately nutritious

These information are for temperate climate!

Use in: flowerbeds, bouquets, stand-alone, group planting, planters, borders, cottage garden, flower garden, natural garden, prairie garden, potted garden

Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-26 °C / -15 °F)

Bee and insect friendly: Yes

Plant characteristics and classification of orpine

Plant order, origin and occurrence of orpine

The orpine (Sedum telephium), sometimes also called livelong, occurs naturally from Europe to Siberia. There are several varieties of the perennial, Sedum telephium ssp. Telephium is among the most beautiful. Above all, the numerous varieties of the orpine are planted in our gardens. Like all types of sedum plant, Sedum telephium belongs to the stonecrop family(Crassulaceae).

Characteristics of orpine

Plant

Orpines not only have an attractive shoot in spring, their seed heads in late autumn are also extremely decorative. If you then add the flowers, you get a plant that offers new aspects in the garden all year round. Sedum telephium produces in spring upright stems that are richly leafed from a rhizome with thickened roots. The perennial forms a compact, around 30 to 70 centimeter (12 to 28 in) high cluster, which unfolds an ornamental effect in the bed.

Leaves

The succulent leaves are oval, irregularly serrated and between 2 and 10 centimeters (0.8 to 4 in) long. The leaves of the species are bluish-gray in color. By crossing with Sedum spectabile, hybrids with purple-colored foliage have now also come into being.

Blossoms

Even without flowers, Sedum telephium with its pretty foliage is an ornament in every bed. However, it has its big appearance in late summer when it opens its distinctive flowers. Depending on the variety, the orpine forms, from August to October, umbel-shaped flower-umbrellas up to 10 centimeters (4 in) wide. There are now varieties that bloom in strong pink, white, light red or bright dark red. During the flowering period, orpines are real magnets for butterflies and other insects.

Fruit

After flowering, the orpine forms follicles.

Orpine – cultivation and care

Location

Orpine and its hybrids love a sunny spot in the garden. Some varieties, for example ‘autumn joy’, also thrive in partial shade.

Soil

Like the carpet-forming species, orpine prefer well-drained soils. A dry to almost fresh substrate is best suited. Thanks to their water-storing leaves, Sedum telephium have no major problems even with longer dry periods. Quite the opposite is the case: on moist and over-fertilized soils, the stability of the plants decreases. Above all, you should keep an eye on the nitrogen content, because it ensures that the perennial grows soft shoots and the entire cluster will sooner or later fall apart. An oversupply of nitrogen also causes the purple-colored leaves to pale slightly.

Flower of orpine
Flower of orpine

Planting orpine

Like most perennials, Sedum telephium is best planted during the typical planting times in spring or autumn.

Care

The orpine belongs to the robust and easy-care perennials. But it is happy about a layer of mulch, which keeps the moisture in the soil and at the same time reduces the growth of unwanted wild herbs. Instead of traditional bark mulch, use a mineral material such as gravel or chippings.

Sedum telephium has an elegant effect even after flowering. Covered with hoarfrost or snow, the plant gives the garden a classy appearance even in winter. You should therefore only cut off the old shoots at ground level in spring.

Division

If you want to divide orpine because the cluster has grown too big over the years, it’s best to do it in early spring.

Propagation

The easiest way to propagate orpine is by dividing in early spring. To do this, simply prick off a piece of the clump and plant it again in another place in the bed.

Diseases and pests

If the location is too humid for the orpine plant, gray mold can occur. Occasionally powdery mildew can also become a problem. Unfortunately, is also popular with the black weevil, an infestation can be easily recognized by the bay-like depressions in the leaf edges.

Wintering

Sedum telephium is completely hardy down to -26 °C / -15 °F and does not require any special winter protection in the bed. As a precautionary measure, you should provide plants in the pot with a coconut mat, fleece and some brushwood.

Use in the garden

The varieties of the orpine are popular with gardeners, whether for the cottage garden, prairie garden or modern garden. It is often planted in small groups in the perennial bed, but the striking leaf cluster also attracts everyone’s attention when placed alone. The orpine can be combined particularly well with ornamental grasses and perennials with elongated, upright inflorescences. These form wonderful contrasts to the plate-shaped sedum flowers. Feather grass (Stipa) and small reed (Calamagrostis) are suitable partners, but also Indian chrysanthemum and coneflowers.

Sedum telephium is a grateful container plant for occasional gardeners, as it can withstand several days of drought without any damage and can easily spend the winter months outdoors. However, it needs a permeable substrate with a high proportion of sand and should be fertilized very sparingly. If the nutrient supply is too high, the shoots become soft and break easily in the wind. It is also important that the water drainage is guaranteed. Therefore, all vessels should be provided with holes or an adequate drainage layer.

Orpines are also suitable as cut flowers and for dry floral arrangements. Combined with hydrangeas, clematis or rosehips, you can create wonderful autumnal arrangements.

Varieties

The classic among the Sedum telephium varieties is clearly the ‘autumn joy’, because it is also one of the most robust hybrids. The perennial, which can grow up to 70 centimeters (28 in) high, with its striking old pink flowers is the result of a cultivation with Sedum spectabile. These two species were cultivated so often that the varieties can no longer be clearly assigned today.

On the other hand, ‘Munstead Dark Red’ captivates with its reddish-brown inflorescences and red-brown leaves.

The robust ‘Matrona’ is also very popular.

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