This old-fashioned plant, also called common houseleek, is undergoing a resurgence in popularity. Its attractive and intriguing shapes and its ability to grow under just about any conditions make it a perfect choice for everything from rock gardens to borders to containers. Its botanic name means "live forever," and it was once planted on rooftops in the belief that neither lightning nor fire would touch a house so adorned. The common name "hens-and-chicks" comes from the numerous plantlets borne on short stolons all around the mother plant.
Description of hens-and-chicks: Hens-and-chicks produces low-growing, 3- to 4-inch rosettes of pointed gray-green leaves. Hens-and-chicks is less commonly planted than the subspecies Sempervivum tectorum calcareum, which has purple-tipped leaves. At maturity the rosette forms a thick, hairy flower stalk that rises to 12 inches in height. The star-shaped flowers are pink or red. Ease of care: Easy.
Growing hens-and-chicks: Plant in any kind of well-drained soil in full sun. It will grow in a crack between two rocks even if there is no apparent soil. Hens-and-chicks is so resilient it essentially takes care of itself.
Propagating hens-and-chicks: By detaching and planting offshoots in any kind of soil.
Uses for hens-and-chicks: This classic rock garden plant makes an attractive display when planted in rock crevices, stone walls, and between paving stones.
Hens-and-chicks related species: Cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum) bears smaller rosettes covered with cobweblike threads. It produces showy red flowers on 4-inch stems. S. montanum produces rosettes nearly 2 inches across of hairy, dark green leaves. The flowers are bluish-purple.
Scientific name of hens-and-chicks: Sempervivum tectorum
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