One of the most prized succulent plants in many gardens is Sempervivum, more whimsically known as hens and chicks plants. They get their name from the family of clustering of plants that are formed as they grow. There is traditionally a larger, visually appealing mother plant with several smaller offshoots that surround it. These tidy, bright rosettes of foliage are low maintenance plants that can be grown outdoors, both in-ground or in container gardens, and can also make lovely houseplants.
Check out our robust guide on how to grow hens and chicks plants: care, tips & more, and discover how fun and easy they are to grow.
Soil Preparation and pH
Whether you are planting succulent plants indoors or outside, the soil is the foundation for a plant’s capacity to thrive. Hens and chicks plants require a well-draining soil with larger particles so water can enter quickly and drain away from the roots without compacting the soil. To ensure the best soil for these succulents, use a soil test kit and amend the soil to reach an optimal 7.0 on the pH scale before planting.
- Potting Mix– Succulent and cactus potting mixes work exceptionally well for growing drought-tolerant hens and chicks plants. The soil is formulated to readily absorb water and provides optimal drainage for the plant so that plants’ feet do not remain wet and rot susceptible. The soil comprises recycled forest products, pumice, bark fragments, sand, dehydrated poultry manure, and hydrolyzed feather meal. It provides just the quintessential quantity of essential nutrients to help your succulents grow and develop.
- Soil Amendments– When planting hens and chicks plants: care, tips & more, you can also amend your existing soil with well-draining substrates like pumice, perlite, sand, or gravel. Soil amendments can improve the nutrient content, texture, and structure of the soil. This allows plants like succulents to get the proper airflow around their shallow root systems for healthier plants.
One of the biggest mistakes that people make when growing hens and chicks plants is overwatering them. When watering hens and chicks plants: care, tips & more, it is best to do it sparingly, allowing the soil to dry thoroughly between watering sessions. Follow these general guidelines for watering hens and chicks plants.
- Water more deeply, but less frequently.
- Saturate the potting mix thoroughly, allowing the water to drain through fully.
- If using a saucer underneath a pot, empty the saucer thoroughly after the water has drained through.
- Then let the mixture dry out a bit before the next watering. If you are unsure, err on the side of not watering.
- Watering plants on a schedule keeps the roots plump and leaves full for your succulents.
- Keep your plants on the dry side.
- If the plant starts to look gangly or the leaves begin to wither, test the soil with your fingertip, and if it is parched, provide water more frequently.
- Too much moisture can cause root rot and eventually the demise of the entire plant.
Applying a slow-release fertilizer specifically suited for succulents and cactus will help your hens and chicks plants reach their fullest potential, encouraging more vibrant foliage. A high-quality organic fertilizer will improve the overall health and longevity of your plants. The fertilizer should be low in nitrogen and include beneficial soil microbes. However, be aware that over-fertilizing can have the opposite effect, suppressing the coloration of the foliage. So, please don’t overdo it.
Light and Temperature
Get the most out of your hens and chicks plants by planting them in full sun to partial shade. These striking succulent varieties are hardy enough to tolerate an array of light and temperature conditions but put on their best show of vibrantly colored foliage when the sunlight is plentiful. Their ideal growing temperature hovers around 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Hens and chicks plants are cold-hardy perennials and thrive in zones 3-11.
The mother hen plant, the main plant in the cluster, has the potential to produce a dramatic bloom in the summer months. Sadly, the hen plant portion will die back after it flowers, leaving its chicks behind. When the glory of the bloom has faded, remove any spent mother plants from the container or garden bed. Flowering tends to happen more often when soil and light conditions are sub-par. This is a good time to double-check your soil drainage, add a little fertilizer, and reassess the plant’s access to adequate sunlight.
Where to Grow Hens and Chicks Plants
Hens and Chicks Plants can be planted in a myriad of growing spaces from in-ground and container to indoors as houseplants. They are perennial plants that grow and spread, so care should be taken to space them properly when they grow larger. As they grow over the years, they can create a good-sized mound of foliage in the ground and may protrude over the edges of pots.
Pests and Disease
When grown under optimal conditions, hens and chicks plants: care, tips & more will rarely encounter pests and disease. Some wildlife enjoys munching on the moisture-rich leaves of the Sempervivum. Also, well-draining soil and a little neglect in the manner of watering should be all that is needed to ward off root rot and keep your hens and chick plants growing strong.
- Root Rot
Hens and chicks plants come in a whole spectrum of color shades and varieties. Try out some of these showstopping varieties as you explore hens and chicks plants: care, tips & more.
- ‘Golden Nugget’
- ‘Watermelon Ripple’
- ‘Big Blue’
- ‘Mint Marvel’
- ‘Terracotta Baby’
- ‘Cosmic Candy’
- ‘Sugar Shimmer’
When equipped with the right growing conditions upon planting, hens and chicks plants thrive on neglect. Add several varieties of sempervivum plants to your indoor and outdoor gardens and reap the rewards of stunning foliage that spreads and flourishes in quirky patterns of offshoots. You can even separate the offshoots to form new plants and spread the hens and chicks plants around the garden space, adding visual interest wherever you plant them.