Sempervivum is an easy to grow evergreen perennial perfect for xeriscaping, in a mixed perennial border, or grown with other Mediterranean herbs. They are hardy to USDA Zone 6 and bloom all summer long with fragrant musky foliage.
Hens and Chicks have been cultivated as far back as ancient Roman times. Romans grew them in vases in front of their houses and brought them along when they colonized Western Europe. A belief that Hens and Chicks protected against lightning developed from an apparent resemblance of the plants to the god Jupiter. Clean-shaven Romans thought that the plants looked like the bearded god. Former common name “Jupiter’s Beard” alludes to this fact. Later, Emperor Charlemagne ordered houseleeks to be planted on all roofs to prevent fire.
These evergreen succulents provide drought tolerant, low-maintenance color and texture all year. Hens and Chicks are fun to plant in combinations for morning sun locations. Try pairing Sempervivum with ferns for an interesting take on the “urban forest” theme. Alternatively, filling a large bonsai pot with a mixture of hardy cacti and succulents, including Hens and Chicks, makes a stunning addition to sunny outdoor spaces. They are perfect for rock gardens, rock walls, living walls, and are commonly planted in living roofs. In addition, they attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects.
Sempervivum bear sweet, star-shaped flowers with eight to sixteen petals. They are usually pink, red, white, or occasionally yellow. Jovibarba, another genus called Hens and Chicks, can be distinguished from Sempervivum by their bell-shaped, pale yellow flowers. It’s exciting to see stalks shoot up that are topped with a cluster of soft flower buds. In fact, the growing flower stalk is called a rooster!
Leaves of Sempervivum can be used in a similar manner to Aloe vera to treat minor burns, insect bites, and skin injuries. Flavonoids in the leaves contribute to their anti-inflammatory properties. Also, the leaves the Common Houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum, can be added to salads for crunch and a cucumber-like flavor.
In addition to the fifty wild species of Sempervivum, there are also thousands of named varieties in cultivation. Because Sempervivum are monocarpic, (each plant grows, flowers, sets seed, then dies), choose a pot with more than one rosette. Each rosette develops from the “mother” plant, and the rosette “pups” will continue to grow and divide after the “mother” rosette dies. Plants in the Sempervivum genus can also reproduce by seed.
During the growing season, green rosettes with dark purple tips add contrast to a succulent pathway. As the weather cools, the whole rosette darkens to a purplish-bronze for showy fall color.
Grows 6-12” tall by 6-12”.
‘Green Wheel’- Apple green leaves form tight rosettes. Light pink flowers in summer.
Grows 4-6” tall by 6-12” wide.
‘Red Beauty’- Frosted, gray-green leaves during the growing season. Red tips in winter. Pink flowers in summer.
Grows 4-8” tall by 8-12” wide.
‘Royal Ruby’ Burgundy leaves with gray-green tips. Purple flowers in summer.
Grows 4-8” tall by 8-12” wide.
Sempervivum arachnoideum ‘Cobweb’-Small green rosettes with white hairs that look like webbing among the leaves.
Grows 2-4 inches tall by 6-12 inches wide.
We have a wonderful selection of perennials year round, but if you are looking for a specific perennial we will have the best selection when it is in bloom around town. Note: Native plant pages will take you into the Native Plant section.