If you are looking for a perennial that has something to offer all year round, then you are in the right place with the varieties of the frog belly plant: They come up trumps with an attractive shoot, ornamental foliage and stable flowers.
Introduction: Frog Belly Plant
The frog belly plant (Hylotelephium telephium), sometimes also called Frog’s Stomach, occurs naturally from Europe to Siberia. There are several varieties of the perennial, Hylotelephium telephium ssp. telephium. Above all, the numerous varieties of the frog belly plant are planted in our gardens, especially the popular Hylotelephium ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy variety. Like all types of stonecrop, the Hylotelephium telephium is in the family of Crassulaceae (Crassulaceae).
Frog belly plants not only have an attractive shoot in spring, their seed heads in late autumn are also extremely decorative. If you then add the flowers, you get a plant that offers new aspects in the garden all year round. In spring Hylotelephium telephium produces upright stems that are richly leafed from a rhizome with thickened roots. The perennial forms a compact, around 30 to 70 centimeter high foliage, which develops an ornamental effect in the bed.
The succulent leaves are oval, irregularly serrated and between two and ten centimeters long. The leaves of the species are bluish-gray in color. By crossing with Hylotelephium spectabile, hybrids with purple-colored foliage have now also emerged.
Even without flowers, Hylotelephium telephium with its pretty foliage is an ornament in every herbaceous bed. However, it has its big appearance in late summer / autumn when it opens its distinctive flowers. Depending on the variety, the frog belly plant forms umbel-shaped flower umbrellas up to ten centimeters wide from August to October. There are now varieties that bloom in strong pink, white, light red or bright dark red. During the flowering period, tall frog belly plants are real magnets for butterflies and other insects.
After flowering, Hylotelephium telephium forms follicles.
Care: Frog Belly Plant
Hylotelephium telephium and its hybrids love a sunny spot in the garden. Some varieties, for example ‘Herbstfreude’, also thrive in partial shade.
Like the carpet-forming species, frog belly plants prefer well-drained soils. A dry to maximally fresh substrate is best suited. Thanks to their water-storing leaves, Hylotelephium telephium have no major problems even with longer dry periods. Quite the opposite is the case: on moist and over-fertilized soils, the stability of the plants decreases. Above all, you should keep an eye on the nitrogen content, because it ensures that the perennial develops soft shoots and the entire foliage will sooner or later fall apart. An oversupply of nitrogen also causes the purple-colored leaves to pale slightly.
Like most perennials, Hylotelephium telephium is best planted during the classic planting times in spring or autumn.
The frog belly plant belongs to the robust and easy-care perennials. But it is happy about a mulch layer, which keeps the moisture in the soil and at the same time reduces the growth of unwanted wild herbs. Instead of traditional bark mulch, use a mineral material such as gravel or chippings. By the way: Hylotelephium telephium has an elegant effect even after flowering. Covered with hoarfrost or snow, the Hylotelephium telephium gives the garden a classy appearance even in winter. You should therefore only cut off the old shoots at ground level in spring.
The easiest way to multiply Hylotelephium telephium is by dividing in early spring. To do this, simply prick off a piece of the clump and plant it again in another place in the bed.
Diseases and pests
If the location is too humid for Hylotelephium telephium, gray mold can occur. Occasionally powdery mildew can also become a problem. Unfortunately, the Frog’s Stomach is also popular with the black weevil, an infestation can easily be recognized by the bay-like depressions in the leaf edges.
Hylotelephium telephium is completely hardy in our latitudes and does not require any special winter protection in the bed. As a precaution, you should provide specimens in the pot with a coconut mat, fleece and some sticks.
Uses of the Frog Belly Plant
The varieties of the frog belly plant are popular with gardeners, whether for the cottage garden, prairie garden or modern garden. Hylotelephium telephium is often planted in small groups in the perennial bed, but the striking leaf corrugation also attracts everyone’s attention when placed alone. The Frog’s Stomach can be combined particularly well with ornamental grasses and perennials with elongated, upright inflorescences. These form wonderful contrasts to the plate-shaped sedum flowers. Feather grass (Stipa), riding grass (Calamagrostis) and veronica are suitable partners, but also sunflower plants such as autumn asters and coneflowers.
Hylotelephium telephium is a thankful container plant for the occasional gardener, as it can withstand several days of drought without any damage and can easily spend the winter months outdoors. However, it needs a permeable substrate with a high proportion of sand and should be fertilized very sparingly. If the nutrient supply is too good, the shoots become soft and kink easily in the wind. It is also important that the water drainage is guaranteed. Therefore, all vessels should be provided with holes or an adequate drainage layer.
By the way: the Frog’s Stomach are also suitable as cut flowers and for dry arrangements. Together with hydrangeas, clematis or rose hips, you can conjure up wonderful autumnal arrangements.
Varieties of the Frog Belly Plant
The classic among the Hylotelephium telephium varieties is clearly the ‘Herbstfreude’ Autumn Joy because it is also one of the most robust hybrids. The perennial, which can grow up to 70 centimeters high, with its striking old pink flowers – like so many other garden varieties – was created from a cross with Hylotelephium spectabile. These two species were crossed so diligently that the varieties can no longer be clearly assigned today.
‘Munstead Dark Red’, on the other hand, captivates with its reddish-brown inflorescences and red-brown leaves. The robust Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ is also very popular. Very dark foliage, if not the darkest of the varieties, can be found at ‘Karfunkelstein’. This variety, selected by the famous German perennial grower Ernst Pagels, impresses with carmine-pink flowers in August / September and at 40 to 50 centimeters remains slightly lower than the species. Like ‘Purple Emperor’ it belongs to the Atropurpureum group of Hylotelephium telephium.