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Growing Hens and Chicks: Enhancing Your Garden with Hardy Succulents

Hens and chicks are a popular choice for gardeners seeking low-maintenance, resilient plants. Belonging to the Sempervivum group of succulents, these plants, also known as houseleeks, thrive in various climates, from cool to hot. Their unique rosette shape and prolific propagation of “babies” make them an attractive addition to any garden.

Ideal Conditions for Growing Hens and Chicks

Hens and chicks are particularly well-suited to rockeries or areas with poor soil. Their ability to thrive in dry, nutrient-deficient locations makes them an excellent choice for easy-care garden schemes. Pairing them with other low-maintenance plants like sedum and sprawling rock cress can create a visually appealing and low-effort garden setup.

Utilizing Hens and Chicks in Your Garden

Sempervivum tectorum, commonly known as hens and chicks, is an alpine plant renowned for its tolerance of poor soils and harsh conditions. The mother plant is connected to its offspring, or “chicks,” via underground runners. These chicks can be as small as a dime, while the mother plant can reach the size of a small plate. Their versatility makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor containers.

Growing Hens and Chicks

Planting and Care

Growing hens and chicks is straightforward. These plants are available at most nurseries and require full sun and well-drained, gritty soil. They need minimal fertilization and infrequent watering, as they are adapted to arid conditions.


One of the joys of cultivating hens and chicks is propagating them from offsets. The chicks can be gently detached from the mother plant and placed in a new location. These succulents require very little soil and can even grow in rock crevices. The optimal temperature range for hens and chicks is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius). During extreme temperatures, they become semi-dormant and cease growing.

Container Growing

For those preferring container gardening, hens and chicks thrive in clay pots with a cactus or succulent mix. Alternatively, you can create your own mix using two parts topsoil, two parts sand, and one part perlite. Container plants need more frequent fertilization than ground plants. Use a diluted liquid fertilizer during spring and summer watering.

Growing Hens and Chicks from Seed

Another method to expand your collection is by growing hens and chicks from seeds. Online nurseries offer a variety of seeds, providing numerous forms and colors. Sow seeds in a cactus mix and keep them evenly damp in a warm room until they germinate. Once germinated, sprinkle fine gravel around the seedlings to help conserve moisture.

Seedlings need misting every few days and should be grown in a bright, sunny window. Transplant them once they reach about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.

Ongoing Care

Hens and chicks are low-maintenance plants. The mother plant typically dies off after four to six years and should be removed to make space for new growth. Mature plants produce flowers, which should be removed after they expire. To prevent overcrowding, divide the chicks from the mother plant every two years.

By incorporating hens and chicks into your garden, you can enjoy a hardy, attractive plant that requires minimal care while adding unique texture and interest to your outdoor space.

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