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Will Hen And Chicks (Sempervivum) Survive Winter?

Here is the time to discuss wintering sempervivum. Some gardeners doubt that this gentle succulent can withstand severe frost since its “brothers” of haworthia and echeveria are unable to withstand the cold.

Hen and Chicks can survive the winter, and it is a very frost-resistant plant. They can withstand frosts USDA hardiness zone 3 without shelter. But not all species are equally hardy.

As you can see in the main picture, sempervivum decreases slightly in winter, and its shape changes. The leaves shrink toward the center of the rosette, and the rosette ‘closes’. The plant juices also stop, and the sempervivum stagnates.

Sempervivum can winter to 3 Hardiness zone (USDA) and below. That is, the plant can withstand -30-40 ° F. However, not all varieties can boast such frost resistance. I have created a table below where you can see which species can overwinter in which areas.

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 you can see from the table, most species and varieties of sempervivum can overwinter in zone 3, both in the containers and in the garden. The exception is Sempervivum macedonicum and Sempervivum ciliosum since their distribution area is in the south. Therefore, all popular species and varieties can withstand winter almost all over the United States.

From all of the above, you can conclude that sempervivum can survive the winter without problems. In fact, it is not quite so.

Throughout the time I have been growing this sempervivum, I have encountered frost damage many times. Often early frosts occur in the second half of the fall. At this time, the plants are not yet ready for the frost, but it happens so that in November can hit severe frost for a short time.

Sempervivum suffers the most during such temperature drops, and the effects will be noticeable only in the spring. The frozen leaves turn black and begin to rot.

Sempervium damage is not so typical,  about 1-2% of my Hens and Chicks were damaged by early frosts. Also, it is necessary to note that after frost damage, the plants recover quickly. In May, traces of damage are no longer visible. Of all the damaged sempervium, only a few are dying.

Another typical case where sempervivum may not overwinter well is a lack of snow. It often happens that winter is very cold, and there is no snow at all. At this time, the Hens and Chicks rosette may be damaged by low temperature, but as in the first case, they recover quickly.

I have noticed that varieties with large, broad leaves suffer most from the sudden temperature changes. This is because large leaves are juicier; that is, they contain more water. In severe frost, the water freezes, and the leaves crackle, causing damage to the plant.

Varieties and species with small leaves are not damaged by frost at all. At least I didn’t have one.

From the above, we can conclude that sempervium can be damaged by cold in sporadic cases. If the autumn was mild and the temperature was decreasing gradually, the sempervivum was enough time to adapt to the winter and to survive it without problems. Next, we will talk about the care of this succulent during the winter months.

Hens and Chicks plant winter care

In the winter, the care of the sempervivum is minimal, and you do not need to do anything special. However, there is something you still have to do to make overwintering easier.

Preparing for winter

The first thing you should do before winter is to spray the plants with a fungicide. Chemical treatment is required to prevent sempervium from fungal diseases. Fungal diseases can develop even in winter, especially if there were no severe frosts.

It is also essential that the soil does not contain much moisture. This is necessary so that the plant does not rot during the winter. To achieve this, you need to add some small rubble to the soil. This is an optional condition, but it increases the chances of better wintering plants.

I read a lot about the fact that gardeners cover their sempervivum for the winter with cover material, leaves, branches, etc.  I do not recommend cover these plants.

If you cover your hen and chicks for the winter, you will only increase the risk of disease.

The wintering process

The next thing I want to talk about is mulch. People write a lot on the Internet that they mulch sempervivum for the winter. In my opinion, the Hens and Chicks should only be mulched with small pebbles, it looks beautiful and keeps the moisture in dry weather.

It is not necessary to mulch sempervivum organic materials to make them more comfortable in winter. Mulching will not help them, and mulch can be a suitable environment for the development of fungal diseases.

Many ask me if sempervium needs sun in the winter. At this time, the plant is in hibernation, and he does not require the sun. However, the process of photosynthesis did not stop completely, but it slows down a lot. From this, we can conclude that the plant needs a small amount of light during the winter.

It is not necessary to water the sempervium in winter as the soil is frozen. If winter is warm, there is enough moisture in the ground for these plants. If you water them, then the plants can rot.

After wintering

At the beginning of spring, when the snow begins to thaw, I try to clear snow so that there is less water. This improves the condition of the sempervium. Do this only when there is no prerequisite for late frosts.

Next, I clean old leaves that have accumulated at the base of the plant. There may also be leaves that have died in the winter but still have water in it, and it also needs to be removed.

I also carry out the prophylactic treatment with fungicide and insecticide. Insects and their larvae overwinter between the outlets of the sempervivum. Spring is the best time to get rid of them.

Overwintering hens and chicks in pots

Sempervium wintering in containers is not much different than wintering in open ground, although there are some subtleties that we will talk about further.

If you grow hens and chicks outside in pots, then in winter, they should be placed at ground level. Many gardeners grow plants on shelves against walls or in pots on higher ground. There is a high probability that the freezing wind will damage the sempervium.

Many lovers of these plants move pots with their plants into the house or garage for the winter. If you have the time and desire to do so, then do it. I have so many sempervivums growing in pots outside that I don’t have enough room in the house to place them. Also, indoor they may need additional lighting.

Another thing to say is the pots. Use high-quality plastic containers, they will not crack during heavy frosts, and they look quite attractive. Ceramic pots can break under the pressure of frozen ground.