The primary structure of this plant is made up of thick rosettes of succulent leaves. Baby rosettes grow as an off shoot of the parent plant and will root themselves to carry on after the parent flowers and dies. This exponential growth allows the plant to fill an area very densely. While the flower may rise 4 to 12 inches, the rosette itself stays very low to the ground, 2-4 inches. Shown here is the variety Sempervivum arachnoideum “Cobweb Houseleek’ with a cob-web covered look.
Grown in full sun to partial shade, hens and chicks should be planted in soil that is poor to average in fertility and be very well drained. Add fine gravel or grit to provide adequate drainage. Provide water to get established then only to prevent shriveling during dry periods. When transplanting the small offspring, try using a hairpin to hold it in place. Hens and Chicks are hardy in zones 4-8.
This plant does amazingly well in a variety of places: dish gardens, very small spaces near retaining walls, on slopes, and in crevices found among the stones of a rock garden. It is best used alone and is difficult to weed if invaded by grass or sedums.
Contributed by Joan Nusbaum, Colorado Master Gardener. For answers to your horticultural questions, contact the Master Gardener Help Desk at 636.8921 or CSUmg2@elpasoco.com.
Photo courtesy of Joan Nusbaum