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Drought Tolerant Edible Garden

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Many gardeners are asking for more drought tolerant edible gardens.

Gardeners seeking drought tolerant edible gardens often look for more than just low water. In fact, they usually tack on a request for low maintenance as well. Unfortunately, achieving all three goals: low water needs, edible, and easy care gardening doesn’t fall into lock-step with a traditional, seasonal vegetable garden. So if you’re hoping to grow tomatoes, spinach, and carrots, you’ll probably need to water a lot.

Sedum Autumn a possible drought tolerant edible garden plant

Pink Blooming Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ makes Arthur Lee’s list of top-tasting Sedum for your drought tolerant edible garden.

Low water edible weed gardening:

You could reach the trinity of low water, easy care, and edible with edible “weeds”. So for instance, you could enjoy a garden lush in purslane and dandelion. But your neighbors might not see the value as much as you do.

Drought tolerant edible herb options:

Instead, an herb garden might begin to fit your bill. That’s because many woody herbs like rosemary, lavender and sage require little care. Plus, they don’t need a lot of water once they’re established in your garden. But woody herbal shrubs aren’t likely to supply a lot of food from your garden. So, what’s the key to creating a beautiful garden that you can eat? And how do you do that without needing to water your garden all the time?

Enter noted plant expert Arthur Lee Jacobson!

Arthur Lee Jacobson is the author of several plant geek books including Trees of Seattle and Wild Plants of Seattle. Also, he is the author of over a hundred articles on weeds. Moreover, he’s the former curator of the Weed Garden at Seattle Tilth.  And in his own garden, he cultivates all sorts of fun plants. In fact these range from natives to weeds to the rare and unusual.

More importantly if you’re looking for edible plant information, he’s tasted many of these plants. And he happily shares his findings after sampling them. Plus, he has described many drought tolerant sedums that are edible. So how does he know they’re edible? Because he’s eaten them and lived to tell the tale!

Sedum Suaveole & Sedum album

Sedum suaveole looks like a Sempervivum, but look at the flowers! (Shown with Sedum album).
Image courtesy of Arthur Lee Jacobsen

Sedum can vary a lot!

Sedums aren’t just one plant. In fact there are many hardy, beautiful, drought tolerant, perennial sedums to choose from. As well, these plants come in a range of colors and sizes. And their blooms are magnets for honeybees and other pollinators. Too the seed heads that remain into winter are food for foraging songbirds. And some may be prime choices for your drought tolerant edible garden!

What we learned from Arthur Lee about Sedums…

Turns out, according to Arthur Lee, many sedums are also food for our plates. He does warn that while, “Hundreds of Sedum species exist, I have tasted only dozens. Most are unpleasantly astringent, or even acrid.”

Still, there are several he does favor including one of our favorites for the garden: Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and a Great Plant Picks favorite Sedum ‘Sieboldii’.

Arthur Lee’s Top Tasting Sedum List:

Following is a list of top tasting sedums according to Arthur Lee Jacobsen. As with all things you put in your mouth, consume with caution. And consume at your own risk!

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (‘Herbstfreude’) Europe (Autumn Stonecrop)

Sedum præaltum DC., Mexico (Mexican Bush Stonecrop. Green Cockscomb)

Sedum rhodanthum Gray, W. USA (Queen’s Crown)

Sedum Rosea (L.) Scop. = Rhodiola Rosea, Circumboreal (Roseroot)

Sedum × rubrotinctum R.T. Clausen = S. guatemalense hort. 1975, Mexico (Stonecrop. Christmas Cheer. Pork & Beans. Jelly-bean Plant)

Sedum rupestre L. = S. reflexum L., W & C Eur. (Jenny Stonecrop. Stone Orpine)

Sedum sarmentosum Bge. = S. lineare ‘Golden Teardrop’, E Asia (Stringy, Trailing or Whorled S. Gold, Graveyard or Yellow Moss. Star Sedum)

Sedum sieboldii Sweet ex Hook. = Hylotelephium S. (Sweet ex Hook.) H. Ohba), Japan, (October Daphne Stonecrop)

Sedum suaveolens Kimnach 1978 = Graptopetalum s. (Kimnach) R.T. Clausen 1981, NW Mexico on shaded cliff faces

If you would like to learn more about (or from) Arthur Lee Jacobson, visit his website or visit his garden.

(Please note: Not all edibles work for all individuals, so try eating sedums at your own risk. According to Arthur Lee’s newsletter, the best bites come with new growth in spring.  And, he suggests they’ll taste better picked in the morning.)

9 comments on “Drought Tolerant Edible Garden

  1. Marc Bett on

    was just learning and read somewhere that sedum (no variety state per se) was edible. Well, that led to my search. I thought I would give it to my chickens to try, but they seem to not want it. I haven’t tried it myself, and was not sure if it truly is edible. I think I have the pink/purplish flowering, or the reddish flowering. Looking to find out if anyone truly tries it.

  2. Camilo Brokaw on

    sedum rubrotinctum is one of the few sedums that is considered toxic so I would verify that is in fact the one he tasted.

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Camilo, if you follow the link provided, you will find he has listed in his original article this as one he’s found edible. He also notes that he found it edible and confesses not everyone else will. Thanks for your input!

  4. Laura on

    I and my family find Autumn Joy sedum to be absolutely delicious. No bitterness and my kids and I have suffered no ill effects whatsoever.

  5. JanneL on

    Hylotelephium telephium aka “orpine” is delicious if you eat it before it flowers. If you nip the buds, you’ll get two new points for growth and more to eat. After flowering it gets very bitter.

  6. Garden Mentors on


    Thanks for writing in with your experience. And thanks for updating the botanical classification for many previously named sedums. For anyone who doesn’t know, plant names are reclassified all the time. And it can be difficult to keep up with the changes. Plus, you’ll often see plants listed or sorted at a nursery by their old names for years and years after a reclassification happens. We all do our best to keep up with name changes.

    (And to be clear folks, this comment about eating this plant is the opinion & experience of the person who made the comment, not Garden Mentors’. Explore at your own risk!)

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