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Hens and Chicks

Gail Maifeld, Master Gardener

Sometimes referred to as a “roof Housesleek,” because they would often grow on houses, Hens and Chicks are a delightful perennial even if just grown in your garden. Read Master Gardener Gail Maifeld’s article for more on why Hens and Chicks are perfect for that dry, sunny spot in your yard.

Hens and Chicks

Native to Europe and Africa, Hens and Chicks are sometimes referred to as a roof Houseleek as they were grown on houses.  Historically, the plant was found along stone walls, slate shingled roofs, and areas of poor sandy soil.  The succulent grows as a mat in full sun and is also drought tolerant and deer resistant.  Leaves are arranged in rosettes with the center one being the hen.  Chicks form around the hen after the bloom fades.  Although not planted for the blooms, the daisy like flowers can be light pink, reddish-purple, and pale green.

There are several varieties to choose from:

Sempervivum Arachnoideum: (cobweb houseleek) – 

  • Tips of the leaves are entwined with hairy fibers that appear to be cobwebs 

  • Pale green blooms

  • Zones 5-8

Sempervivum Tectorum – 

  • Small rosettes quickly forming a 6”-10” mat  

  • Flowers may or may not form

  • Reddish leaves and blooms

  • Zones 3-8

Sempervivum Atropureum - 

  • This variety has dark reddish-purple leaves

  • Zones 3-8

Sempervivum Limelight  

  • This variety has yellow-green, pink tipped leaves

  • Zones 3-8

Sempervivum Pacific Hawk – 

  • This variety has dark red leaves edged with silvery hairs

  • Zones 3-8.

Overwatering can lead to root rot so check the soil around the plant before watering.  

The varieties can be house plants but require a cactus potting soil or sand added to regular potting soil.  The plant is divided by separating the new rosettes and rooting them.

Blooms of Hens and Chicks do not have a recognizable scent.  After the bloom fades it can be cut off or allowed to die back and form compost.  Hens and chicks are a low maintenance, drought tolerant plant, and will add interest to a full sun, sandy soil location.

For that problematic sunny spot that needs some attention - plant Hens and Chicks.

Photo Credit: Gail Maifeld (1,2)

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