The Q&A Archives: Controlling Sedum

Question: I have a lilac bush with great sentimental value. It has been encircled with sedum for as long as I can remember, 30+yrs, and I'm sure much longer than that. The circle has a radius of 6' and is raised and contained by a 1'high stone wall. What would be the best solution to controling this persistent perennial without sacrificing my Grandmother's favorite bush?

1. Weed killer: my husband's idea but I'm afraid it will harm the lilac's roots.
2. Find another perennial hardy enough to mix with and compete with the sedum and yet add the color and variety I'm looking for.
3. Encircle the bush with a deep edging and hope it controls the spreading roots, then plant low annuals in front.
4. Give up and enjoy.

Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Answer: To a large extent the answer to your question depends on what kind of sedum is growing there. The larger types can be dug and removed easily, but some of the smaller types are very persistent and would possibly need to be treated with herbicide containing glyphosate in order to eradicate them. If you do this, read and carefully follow the label instructions because spray drift could harm the lilac.

Larger sedums and the less invasive smaller types can certainly be interplanted with annuals. Larger perennials such as daylilies can also compete against the smaller groundcovering sedums. These more aggressice sedums will quickly occupy any nearby prepared soil. You might experiment and see what does well for you there.

However, there is something pleasing about a shrub growing happily in the midst of a continuous swathe of groundcover, and sometimes it is charming to think that a planting has survived for decades, from generation to generation. In addition, lilacs are large and greedy shrubs and can be difficult to plant under because of their large root systems and the shade they cast. That said, it might be a lot easier to plant annuals or other flowers in a separate bed.

I realize I have not given you a straight answer, but I hope this helps you decide what to do.

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