Plant of The Month – Sedum Purple Emporer

Some plants have so much star quality that they stand out in any planting scheme. With its plum black foliage and dusky stems topped by branching heads of neat buds that open to deep pink stars in August / September, Sedum Purple Emperor is one plant that stands out amongst the other late summer performers. As summer fades Purple Emperor retires gracefully forming a dramatically enduring chocolate-brown dome of tiny stars throughout the winter too. With great purple foliage from spring onwards this little plant couldn’t work much harder to provide some form of interest in the garden all year round.

Sedums are great for the wildlife too with the heads of tiny flowers giving weeks of pleasure to bees, butterflies and hoverflies.  As a result of this most named sedums have arisen as spontaneous seedlings produced by serendipity – courtesy of the bees. ‘Purple Emperor’ (named after a rare and elusive butterfly) was spotted as a seedling by Graham Gough, of Marchants Hardy Plants, growing in his parents’ garden in East Sussex some 13 years ago.

Dark-leaved sedums normally peak in August, however I have found that all sedums benefit from a “Chelsea Chop” in May to stop them from going leggy and flopping in the autumn. By doing this the flowering period is delayed and prime time for these types can be enjoyed well into September.  The fleshy leaves of all sedums store water and they do well in drought conditions however ‘Purple Emperor’ also shines in cooler, wetter summers too. They prefer a sunny open site and are undemanding, easy plants to grow in a garden of any size.

All sedums are great for the border edge and work best when planted with plants with contrasting foliage. Ornamental grasses of all sizes make great partners as well as the other late summer perennials like Agapanthus, Echinacea’s, Dahlia and Aster. The darker foliage of Purple Emperor works particularly well with the  bright-orange of pot marigolds and given the right home in your border will work hard  to ensure that you have something interesting gong on in all seasons.