Growing hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) plants in your garden is quite simple, especially if you want many of them. Their offsets keep coming!
Hens and chicks have beautiful rosettes in red, green, blue, and copper colors. They grow like nobody’s business and produce tons of baby plants cutely called chicks, so it’s likely that you’ll never have to buy more than one Hen.
Hens and chicks are easy to care for and can thrive indoors or outdoors, so they’re the perfect plant for everyone!
If you want to keep your Sempervivum tectorum looking like spring chickens, then you will need our advice! Find out how to grow hens and chicks in your garden.
Hens and chicks
I bet you’re probably wondering why this plant has such a weird name! It’s called hens and chicks or hens and chickens because it produces a lot of offsets, which are also known as chicks.
In case you didn’t know, offsets are baby succulents that sprout from mature plants, in this case, called Hen. The mother plant “hatches” baby chicks just like a hen does, so that’s how it got its quirky name hens and chicks!
|Binomial nomenclature||Sempervivum tectorum|
|Other names||Hens and chicks, hen and chickens, hen-and-chicks, hens-and-chickens, houseleek, roof houseleek, hen-widdies|
|Size||They can grow up to be up to 4 inches tall|
|pH||6.6 to 7.5|
|Sun||Full Sun to Part Sun|
|Climate||Cold Hardy, Winter Vegetables|
|Growing Locations||Throughout the US|
|Ground||Sandy, Excellent Drainage|
|Water||Low, Drought Tolerant|
Hens and chicks are also called Sempervivum tectorum. Serpevivum means “always living” in Latin. Sempervivum plants got this name because they sprout many offsets that live on after the mother plant dies.
Sempervivums are also called houseleeks because they used to be planted on thatched roofs to keep them from catching on fire during lightning storms. They store a lot of water in their leaves, so it makes sense that they would prevent fires from spreading.
How to care
Hens and chicks are native to the mountains of Europe, so they’ve adapted to cold weather and are considered a winter vegetable. Even though they’re tough and can withstand less than ideal conditions, there are still a few things you need to know to keep them healthy. Here are some of our best caretaking tips for hens and chicks.
The best soil
If you’ve read our other plant guides, you already know that you need to put your plants in well-draining soil. We talk about drainage so often because it’s super important!
If your hens and chicks get waterlogged, it may get mushy leaves, start to attract pests, or die from root rot. Nobody wants that!
Planting your succulent in cactus or succulent soil will prevent your plant from sitting in water and meeting an untimely end. Commercial succulent soil is a good choice because it contains porous materials like perlite and pumice that improve drainage and keep your plant nice and dry.
We highly recommend this soil mix as it is one of the best soil mixes on the market. It doesn’t need to be mixed with any other soil, helps fight root rot, perfectly pH Balanced & is pathogen-free (ie: won’t kill your plants). This soil is the go-to for our office plants. We like to get a large bag as we propagate a lot of plants. It is useful to always have soil on hand for any plant project.Invalid table id.
How to water
Watering your hens and chicks plants every two weeks is usually enough, but watch out for signs of under watering like dry, wrinkly leaves.
Fill up a watering can and douse the soil until water runs out of the pot’s drainage hole. In between these deep waterings, let the plant’s ground dry out completely.
Doing this encourages your hens and chicks to develop a healthy root system because its roots will grow deeper as it searches the soil for more water. Letting the soil dry out also prevents root rot.
Hens and chicks can handle anything from partial shade to full sun. Their fleshy leaves are a bit delicate and can burn during the hottest months of the year, so if you keep your succulent outdoors, watch out for signs of sunburn like brown, faded, or crispy leaves.
Temperature and climate
Hens and chicks are cold hardy plants, which means they can survive in below-freezing temperatures. Even if the temperature drops to negative 40 degrees, your plant baby will still be ok. Sempervivum tectorum can thrive in winters thanks to their cold-hardy attributes.
A lot of plants can’t handle temps like that—the water they store in their leaves freezes from the cold and make the leaves brown and mushy. Their ability to survive in cold weather is just one of the many things that make Hens and Chicks remarkable!
Even though this succulent is cold-hardy, it grows best in mild temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees. So growing hens and chicks indoors is not only possible, but also good for them as long as they get enough light.
Keep them near a bright window like the south or east-facing window for the best results.
Hens and chicks can survive in nutritionally poor ground, so you don’t absolutely need to fertilize them. You probably want your plant to grow more quickly and look more vibrant, though, so you should fertilize it once every month or two during the spring and summer.
The best fertilizer for hens and chicks is a low-balanced, water-soluble fertilizer. Low-balanced fertilizers are milder and have less of a chance of burning the leaves of your plant. When you’re buying a fertilizer, look for one that has three small, identical numbers on the package, like 8-8-8.
Even though you’re using a mild fertilizer, you should still dilute it to half strength. Hens and chicks don’t need as much fertilizer as other plants, so you don’t want to give yours as much as the package calls for. Standard fertilizers generally call for 1 tablespoon of fertilizer per gallon of water, but you should only use ½ tablespoon.
Do Hens and Chicks Bloom?
Some succulents use up all of their resources to produce flowers and seeds, which leaves nothing for the rest of the plant. Succulents that die after they flower are called monocarpic succulents.
Hens and chicks flower and die after about three or four years. Your plant may flower earlier if it’s under stress from insufficient water or sunlight. It flowers early to try and spread its seed in the hopes that the new plants will grow somewhere with better conditions. Even if you care for your plant perfectly, it will eventually flower and die.
Try not to be upset when this happens to your hens and chicks! You can save the seeds from the flowers and plant them to grow brand-new babies.
Plus, your main plant probably produced a lot of chicks before it died that will grow and take its place.
Growing and Propagating
Hens and Chicks have no trouble growing and propagating independently, but if you want even more plants, you can grow them from seed. You can harvest seeds from your mature plant after it flowers or purchase them online.
If you’d rather not go to the trouble of growing succulents yourself (we don’t blame you), your hens and chicks plant will do the work for you. It produces lots of offsets that you can divide from the mother plant and put in their own pots.
Growing from Seeds
Grab a pot or planting tray and fill it up with some succulent or cactus soil.
With clean hands, take the seeds of hens and chicks and place them on top of the soil. Since the seeds are so tiny, it can be hard to see where you’re putting them, so just do your best to space them out a little.
After they’re in the soil, remember to mist them with some water. Keep them moist over the next few weeks until they germinate. Give them access to plenty of sunlight and keep them in a warm room between 70 and 75 degrees if possible.
It’s unlikely that all of your seeds will germinate, so keep that in mind. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time… keep trying!
Hens and chicks seeds don’t always produce new plants that look like the mature plant they came from. If you want your chicks to retain the characteristics of your hen, the best way to do that is by dividing offsets.
Most hens and chicks varieties grow offsets from a stem that’s attached to the mother plant. That stem is called a stolon. It’s best to wait until the stolon withers to replant these offsets. By the time the stolon withers, the offsets will have developed their own root systems and have the best chance of surviving.
To separate this kind of offset, break or cut the stolon and carefully loosen the soil around the chick. Lift it up out of the soil and transplant it to a pot filled with succulent soil or a new spot in your garden. Wait a few days to water them so that they get a chance to adjust to their new environment.
Before You Go …
That’s everything about Sempervivum Tectorum. Is there anything I miss out on or you want to know more about? Let me know in the comment section!
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Richard | Editor-in-chief at Succulent City
Hey everyone! I’m Richard. Welcome to my blog, which is all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, I began my journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, my fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and I gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!