The hens and chicks genus includes many beautiful succulents that look great in a small pot. They are super low maintenance and easy to care for, so if you don’t have a green thumb then this is the perfect houseplant for you.
In our care guide, we’ll explain exactly how you can care for and grow a thriving hens and chicks houseplant.
The hens and chicks genus is scientifically known as the Sempervivum genus. It has a few other common names such as houseleek, roof houseleek, and hen-widdies.
This houseplant grows thick, succulent leaves that are usually red, green, blue, gold, or copper. It’s a mat-forming plant whose leaves are arranged in rosettes and they have pointy tips.
It sprouts larger parent rosettes known as “hens”, and then from these “hens” some smaller offshoots emerge which are called “chicks”. Its botanical name; Sempervivum, means “always living”. It gets its name from the fact that even when the mother rosette dies, the “chicks” live on.
The Sempervivum is a member of the Crassulaceae family, which is the same family that the Kalanchoe and Christmas cactus belong to as well. It is native to dry and rocky regions in both Europe and Africa.
Fun fact: It’s also referred to as houseleeks because it used to be planted on thatched roofs to prevent them from catching alight during a lightning storm. The leaves contain ample amounts of water which would keep a fire from spreading.
There are many different species that belong to the Sempervivum genus. The different types of plants each have uniquely colored foliage that comes in different sizes.
Let’s take a look at five popular varieties below:
- Sempervivum ‘fashion diva’: It sprouts bright red rosettes with yellow highlights, and each leaf has a natural wax that allows the plant to tolerate direct light.
- Sempervivum calcareum ‘greenii’: This type produces densely packed growth and the foliage comes in a gray-green color with red tips.
- Sempervivum ‘killer’: This species grows olive green leaves with a splash of red surrounding the pointy tips.
- Sempervivum ciliosum: It grows hairy, gray-green leaves with pointed tips that form a rosette too.
- Sempervivum ‘corsair’: This type of houseplant produces prickly foliage that when new is a green color and as it ages the leaves turn into a pink-red color.
Fun fact: There are approximately 40 species that belong to this genus.
How Big Does It Get?
A mature hens and chicks houseplant will reach 6 to 12 inches (15.2 – 30.5cm) tall. Typically, it’ll produce a spread of around 6 to 18 inches (15.2 – 45.7cm).
How Fast Does It Grow?
Sempervivum has a moderate to fast growth rate, and it usually grows 6 to 8 inches (15.2 – 20.3m) per year until it reaches its mature size.
How Long Does It Live?
The average houseplant doesn’t have a long lifespan and will survive for approximately 3 years.
Is It Poisonous to Cats and Dogs?
The hens and chicks houseplant is non-toxic. You should still be careful to leave it near your pets as some varieties produce hairy leaves that can irritate your pet if it comes into contact with them.
How to Take Care of It
In this section, we’ll discuss the basic care that your sempervivum requires to survive. You’ll see that this plant isn’t demanding at all and is simple to look after.
How Often to Water It
Sempervivum is a succulent just like the aloe vera. This means that its leaves can store enough water to survive dry conditions. You will need to be careful to avoid overwatering it as it’s susceptible to root rot.
You should lightly water the houseplant once the top 3 to 4 inches (7.6 – 10cm) of the soil has dried out. Typically, you’ll need to water it once a week during the spring and summertime. The plant only needs a drink once every two to three weeks during winter and autumn.
It’s important that you avoid wetting the plant’s leaves as this may damage them and cause too much moisture to build up around the houseplant.
Drainage is vital for this plant’s survival. The houseplant cannot withstand sitting in soggy conditions because its soil will become waterlogged. The best way to enhance drainage is by adding coarse sand and grit to a succulent potting mixture.
Furthermore, you’ll need to plant the hens and chicks plant in a pot with drainage holes. It’s a great way to allow extra water to flow out so that a puddle doesn’t form at the bottom of the container.
When and How to Prune It
You can trim the houseplant every once in a while, but it isn’t necessary to maintain a healthy plant. You only need to prune off dead rosettes or trim off excess growth to maintain its natural size.
If you decide that your houseplant needs a good trim then make sure to do so during the springtime.
Check out the guide below:
- Clean your pruners or shears before you snip off the leaves.
- First, start by removing the lower-level leaves and work your way up the plant.
- When slicing off the foliage, you should cut it off at the base near the mother plant.
When and How to Transplant It
Sempervivum needs to be transplanted once every two years during the springtime.
When choosing a new container, you only need to go up by one size. Additionally, you must make sure that the soil is dry before you repot the plant.
We’ve listed the steps below:
- Lift the plant out of its current pot.
- Fill a new container with a succulent potting mix and place the plant in the center.
- When planting it, you will need to ensure that it is planted at the same depth that it previously was.
- Water the houseplant to alleviate any stress. This will also help the roots settle into their new home.
The houseleek doesn’t require any special care during the wintertime. It can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and environmental conditions. All it needs is the care that you were previously providing it.
Make sure that it is still grown in well-draining soil, placed under bright light, and watered lightly. If you’re concerned that temperatures may drop too low then you can cover the soil with a layer of mulch. This will lock in the warmth and protect the roots from extreme temperatures.
Just like the canna lily, this houseplant prefers being grown under full sunlight. It must soak under direct light for at least 8 hours a day. The more sunshine it receives the better looking its foliage is.
The plant can withstand some partial shade, however, a lack of light will cause unhealthy growth and its foliage will lose its colorful appearance.
It prospers in well-draining, airy, and sandy soil. You can make use of a cactus or succulent potting mixture.
To enhance the aeration and drainage of the potting mixture you should throw in a handful of perlite or sand. The ideal soil should have a pH of 6.5 to 7.5, and it must be lightweight too.
Sempervivums don’t need to be fed at all, however, if you’re wanting to encourage faster growth then you can use a diluted fertilizer.
The best type of fertilizer is a well-balanced, liquid, and water-soluble one with a ratio of 20-20-20. You should never feed it more than once every 2 to 3 months.
Pot Size and Type
The best sized container is one that is 1 to 2 inches (2.5 – 5cm) wider than the houseplant’s rootball.
The pot must also have ample drainage holes to prevent root rot. Another great way to avoid soggy conditions is by using a terracotta pot. The clay material will dry out the soil quickly and allow extra moisture to evaporate too.
Sempervivum thrives in temperatures between 65 to 75°F (18.3 – 23.8°C) during the spring and summertime. It can handle cool temperatures as low as -30°F (-34°C) too.
Although it can survive in a cold environment, it won’t flourish. The houseplant will stop growing and the plant may enter a period of dormancy.
The average household humidity level is perfect for this houseplant. It does well when grown in a relative humidity level of around 40 percent. So, you won’t need to make an effort to increase humidity levels surrounding the houseplant.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
The hens and chicks plant can be grown indoors and outdoors. It makes for a great potted plant and it’ll thrive in a rocky or dry garden too. It does best in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 8.
As the plant can tolerate extreme temperatures, you can leave it outdoors during the winter too. It should still be cared for well when positioned outside. You must make sure that it basks under full light, is watered infrequently, and is grown in sandy soil.
Furthermore, there is no need to fertilize the plant whilst it grows outdoors. Finally, if any moist soil surrounds the plant then simply remove this because you’ll want to maintain a fairly dry environment.
Does It Bloom?
The hens and chicks houseplant doesn’t bloom often and these blooms are undesirable too. Once the plant blooms the rosette will begin to die soon.
A stalk will sprout from the center of the rosette and it’ll produce light pink or reddish-purple flowers. It will typically bloom during the summertime, however, you’ll want to prevent this from occurring to preserve your plant’s lifespan.
If you do want your houseplant to bloom then you’ll need to place it under a certain amount of stress. You can overwater it or position it in a shady location.
How to Grow It
Your collection of Sempervivums can be grown by propagating its offsets or planting its seeds. You should carry out each method during the springtime as the plant is actively growing. You’ll also need to use sterilized tools and fresh potting soil too.
We’ll explain each process in more detail below.
You can propagate the houseplant by planting its offsets in potting soil. All you have to do is pull away the “chick” from the mother plant and place it in its own container.
Here’s a step-by-step guide:
- Fill a new container with a fresh, sandy potting mixture.
- Next, you must lightly water the soil and allow it to drain out. Place the pot to the side and wait until the mixture is slightly damp.
- Pull the “chick” away from the mother plant or snip it off at the base of the plant.
- Lightly press the cutting into the soil and mist it with cool water.
- Place the offset under bright, indirect sunlight and water it once the soil is dry.
- After 2 to 4 weeks the “chick” will develop new roots and you can then care for it as did its mother plant.
How to Plant the Seeds
Before you plant its seeds, you’ll need to gather some seeds. Once a mature Sempervivum has flowered then you can collect the seed pods that are left after it has died. You’ll need to harvest the seeds in the pods and then plant them.
Check out the below guide:
- Prepare a tray with a succulent potting mix.
- Scatter the seeds evenly across the surface and lightly mist them.
- Position the seeds in a bright and warm room.
- You’ll notice new growth sprout after 2 to 3 weeks.
- Once the seedlings emerge, you can add a layer of mulch and care for them as you would a mature houseplant.
How to Revive a Dying Plant
Sempervivum typically doesn’t run into many health problems as it can tolerate neglect and it’s adaptable too. There are, however, a few potential issues that your plant may experience and you will need to keep your eye out for these.
The houseplant’s foliage may brown when it is overwatered or placed in a shady area.
When the plant receives too much water then it can become waterlogged. You can prevent this by allowing the soil to dry out before watering it again.
It’s imperative that it receives plenty of direct sunlight. You must find a new home for your plant like a bright windowsill.
Root rot occurs when the houseplant is overwatered for a prolonged period of time. Its leaves may become mushy and the roots will feel squishy as well.
The houseplant will need to be transplanted into dry soil immediately. Additionally, you should snip off the unhealthy roots and foliage too.
The rosettes begin to die when the plant blooms, or if it’s overfed and overwatered.
You can prevent the houseplant from blooming by providing it with optimal care and creating ideal environmental conditions.
The hens and chicks plant doesn’t need to be fed and if it’s over-fertilized then this can cause significant damage. You will need to refrain from feeding it and the soil will need to be flushed. This can be done by running a stream of water over the potting mixture for 20 minutes.
If the soil is overly moist then you must stop watering the plant until the potting mix has dried out. You must remember that the plant is a succulent, and should be watered infrequently.
The Sempervivum genus is a versatile group of houseplants that can withstand a little neglect from time to time. It is one of the easiest plants to care for and with a little effort, you’ll be gifted with lush and colorful foliage.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this succulent doesn’t need a lot of water. Additionally, it must be placed under full light if you wish to maintain the leaves’ vibrant color.