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Can Hens and Chicks Survive Winter?

Now is the perfect time to talk about overwintering sempervivum. Some gardeners may question whether this delicate succulent can endure harsh frost, especially when compared to its “siblings” like haworthia and echeveria, which struggle in cold conditions.

Hens and Chicks, on the other hand, can brave the winter and are exceptionally resistant to frost. They can endure frost even in USDA hardiness zone 3 without needing protection. However, it’s worth noting that not all species within the sempervivum family are equally robust in colder climates.

As evident in the image, sempervivum experiences a slight reduction in size during the winter months, and its overall shape undergoes some changes. The leaves tend to contract towards the center of the rosette, causing the rosette to close up. Additionally, the plant’s metabolic processes slow down, and it essentially goes into hibernation mode.

Sempervivum has the capability to endure winter conditions down to USDA Hardiness Zone 3 and even below, meaning it can withstand temperatures as low as -30 to -40°F. However, it’s important to note that not all varieties within the sempervivum family exhibit such remarkable frost resistance. To help you better understand which species can successfully survive winter in different areas, I’ve prepared a table below.

Name 5 zone 4 zone 3 zone
Sempervivu globiferum garden and pots garden and pots garden and pots
Sempervivum calcareum garden and pots garden and pots garden and pots
Sempervivum tectorum garden and pots garden and pots garden and pots
Sempervivum arachnoideum garden and pots garden and pots garden and pots
Sempervivum macedonicum garden and pots only garden
Sempervivum ciliosum garden and pots only garden

As indicated in the table, the majority of sempervivum species and varieties are capable of successfully enduring winter conditions in zone 3, whether they are planted in containers or in garden beds. However, there are two exceptions to this rule: Sempervivum macedonicum and Sempervivum ciliosum, as their natural habitat is in the southern regions.

Therefore, it can be said that most popular species and varieties of sempervivum can thrive throughout most of the United States during the winter months.

Hens and Chicks plant winter care

During the winter, taking care of sempervivum requires minimal effort, and there’s no need for any special actions. Nevertheless, there is one thing you should consider to facilitate a smoother overwintering process.

Preparing for winter

In late autumn, I advise cleaning Hens and Chicks by removing any plant debris that may have gathered between the rosettes. It’s essential to clear away all these materials to prevent rot during the winter.

I strongly discourage covering Hens and Chicks with any type of material for the winter. Using coverings can actually promote rotting and result in the demise of these plants.

Ensure that your Hens and Chicks are situated in a dry location with proper drainage. Winters often bring excessive moisture, which can lead to rosette rot if they are growing in overly damp soil.

Winter

During the winter, Hens and Chicks enter a state of hibernation where their internal processes slow down significantly or come to a halt. In this dormant state, the plant requires very little care. Here, I’ll emphasize what not to do with Hens and Chicks during the winter.

  • Avoid Mulching: There’s no need to mulch Hens and Chicks during the winter. Mulching doesn’t provide any significant benefits and can potentially lead to excess moisture accumulating near the rosettes, which is unfavorable.
  • Refrain from Watering: It’s generally unnecessary to water Hens and Chicks during the winter months. Winter conditions often bring sufficient humidity, and the plant doesn’t require additional moisture. The exception to this rule might be in the southern states where winters are relatively warm and dry. In such cases, a small amount of watering once a month may be considered.
  • Do Not Fertilize: Under no circumstances should you fertilize Hens and Chicks in the winter. Fertilizing during this period can stimulate vigorous growth, which can make the plant more vulnerable to frost damage.
  • Pest and Disease Concerns: Fortunately, Hens and Chicks are typically not affected by pests or diseases during the winter. Therefore, there’s usually no need to be concerned about these issues.

What to do with potted Hens and Chicks in the winter?

Caring for potted hens and chicks (Sempervivum) during the winter months is essential to ensure their survival in cold climates. Here are some steps to take:

  • Select the Right Container: Make sure the pot you’ve planted your hens and chicks in has good drainage. Excess moisture in the soil during winter can lead to rot, so ensure the pot allows water to escape easily.
  • Reduce Watering: Hens and chicks are succulents and prefer drier conditions. During the winter, reduce watering significantly. Overwatering can lead to root rot, which is a common issue during the colder months.
  • Avoid Fertilization: Do not fertilize your hens and chicks during the winter. They are in a period of dormancy and do not require additional nutrients.
  • Resume Normal Care in Spring: As the weather begins to warm in spring, gradually increase watering. Resume normal care practices, and they should start growing vigorously again.

Remember that the specific needs of your hens and chicks may vary depending on your climate and the varieties you have. Observing your plants and adjusting care accordingly is essential for their winter survival.