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Do Hens and Chicks Need Full Sun?

I began cultivating sempervivum several years ago and, over time, gained considerable insight into optimizing their growth. Today, we’ll delve into the sunlight requirements for Hens and Chicks.

Typically, these plants thrive in full sunlight, yet they are also capable of growing well in areas with partial sun. Larger varieties of sempervivum, which feature broader leaves, are particularly well-suited to full sun exposure. Conversely, the Sempervivum arachnoideum variety, known for its distinctive characteristics, shows a preference for partial shade.

Light Requirements

Full Sun

Full sun conditions occur when a plant is situated in an area without shade, receiving 10-12 hours of direct sunlight daily. In winter, this duration may be shorter.

As previously mentioned, most sempervivums show a preference for full sun. Varieties with large, juicy leaves exceeding 2 inches in diameter particularly benefit from ample sunlight. This is also true for varieties that are brightly colored.

Sempervivum part sun

Sempervivum Shocking Pink which grows in partial sun

Consider the ‘Shocking Pink’ sempervivum as an example. In the first image, the plant is grown in partial shade, receiving inadequate direct sunlight. The result is an elongated rosette with upward-stretched leaves and a less vibrant color; the plant’s center appears greenish.

sempervivum full sun

Sempervivum Shocking Pink which grows in full sun

Contrastingly, the second image showcases the same ‘Shocking Pink’ variety, but grown in full sun, where it gets 12 hours of direct sunlight. Noticeable differences include a brighter color, increased leaf count, horizontally oriented leaves, and a tighter rosette formation.

Sempervivum sunburn

It’s important to address the possibility of sempervivum experiencing sunburn, a common issue under certain conditions. We’ll explore when and why this happens, how to prevent it, and what steps to take if your plant gets sunburned.

Sunburn in Hens and Chicks often occurs when a plant, previously grown in partial shade, is suddenly placed in full sun. This abrupt change can lead to noticeable spots on the leaves, indicating damage.

Transplanting sempervivum from an indoor environment to an outdoor garden can also result in sunburn.

In cases of excessive sunlight, some sempervivum varieties may turn a pale yellow and shrink in size, though without visible leaf damage.

To prevent sunburn, it’s advisable to provide shade for the newly planted sempervivum for 2-4 weeks, gradually acclimatizing it to sunlight. Ensure the plant is well-rooted during this transition.

If your Hens and Chicks do get sunburned, there’s no need for excessive worry. The plant will typically recover if you follow these preventive steps and care guidelines.

Sempervivum sunburn

Sempervivum sunburn

Read also: How To Care For Sempervivum?

Partial shade

Partial shade refers to conditions where Hens and Chicks receive no more than 6 hours of direct sunlight daily, typically being shaded during the afternoon.

While most Sempervivum species are adaptable to full sun, they can also thrive in partial shade. However, certain species have distinct preferences between full sun and partial shade.

Sempervivum arachnoideum, for instance, does well with around 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Placed in full sun, this species may experience tip burn and a reduction in rosette size.

The variety plays a role in sun tolerance. Larger Sempervivum arachnoideum varieties generally fare better in full sun and might only suffer in conditions of insufficient moisture. On the other hand, dwarf varieties of Sempervivum arachnoideum, like the Iwris, are more susceptible to excessive light.

Sempervivum globiferum presents its best appearance under partial sun, receiving 4-6 hours of direct sunlight. When planted in full sun, it may exhibit a pale green hue, and its rosettes tend to be more compact.

Full shade

Sempervivum growing in full shade

Sempervivum growing in full shade

When Hens and Chicks receive no direct sunlight, this condition is typically known as full shade. This term also applies to situations where the plant grows under a tree canopy and only receives dappled sunlight.

It’s generally inadvisable to plant Hens and Chicks in full shade. Under these conditions, the plants tend to become elongated and weak, making them more susceptible to illness and potentially leading to their demise. From my experience, I haven’t encountered any sempervivum varieties that thrive in full shade.


In conclusion, the success of growing Sempervivum, commonly known as Hens and Chicks, largely depends on understanding and managing their sunlight requirements. These hardy plants generally prefer full sun, thriving best with 10-12 hours of direct sunlight, which enhances their color vibrancy and promotes compact rosette growth.

Larger varieties, in particular, are well-suited to full sun conditions, while some, like Sempervivum arachnoideum, benefit from partial shade.

However, it’s crucial to be mindful of sunburn, a risk when plants accustomed to shade are suddenly exposed to full sun. Gradual acclimatization and providing shade initially can help prevent this. Despite their resilience, Sempervivum doesn’t fare well in full shade, where they tend to become weak and prone to disease.

Thus, the key to successfully cultivating Hens and Chicks lies in striking the right balance of sunlight exposure, tailored to the specific needs of each variety, and cautiously transitioning them to new lighting conditions.