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Sempervivum montanum (Mountain Houseleek): Overview and Care

Greetings friends! I first saw Sempervivum montanum on one of my hikes in the mountains. In the photo below you can see how these plants looked like in their native habitat.

After that I started to take a more detailed interest in this plant and I managed to get my hands on several varieties of this species. Today I have enough experience with Sempervivum montanum and I want to share it with you.

sempervivum montanum

Sempervivum montanum

Description

Sempervivum montanum usually grows in clusters of rosettes. The number of plants in a cluster can range from a few plants to several dozen plants.

The size of a single rosette is usually 1-2 inches across. Very rarely do they reach 3 inches. The leaves are narrow to 1 inch long. They are fleshy and hold enough water for periods of drought.

The color of these plants is usually bright green with a lime tint. Occasionally the tips of the leaves may turn dark maroon or brown. The color is very vibrant and bright.

The root system is superficial and consists of thin roots. In this way, the plant is able to penetrate cracks in rocks and hold on to them.

The method of reproduction is vegetative or generative. I will talk about it in more detail below.

Habitat

Sempervivum montanum is native to southern, central and eastern Europe. It mainly grows in the mountainous terrain of these parts of Europe.

In Italy it grows in the Apennines. Sempervivum montanum can be found almost along the entire length of these mountains.

There are a lot of these plants in the Alps. They are also found in the Polish Tatars.

They are much less abundant in the Carpathians. For example, in Ukraine there are only a few locations where Sempervivum montanum grows.

In most cases Sempervivum montanum grows on rock slabs or ledges where the soil layer is very thin. In this way the plant gets enough light and avoids competition with larger plants.

Very often Sempervivum montanum can be found next to Saxifraga, which also prefer to grow on rocks.

Mountain Houseleek

Mountain Houseleek

Care

Many years have passed since I first planted Sempervivum montanum in my garden. During this time I have learned what this plant prefers best and I want to tell you about it.

Light

This plant needs as much light as possible. I have it growing in the sunniest spot and it thrives.

If there is not enough direct sunlight, the rosettes will elongate and become ugly. In full shade they will die quite quickly.

Soil

As for soil, Sempervivum montanum prefers a well-drained and poor soil. In moist soil it can easily rot or even die, so I mix regular soil with sand and small stones before planting.

Avoid improving your soil with organic matter as Sempervivum montanum does not need organic feeding. Otherwise it may cause the rosettes to be stretched out.

Watering

Sempervivum montanum does not need to be watered at all. This plant has a lot of water in its leaves and can tolerate long periods of drought.

It is most susceptible to dehydration after transplanting. If the weather is hot and dry at this time, the young rosettes can quickly lose a lot of water. In this case, I recommend giving them some shade for a few weeks.

Diseases and Pests

As far as diseases are concerned, in my experience the only disease that affects Sempervivum montanum is root rot. To avoid this you should use well-drained soil, plant in a dry place and do not water the plants.

Among the pests that can damage Sempervivum montanum are larvae. This is very rare but usually the plant will die afterwards.

Fertilizer

I never fertilize Sempervivum montanum and I do not recommend it. This plant is able to synthesize all the necessary nutrients on its own. In addition, it gets the minerals it needs from the soil. This is enough for it to thrive.

I have noticed that if you fertilize this plant with mineral or organic fertilizers, it leads to rosette elongation and its further death.

Propagation Methods

Once or twice a year, an adult plant creates several young plants around it. After a while, the young rosettes get bigger and can be separated. I usually do this when they reach at least half an inch across.

One plant can produce quite a few offspring. This lasts for about 3-4 years after which the plant blooms.

Before flowering, Sempervivum montanum turns into a stolon about 8 inches tall. An inflorescence of several flowers is formed at the top.

After flowering, seed ripening begins. If the seeds are collected and sown, a fairly large number of young plants can be obtained.

Hardiness

Sempervivum montanum is very hardy and can grow almost anywhere in the United States. It has been confirmed to withstand frosts as low as -30 °F (-34.4 °C).

It is recommended to grow in 4 to 10 USDA hardiness zones. I live in zone 6 and have never had a problem with this plant.

Subspecies

  • Sempervivum montanum subsp. montanum;
  • Sempervivum montanum subsp. stiriacum  (grows in Austria, 1-2 inches in diameter);
  • Sempervivum montanum subsp. carpaticum (grows in Eastern Europe, 1.5 inches in diameter);
  • Sempervivum montanum subsp. burnatii (grows in France, 3 inches in diameter);
  • Sempervivum montanum subsp. heterophyllum (grows in the Tatra Mountains, 2 inches in diameter).

Varieties

In addition to the wild forms of Sempervivum montanum, there are quite a number of varieties and hybrids. I was fortunate enough to obtain some of them and would like to describe them in this chapter.

Sempervivum Cmiral’s Yellow

Discovered in the Czech Republic, this variety is notable for its yellow leaves that emerge in spring and later turn green. It reaches up to 2 inches in size.

Sempervivum Peppermint Petty

Originating from Germany and cultivated by Erwin Geiger in 2002, this variety features brown-tipped leaves with the remaining parts being green. It grows up to 3 inches and is known for its vigorous growth.

Sempervivum Bambini

A petite variety with a diameter of just 0.5 inches, ‘Bambini’ boasts velvety-textured leaves. It was bred by Erwin Geiger in Germany in 2006.

Sempervivum Goldsternchen

This compact variety, a seedling of ‘Cmiral’s Yellow’, stands out with its distinctive yellow hue that remains consistent throughout the season. It was developed in the Czech Republic in 2005 by Olga Duchacova.

Sempervivum Sweet Litschi

Bred by Erwin Geiger in 2012, this variety thrives in full sun and poor soil, displaying a striking crimson red color all spring. The leaves are covered with whitish hairs, creating a beautiful contrast against their color.

Sempervivum montanum is an interesting plant that is worth your attention. It requires a little care but it is worth it.

I hope you have found some useful information here. I wish you success and all the best!