Native to southern Europe and western Asia, Sempervivum (Hens & Chicks or Houseleek) is a mat-forming succulent, that produces irresistible, evergreen rosettes of thick, fleshy leaves. Cute but tough, their beauty resides largely in their infinite variations. They are available in a wide range of colors, from light to dark green to brown, pink and purple, either at the tips of the leaves or throughout the whole plant. The leaves may be pointed or rounded, glossy or matte, with a waxy bloom or with downy hairs. Their foliage colors vary with the sun exposure, the seasons and the climate.
The mother rosette (Hen) spreads in all directions by horizontal stems to form offsets (chicks). Each offset will develop roots of its own and become independent of the parent plant as the connecting stolon withers. In summer, a thick flowering stalk with overlapping scale-like leaves arises from the center of the hen rosette and bears showy starry flowers, usually pink or white. Sempervivums are monocarpic: they die after flowering. However, most species & cultivars produce many offsets (or 'chicks') which usually make up for the losses after flowering.
- Ground-hugging, Sempervivums grow up to 4-6 in. tall (10-15 cm) and 6-18 in. wide(15-45 cm). They spread by offsets to form colonies
- Easily grown in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerates light shade, poor soils and thrives in sandy or gravelly soils. Excellent drainage is required. Drought tolerant.
- Surprisingly cold hardy, Sempervivums need little maintenance once established, like many cacti and succulents, and will survive near total neglect!
- Excellent for dry stony places, Sempervivums are great in cracks in dry stone walls, at the front of beds and borders, or as a small area groundcover. They look splendid in rock gardens, succulent gardens or Mediterranean gardens. Ideal as edging plant or in decorative trough and containers! Best when planted in groups or intermingled in mosaics.
- Deer and rabbit resistant
- Virtually pest and disease free. Watch for rust, leaf rot and root rot
- Propagate by offsets in spring
- There are over 40 or so species and hundreds of cultivars. Here are some popular varieties:
'Sempervivum arachnoideum' - leaves green or reddish, with cobwebby white hairs at the tips. AGM Award
'Sempervivum tectorum' - leaves blue-green suffused with reddish-purple. AGM Award
'Sempervivum 'Commander Hay' - oblong leaves purplish-red with pointed green tips. AGM Award
'Sempervivum 'Blood Tip' - leaves are blue-green with variable amounts of deep red on the tips. AGM Award
'Sempervivum 'Reinhard' - green leaves tipped with dark red. AGM Award
'Sempervivum 'Othello' - large dark red rosettes of broad leaves. AGM Award