Gardening Q&A: What is the best plant ever?

As a Master Gardener, we often receive questions about trees, ornamental plants, diseases and a large variety of other related gardening topics. That’s what we volunteers love to do. Helping you succeed by providing the best and most current information available is what we are here for. On occasion though, we do field some thought-provoking questions.

By Patrick Miller
Colorado State University Extension Master Gardener in Larimer County

For example, one question I received recently was this: “What is the best plant ever?” Decidedly, the question was very subjective, making the answer simply opinion. I could have said the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) tree, one of the few remaining “living fossils” on earth! I could had answered by saying the Bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata), whose life-span has been documented at over 1,000 years, or the mighty Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), exceeding 300 feet in height.

But no! I wanted to highlight a lesser-known plant, one whose stature may be small, but whose versatility is large. So I had to say sedums. This was an easy reply because there are so many different kinds. First, the sedum genus consists of over 600 species found primarily in the northern hemisphere. Sedums, also known as succulents or sometimes called “fat plants”, are plants having some parts that are more than normally thickened and fleshy. Succulent plants may store water in various structures, such as leaves and stems, especially in arid climates.

Succulents are grown as ornamental plants primarily because of their striking and unusual appearance. They have water-storing leaves that give them the ability to grow in less-than-favorable conditions. Most all sedum species grow well in dry, poor soils but also grow well in rich garden soils under a variety of light levels. Given good growing conditions, these varied plants are used in hanging baskets and container gardens, as accents to borders or groundcovers.

In addition to their better-known presence as a plant used in landscapes and gardens on the ground, an increasingly popular application for sedums is on rooftops. I recently had the great fortune of attending a presentation given to the Larimer County Master Gardeners regarding “Green Roofs.” A green roof or living roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. Green roofs serve several purposes for a building, such as absorbing rainwater, providing insulation, creating a habitat for wildlife and making a more aesthetically pleasing landscape, as well as helping to lower urban air temperatures.

Versatile, easy to grow in a wide range of conditions and such a large variety of species to choose from, how can you go wrong with sedums? For more information on sedums, visit

For more information on green roofs, visit

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