Trees and shrubs are not the only plants infused with fiery foliage in fall. Perennials like stonecrops undergo some color shifts as the weather turns nippy, too. October daphne’s (Hylotelephium sieboldii) glaucous, aqua-blue foliage becomes imbued with pink, as does that of Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’, and Sedum ruprestre ‘Angelina’s fluorescent yellow foliage becomes tipped in fluorescent orange.
The stonecrop I most look forward to in fall is Sedum kamtschaticum subsp. ellacombianum. Chipper, edamame-green foliage and cool yellow flowers in June and July are reason enough to grow it, but from October 18 to November 21 is when it really wows. The succulent leaves shift to luminous, gummi-bear colors of pink-red, orange, yellow, and light green, and in the sunniest sites they become cherry-red. On frosty mornings, each scalloped leaf is outlined in rime and appears to be sugar-dusted.
A low, mounding or spreading plant of good vigor, it typically stays within the range of 6 to 8 inches in height and 15 to 18 inches in spread and doesn’t overwhelm its neighbors. At Mt. Airy Arboretum in Cincinnati, some yards away from the famous fothergilla of the same name, it flanks a set of steps and looks at home there scrambling over flat rocks anchored into the hillside. This photo was taken there last year on November 15, and as you can see, Sedum ellacombianum was just beginning to heat up as cold temperatures began to descend upon the garden.