Hen and chicks, or sempervivum spring beauty, is the common name for a flowering succulent perennial plant in the Crassulaceae family that has rosettes of leaves on long stalks.
This plant can grow to heights between six and 12 inches tall, depending on the species and the care it receives. It generally grows best in cool temperatures and requires well-draining soil with some moisture retention properties like most succulents do.
Its flowers are usually pink, red, or purple and bloom from March through May, depending on the species of hen and chick plant you grow.
Hen and chicks are perennial plants that look like little rosettes of succulent fleshy leaves. The name hen and chicks refer to the way the plant propagates, several plantlets grow from the edges of the mother plant and then detach to grow on their own.
There are approximately 200 species of sempervivum or hen and chicks within the Crassulaceae family, also known as houseleeks or living stones.
These hardy succulents can thrive in conditions as cold as minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit and as hot as 110 degrees Fahrenheit, making them an excellent choice to brighten up any shady area of your garden while adding texture and contrast to any sunny spot in your landscape design.
Origin and distribution
There are approximately 200 species of sempervivums growing throughout Europe, North Africa, and temperate Asia, with many different cultivated varieties originating from these regions. The spring beauty variety of sempervivum has its origins in Japan, where it is known as tenjiku-no-hana or heavenly flower.
It was introduced into Western cultivation in 1846 by Englishman William Robinson. The plant’s common name comes from its resemblance to crocuses; both flowers have three petals per bloom and two leaves at their base.
Sempervivum spring beauty propagation
Growing Sempervivum spring beauty from seed is not recommended because sempervivums have a relatively low germination rate, especially at cold temperatures. However, they can be propagated easily by separating offsets in spring and replanting them.
The mother plant will die after it produces several offspring, or it can be dug up and transplanted elsewhere. If an offset is left alone for two years, it will likely develop into a large plant of its own. You can also divide mature plants by digging them up carefully with a sharp knife.
Cut each section into small pieces and transplant them to new areas when necessary. This method works best with larger specimens; smaller ones may dry out before you can get them planted.
Finally, sempervivums are often sold as rooted cuttings at nurseries. They should be repotted as soon as possible and treated like any other potted plant until they become established.
Sempervivum spring beauty care information
Sempervivum spring beauty, also known as Hen and Chicks, is a winter-hardy succulent plant in rosette form. If you overwinter Sempervivum indoors or in containers, it will often send up shoots called chicks that have their own roots. These can be easily transplanted to pots and enjoyed outdoors when temperatures are warmer.
Sempervivum needs light to grow, but not a lot. They’ll do best in full sun, but partial shade is fine, too. Many people set them on a south-facing windowsill—or outside near a south-facing wall, where they’ll get just enough light. If your houseplants are shaded by other plants or from living indoors, sempervivums won’t die from not getting direct sunlight.
Sempervivum spring beauty, or hen and chicks, should be planted in a pot that has drainage holes and is at least 8 inches deep. It can grow outdoors if you live in zones 5 through 9. Start with a commercial cactus/succulent potting mix.
Don’t use garden soil because it won’t drain well and holds too much moisture. Mix some small rocks into your potting mix to help improve drainage. If you live in an area where freezing temperatures are common, keep your plants indoors during the winter months.
Sempervivum spring beauty can thrive in full sun, but it will still require some watering. When planted in spring and summer they need a thorough watering every week or so, but as temperatures cool in fall, water less frequently, once every two weeks should be fine.
Be careful not to overwater, especially during winter. Sempervivums like dry soil during cold weather because it encourages leafy growth rather than root growth, which is impossible once temperatures dip below freezing.
Fertilizing your Sempervivum spring beauty or hen and chicks plants with nitrogen-rich fertilizer is vital for their health. This will promote the healthy growth of succulent new leaves, flowers, and stems.
Because it’s so important, fertilize your sempervivums twice a year, in early spring just before growth starts, and again in late summer when blooms appear but before hard frosts occur.
Apply an all-purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer at half strength. Spread it around lightly with a hand trowel, making sure to cover all parts of each plant evenly. Repeat every two weeks until frost hits to keep your plants looking fresh and beautiful all season long!
Sempervivum spring beauty has a slightly wider temperature range when compared to other succulents. They grow well in 50 degrees F as well as 80 degrees F temperatures. If you have trouble with your hens and chicks, it may be because they are being exposed to extreme temperatures.
Try growing them in a greenhouse or cool window so that they do not experience too much fluctuation. Once acclimated, most sempervivums can handle fluctuations of 20 degrees up or down without any issues at all.
One of their top two or three needs, depending on how you feel about peat moss, is humidity. Hen and chicks are not desert plants. If they dry out, they die. This is one plant that absolutely needs to be in your bathroom while you shower. The steam will keep it thriving when it’s neglected by other house plants that get more water in drier times of the year.
The ideal humidity range for Sempervivum spring beauty is 40 to 60 percent. That’s not a lot of variation, so if you can’t tell by feel, use a hygrometer. You can buy one at any garden center for less than $10. If your house is too dry or too humid, you may need to invest in a dehumidifier or an air conditioner. Don’t let your hens and chicks suffer.
Every now and then, even your Sempervivum spring beauty succulents need a haircut. Why? They might be overgrown, or they could have grown into each other’s space.
In either case, if you want to maintain a healthy and beautiful potted succulent garden, particularly if you are new to caring for succulents, you must prune it regularly. The best time to do so is in early spring when growth begins anew.
When to repot
Repot Sempervivum spring beauty in spring, right after they’ve finished blooming. Move them into a larger pot to accommodate their vigorous root system and use organic compost or soil-less mix for optimal drainage.
You can repot your sempervivums outdoors if you have room for them; otherwise, do it on a windowsill or inside a grow light tent.
Keep newly potted plants from wilting by watering thoroughly every day for two weeks and keeping indoor temperatures above 65°F. After that, water whenever the top inch of soil is dry.
Some succulents will go dormant, or rest, during winter. They aren’t dead! This is just a survival mechanism that allows them to survive long stretches of drought and cold temperatures.
Dormant plants are hardy and can often be left in their pots for periods of time without harm as long as they’re kept frost-free; cut back on watering during dormancy, too. If you have lots of sempervivums and want to keep some alive through winter, start by picking out your strongest specimens.
Keep these potted up in a sunny window with good drainage until spring comes around again. Then set them outside, they should come right back to life when warm weather returns!
Sempervivum spring beauty flower & fragrance
Hen and chicks or Sempervivum spring beauty are popular with rock gardeners and make an excellent addition to window boxes. They have a much wider variety of flowers than their name might suggest, often in reds, whites, mauve or yellow.
They flower all through spring into summer, producing small star-shaped blooms that are sweetly scented in the evenings. They will also flower throughout autumn if given enough water.
Sempervivum spring beauty is a slow-growing plant. It only reaches a height of two to six inches, but it spreads out by means of creeping rhizomes, so in time it can fill a considerable area. If you want to keep your sempervivum as an indoor plant, place it in a sunny window that receives at least four hours of direct sunlight per day.
Sempervivum spring beauty toxicity
While some other succulents are toxic, Sempervivum spring beauty plants are totally safe. So if you decide to grow them indoors or outside make sure to check with your local nursery for which variety is best for your area. The most common sempervivum species grown indoors is Sempervivum tectorum Heavenly Blue.
USDA hardiness zones
Sempervivum spring beauty thrives in USDA hardiness zones 3 through 9. In order to achieve optimal growth, these plants need full sun and well-drained soil. They are also drought-tolerant, which makes them an excellent choice for xeriscaping.
Pests and diseases
Sempervivum spring beauty, also known as hen and chicks, is a perennial succulent that requires little care to thrive. The most common pests found in sempervivum include aphids, scale insects, and mealybugs.
Damage from these pests can be avoided by checking for signs of infestation early. Fungal diseases are also common in sempervivum and may cause yellowing or brown spots on leaves.
They can infest individual rosettes, especially if your houseplant is not receiving enough light. To treat, gently remove affected leaves to prevent the spread of infection. The same goes for fungal infections on succulent plants. Treat with a fungicide before it becomes established.
Sempervivum spring beauty is a lovely addition to any succulent collection and will look beautiful on your desk or home office. Make sure that you give it enough sunlight to thrive and prosper, but don’t leave it in direct sunlight for too long, the leaves can get sunburned!
Ensure that your plants are well-drained when watering them; overwatering can kill these delicate flowers.