Sedum, or stonecrop, is a genus of leaf succulent plant of the Crassulaceae family. There are over 400 species, comprising annual herbs, creeping herbs, and shrubs. Plants in this genus are popular in gardens as a groundcover because of their hardiness and attractive appearance. Most have five-petaled flowers and come in green, red, pink, golden, and yellow varieties.
While sedum is most often grown as a ground cover, some varieties are popular house plants. These include Sedum morganum or donkey tail, a light green succulent with bright pink flowers, and Sedum rubrotinctum, also called the jelly bean plant, which has round green and red leaves. These houseplants are fairly easy to care for and most can be grown from cuttings. They are susceptible to overwatering, particularly in months when they are dormant.
Like all succulents, sedum plants store water in their leaves, giving them a swollen, fleshy appearance. Most varieties are native to dry areas, and while some need heat and cannot tolerate cold, others are cold-tolerant but do not do well in the heat. All types are hardy and low-maintenance, and this quality makes them popular for inexperienced gardeners and as a cover for large areas. They are also sometimes preferred to grass as a cover for green roofs — building roofs that are completely covered with vegetation. Sedum lineare or needle stonecrop, a species native to East Asia, has been suggested for green roofs in Shanghai, China.
One variety, Sedum reflexum, is used as a salad green in Europe. It has a sour, astringent taste and is commonly called prickmadam, stone orpine, or crooked yellow stonecrop. Another variety, Sedum acre or biting stonecrop, is sharp and acrid in taste and somewhat toxic. Historically, it was used to induce miscarriage and to cure epilepsy and skin conditions. Eating too much can cause cramps, irritation of the mucous membranes, or paralysis.