Sempervivum, commonly known as Houseleeks or Hens and Chicks, are among the most popular succulents. They are exceptionally hardy plants and seem to thrive in cold and hot, low light or intense light. Sempervivums are closely related to Echeveria, Kalanchoe, and Crassula, which all belong to the Crassulaceae family. There are roughly 40 species and well over 4000 cultivars and hybrids, and they are easily pressed into service as beautiful mixed-dish gardens.
Light: Full sun. Perfect for a sunny window.
Water: Water during the summer and spring, making sure drainage is immaculate. Reduce water in the winter to monthly.
Temperature: Prefers average summer temperatures, 65 to 70 ºF (18 to 21 ºC). In winter, some species can withstand temperatures down to freezing.
Soil: A well-drained potting mix for succulents with an ideal pH of around 6.0 (slightly acidic).
Fertilizer: Feed with a controlled-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season or weekly with a weak liquid solution. Use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer at 1/4 strength on mature plants and a fertilizer with less nitrogen on young plants.
Sempervivums earned their popular name "Hens and Chicks" from their growth habit. The mother rosette, or hen, sends off numerous offsets, clustering around her base like chicks. These offsets can be easily repotted, or the plants can be left to form a clumping mat.
Repot as needed, preferably during the warm season. To repot a succulent, make sure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently remove the pot.
Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you repot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.
Sempervivums are not difficult to grow, provided they are not waterlogged and killed from excess watering. They can be easily grown outdoors and in containers. They earned the name "Houseleeks" from their tendency to root on the roofs of houses. After the mother rosette flowers, it will naturally die, but it has likely produced many offsets that will continue to grow by this time. These are excellent for cold windows.
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