Herbs annual or perennial, mostly glabrous, less often hairy. Roots normally fibrous. Rootstock usually not developed, occasionally plants rhizomatous. Stems erect or decumbent, sometimes fasciculate or mosslike, fleshy, glabrous or hairy, base rarely woody. Leaves alternate, opposite, or verticillate, base often spurred, margin normally entire (4-8-dentate in Sedum rosthornianum and remotely dentate in S. engleri var. dentatum). Inflorescence terminal or axillary, cymose, often corymbiform, 1- to many flowered. Flowers usually bisexual, rarely unisexual, mostly unequally (3-)5(-9)-merous. Sepals and petals free or basally connate. Petals free or almost so, mostly yellow, less often white or reddish. Stamens usually 2 × as many as petals, in 2 series, rarely equal in number to petals and in 1 series; antepetalous ones adnate to petal base or slightly above. Nectar scales entire or apex emarginate. Carpels usually as many as petals, occasionally fewer, free or basally widened and connate. Styles short or long. Follicles many or few seeded. Seeds smooth or papillate, less often striate.
About 470 species: mainly in the N hemisphere, but extending to the S hemisphere in Africa and South America; 121 species (91 endemic) in China.