Hens and chicks (Sempervivum) is very unusual plant. You can have a plant in your garden very similar to African succulents regardless of the climate in which you live.
Hens and Chicks care tips
- Allow at least 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.
- Water only when the soil is 3 to 4 inches dry from the top.
- Use fast-draining soil with no organic matter.
- Fertilize no more than once a year with a multi-purpose fertilizer.
- Use daughter plants for fast propagation.
- Plant it in spring or summer, avoid transplanting in fall and winter.
Hens and chicks need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day to develop properly. Moreover, they can easily tolerate full sun all day long. In full shade, they will not grow and will die.
Hens and chicks can get sunburn if you move them abruptly from a less sunny location to full sun. For example, they were growing in a place where they received 6 hours of direct morning sun and you moved them to a place with full sun during the day. In this case, the plant can get a sunburn, so to avoid this, change the sun exposure gradually.
Also, full sun is dangerous to young newly planted Hens and chicks. Such plants do not yet have a root system and the sun can cause dehydration. To solve the problem, shade them lightly for a few weeks or months and water them when the soil is 1 inch dry.
The best soil for Hens and chicks is quickly drained and crumbly soil. You can simply mix half ordinary garden or potting soil with half coarse sand or small stones. Succulent soil also works well. Avoid using soil rich in organic matter (peat, compost, etc.).
Hens and chicks do well in slightly acidic or neutral soil. Alkaline soil is not good for growing these plants.
The best place to plant Hens and chicks is full sun with a low water table. Also, make sure that no surface streams are flowing near this plant. It is best if the Hens and chicks grow on a slight elevation.
The best time to plant Hens and chicks are in spring and summer. But in summer, you should avoid periods of intense heat and scorching sun. Planting Hens and chicks in the fall is not recommended because they may not take root and survive the winter.
Hens and chicks need to be watered when the soil dries out 2-3 inches from the top in the first few months after planting. Once the plant is established, it does not need watering at all. Hens and chicks can tolerate prolonged periods of drought and still do not suffer.
Watering too often will cause the Hens and chicks to overwater. As a result, the roots will rot, then the rot will migrate to the stem and the plant will die. To avoid overwatering, do not water Hens and chicks when the soil is even slightly moist and do not water in the winter.
If the roots of the Hens and chicks begin to rot, remove the plant from the soil and wash it. Remove any rot and wash the wounds with an aqueous solution of hydrogen peroxide. Let the plant dry for a few hours and plant it in a sterile succulent substrate. Do not water it until you see it starting to grow.
More information about watering here: How often to water Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum)?
Hens and chicks can easily survive the winter outside in USDA hardiness zone 3-8. It is a very hardy succulent that has adapted to withstand very harsh conditions.
Hens and chicks can tolerate temperatures of -4°F (-20°C) and even lower. Under a blanket of snow, this plant is not afraid of frost or cold winds.
You can even leave potted Hens and chicks outside for the winter and nothing will happen to them. You don’t need to cover the pots for the winter, the plant can withstand severe frosts without covering. The main thing is to place the pot on the ground so that the snow covers the plant and to avoid exposure to frosty winds.
Hens and chicks do not need fertilizer. This plant is capable of releasing large amounts of auxins that stimulate its growth. Even in very poor soil, Hens and chicks will thrive. In nature, these plants can be found growing on large rock slabs with no soil at all.
If you want to speed up the growth of your Hens and chicks a bit, you can apply a small amount of multi-purpose fertilizer once a year. Never fertilize more than once a year and don’t put more than 2-3 pellets under one mother plant. Otherwise, this will cause the plant to grow wildly and stretch out.
You should also avoid planting Hens and chicks in nutrient-rich, organic matter-rich soil. In such a soil the plant can also get very elongated and its roots can rot. All this will lead to the loss of the plant.
Hens and chicks are best propagated by daughter plants. Each year the mother plant gives birth to 3-8 new plants around itself, which after some time form their own roots and begin an independent life. By separating the offspring from the mother plant you will get many new plants.
Hens and chicks are not propagated by leaves. If you tear a leaf off the plant, it will not take root but will dry up. Echeveria can be propagated by a leaf, but not by sempervivum.
Rooting Hens and chicks in water in most cases will have a negative result. Like all succulents, Hens and chicks rot very easily in too wet an environment. So if you try to root them in water, they will most likely rot. This plant, on the other hand, will root just fine in dry or slightly moist soil.
For a more in-depth study of this issue, please read: How Do You Propagate Hens And Chicks?
Pests and diseases
As for diseases, Hens and chicks are very resistant to them. Diseases rarely affect this plant. The exception is rot, which usually starts at the roots and progresses to the center of the plant. To avoid this, only plant Hens and chicks in quick-draining sandy or rocky soil. Also make sure that there is no water flow in the area where it grows, such as from a gutter.
Pests also hardly affect Hens and chicks. Neither aphids nor mites feed on this plant due to its watery leaves. The exception is the larvae of some insects that can damage the stem from the inside. But this is a very rare phenomenon that is compensated by the high reproduction rate of Hens and chicks.
Neither slugs nor snails damage Hens and chicks. The exceptions may be young annual plants, but in most cases, the plant survives.
Also please check: Are Hen And Chick Plant Poisonous?