Sedum Rubrotinctum aka Jelly Beans or Pork & Beans is a pretty ground cover succulent with thick cylindrical leaves that are mostly green but can turn red during the cooler months or when the plant is stressed.
Although, this succulent is very hardy problems can be encountered. One of the most common problems with Sedum Rubrotinctum is leaves falling off.
Why Does Sedum Rubrotinctum Lose Leaves?
Drought or not enough water
Exposure to the sun during severe heatwaves
Keeping the plants indoors
Keeping the plant in too much shade
Let’s have a look at each of these and how to prevent leaves falling off.
Drought/ Not Enough Water
Succulents have fantastic conservation methods in times of drought or when the water is scarce. Most will lose their bottom leaves, grow more compact, and the remaining leaves become smaller. Jelly Beans/ Pork & Beans are the same and will drop their bottom leaves as a response to not receiving enough water. This will conserve energy.
To prevent Sedum Rubrotinctum losing leaves during droughts, water well when the potting mix has dried up from the previous watering. This may end up being quite often during a particularly hot and dry summer (every other day).
Sedum Rubrotinctum, as well as many other succulents, have the same reaction to being rootbound like they have when water is very limited. Losing leaves is a response to stress in these cases.
The plant reaches the limit of its pot and does not have anywhere else to get its nutrients from to grow further. And so, as a result, it sheds bottom leaves and grows more compact and often more colourful.
The solution here is obvious. The Jelly Beans can be upgraded to a bigger pot once the roots get too crowded. It is up to you to decide whether to re-pot the plant or not as the growth can be very attractive on a stressed, root-bound Pork & Beans.
Our small nursery sometimes keeps Sedum Rubrotinctum root-bound to enhance the colours and make it grow more compact. The plant should not die from being root-bound.
Exposure To Sun During Extreme Heatwaves
Although Sedum Rubrotinctum should be able to deal with being exposed to the sun when very hot (over 37C/ 98.6F) it may lose some of its bottom leaves once the temperature starts hitting over 40C (104F). More so in pots as pots can heat up to much higher temperatures once the full sun starts hitting them. This will trigger a stress response of shedding leaves.
In the ground, the plants tend to cope a lot better as their roots can stay fairly cool.
To help your Jelly Beans on very hot days keep them out of full sun during the hottest times of the day or pitch a 30% shade-cloth over- this will capture enough harmful UV to protect the plants. We use 30% shade-cloth at our nursery all the time to protect our potted plants once temperatures start rising north of 37C (98.6F).
Sedum Rubrotinctum will cope with lots and lots of rain, but the plant cannot have waterlogged roots otherwise, the leaves may become so full of water they will start swelling up and falling off.
The roots can become waterlogged in low quality and heavy potting mix or in a pot with no drainage hole. In the garden, plant in raised beds or on a slope so water can drain away easily.
Keeping Sedum Rubrotinctum Indoors
Unfortunately, Sedum Rubrotinctum is not suitable to grow indoors. It can be brought in for winter, but when temperatures are above the freezing point, they should be kept outside, preferably in the sun.
The jelly beans can only survive indoors if they are in a sunroom or on a very large and long window that will give them at least 5 hours of sun. Even then they may start stretching outwards.
Indoors, the jelly beans are very likely to start growing leggy and slowly lose their leaves. The plant may live for months indoors, but it is unlikely to look pretty.
Keeping Sedum Rubrotinctum In Too Much Shade
Pretty much the same applies as above. Sedum Rubrotinctum is a sun-loving plant that will grow best being exposed to at least 5 hours of sun a day (except for severe heatwaves). Planting the Jelly Beans in a shaded part of the garden is likely to result in stretched plants and leaf loss.
Both Aphids and Mealybugs like feeding on Sedum Rubrotinctum and may cause leaves to fall off when the infestation is severe.
Treat both of these pests as soon as they are spotted on your plants to prevent leaf loss and damage to the plant.
Other pests that may find Sedum Rubrotinctum appealing are snails, slugs, grasshoppers & caterpillars. Bigger animals such as deer, possums and birds may also eat this plant.
Sedum Rubrotinctum has naturally sensitive leaves that can easily dislodge when the plant is handled or brushed against. This is normal and is a way of spreading as each dislodged leave has the capacity to grow into a new plant. If you manage to cause leaves to fall off by touching your Jelly Beans just leave them on the surface and they will, in time, sprout new plants.
Now let's have a closer look at this wonderful ground cover, how to care for it and propagate it.
Sedum Rubrotinctum is a low growing, evergreen succulent that grows to approximately 10-15cm in height and can spread over large areas. When the branches become tall, they will naturally fall down to the ground and send roots, with new branches forming.
The leaves are mostly shiny green, with a reddish tinge. When the plant is stressed, the leaves turn bright red.
New branches form mostly at the base but can shoot out from any other part of the plant, creating a low, spreading shrub.
Sedum Rubrotinctum flowers mostly in Spring. The flowers are small and yellow, forming on the top of the branch. Each branch will have dozens of these star-shaped blooms.
Position & Care
As mentioned above, Sedum Rubrotinctum is a sun lover and is best grown outdoors in plenty of sunshine. This will ensure the plant grows compact and colourful.
The jelly beans grow best planted in the ground, though they also make hardy pot plants. Take extra care during extreme heatwaves and protect pot plants from the direct afternoon sun.
Water when the potting mix has dried up and do not keep in pots without a drainage hole.
Sedum Rubrotinctum is not frost hardy and will, therefore, need to be protected from frosts and snow as well.
Sedum Rubrotinctum can easily be propagated from leaves as well as cuttings. These are fantastic beginners plants and will strike root in a couple of weeks time almost all year round. If you live in a cold climate, we would not recommend propagating in winter.
To propagate from cuttings cut any branch that is at least 3-4 cm tall, leave to dry for a day and plant directly in the ground or a pot with succulent potting mix.
To propagate by leaf, gently twist the leaf off the main stalk and place on a dry surface in a shaded but bright spot. New plants and roots should emerge within three weeks.
Sedum Rubrotinctum is potentially mildly toxic to humans, dogs, cats and other pets. We have come across some conflicting information in regards to this plant with some sites even listing Sedum Rubrotinctum as a skin irritant and highly toxic.
From our limited evidence as a working nursery, we can conclude that we have never had or heard of anyone having an adverse skin or other reaction to this plant. Our free-ranging chucks eat this plant all the time (to our great annoyance)
Having said that, when there is inconclusive evidence you never know and, we do not recommend eating this plant and exercise caution/ consult a medical professional if eaten.
Where Can I Get It?
Everywhere :) Sedum Rubrotinctum is a very common plant that many people have in their gardens so chances are you may be able to score this plant for free from friends or family. Otherwise, the jelly beans are likely to be available from garden centres, nurseries and online.
Our nursery Fern Farm Plants sells the Blue (Sedum Pachyphyllum) and Pink Jelly Beans (Sedum Rubrotinctum Aurora).