Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Itís a pity that orpine isnít more popular as a garden plant. This is an excellent perennial. It is also known as garden orpine, live-forever, and livelong.
This stout, vigorous perennial reaches about 1Ĺ feet in height. The stems are covered with flattened, fleshy foliage, which can be shiny. This is toothed along the edges. Usually alternately arranged, it can sometimes be opposite.
In Europe where this is a native plant, this perennial blooms sometime between June and September. As a garden plant in the U.S., it begins blooming in late summer and extends through the fall.
The star-like blossoms open in large, flat clusters. These blossoms can range in color. Usually, they will be either lilac or reddish-purple.
Occasionally, they will be white.
The individual blooms are rather small. However, they put on a show since they appear in bunches. The stamens tend to be longer than the petals.
Superficially, these flowers resemble those of the showy stonecrop or Autumn Joy sedum, which is related.
In addition to the species plant, there is also a related subspecies called Sedum telephium var. maximum. This differs by having either whitish-yellow or greenish blossoms.
For gardens, there are several varieties or cultivars available. Among these is Emperorís Wave, which is grown from seed. This has attractive blue-green foliage that appears on dark colored stems. It has a neat growth habit. At the top of the stems and from the leaf axils arise round clusters of blossoms. These flowers are reddish-purple.
Munstead Red orpine is one of the better known cultivars of orpine.
Orpine pretty well needs the same growing conditions as other herbaceous sedums. It does well in full sun and a well-drained soil. In the South, some shade in the afternoon is helpful. Like all the sedums, this is drought resistant.
The plants are carefree, requiring little attention other than cutting back to the ground either in late fall or late winter before the new growth begins.
In Europe, orpine is found growing wild in most countries where it occurs in woods, rocky places, and hedges.
In the U.S., the plant has escaped and naturalized in some parts of the country, including New England, the Northeast, and parts of the Midwest. In those places, it is found along the borders of fields and along roadsides.