The hen and chick plant (Sempervivum tectorum) also called houseleek is a popular succulent in gardens. It is appreciated for its unique appearance, low maintenance, and tolerance to dry and cold conditions. This plant is native to Europe and Africa and it’s named after its clustering growth.
Hens and chicks are well-suited to various growing conditions. They can be excellent in rock gardens and outdoor landscapes. In regions with extremely cold climates, planting them in containers allows you to move them indoors during the coldest winters to protect them from frost damage.
To keep the plants healthy, grow them in well-draining soil, provide adequate sunlight, and avoid overwatering, especially during the colder months. In hot summer months, hens and chicks can benefit from afternoon shade to prevent sunburn.
Hens and chicks plant has fleshy pointed leaves arranged in a rosette. The mother rosette is traditionally larger and it’s what’s referred to as the hen. The smaller offshoots that grow around it are the chicks. The color of the foliage may vary depending on the type of the cultivator.
Hens and chicks flowers appear during the warm, sunny days of summer. When the plant is about to bloom, the mature center will grow tall. Once the colorful star-shaped flowers mature into seeds, the mother plant naturally dies off leaving behind the offshoots.
|Hens and chicks, house leek.
|Light pink, purplish, or orange
|Light pink, purplish or orange
|Sharply draining soil with neutral pH.
|Full to light shade
|Not toxic to pets and humans.
Hens and chicks plant care indoors
Here are the main care requirements for growing hens and chicks plants indoors.
Grow your hens and chicks in a place with bright light and make sure the plant is getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. A south-facing window can be a perfect spot when growing the plant indoors. However, in regions with hot summer climates, the plant can benefit from some afternoon shade.
When hens and chicks are growing tall, it means they are not receiving enough sunlight. You can add artificial grow lights to help supplement the natural light or relocate the plant to a sunny spot. Plants from a shady location should be introduced to full sun gradually to prevent sunburn.
Hens and chicks are tolerant to drought and they can go for long without the need for watering. Potted plants can be watered regularly but overwatering may cause root rot and other fungal problems. Excess moisture in the soil deprives roots of oxygen causing them to rot.
Before watering, it’s important to check the soil moisture. Water the hens and chicks plant thoroughly and let the soil dry between the waterings. Don’t let the plant sit in any standing water. So, discard the excess water that escapes through the drainage holes.
Hens and chicks plant is a succulent, as such it prefers well-draining soil. If you are growing it in containers, make sure to use succulent or cactus mix. The pot must also have drainage holes where excess water can escape. You can add some pumice or perlite to your soil to improve aeration.
Warm dry climates are perfect for hen and chick plants. When growing it indoors, the temperature must range between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. These plants are super cold hardy, if the temperature drops too low, they hardly die off but will stop growing as they slide into a semi-dormant state.
Hens and chicks can thrive in poor soils. However, they can benefit from slow-release cacti or succulent fertilizer during the growing season. Apply just once per month and avoid overfertilizing. Too much feeding may cause rapid weak growth and other problems.
Pruning hens and chicks plant is not necessary but you can thin out some offshoots to provide adequate space for healthy growth. In the right conditions, these plants spread pretty fast and you’ll need to keep separating them at least once per year.
Repotting hens and chicks can only be necessary if they have completely outgrown their space. When transplanting, use well-drained soil and a pot with drainage holes. You can separate and grow the plants individually in their own pot or as a colony depending on the available space.
Common problems with hens and chick plants
Hens and chicks are pretty hardy succulents and relatively easy to care for. However, they can still face some problems that can make them unhealthy.
One of the most common problems with hens and chicks is overwatering. These plants are drought-tolerant and they prefer soils that drain sharply. If overwatered, their roots can rot, resulting in plant wilting, leaves yellowing, and eventual death.
Hens and chicks can be susceptible to common garden pests such as aphids, mealybugs, and spider mites. These pests can feed on the plant’s sap, causing damage and potentially spreading diseases. Pest problems can be managed through regular inspections and treatments with neem oil or insecticidal soap.
Mature houseleek plants are known for producing offsets around their base. If these offsets become too crowded, they can compete for nutrients, light, and space, potentially leading to unhealthy hens and chicks. It’s important to thin out overcrowded areas occasionally.
How to propagate hens and chicks plant
Hens and chicks reproduce mainly through offsets that grow from the main plant. This strategy allows them to spread fast and colonize new areas. So, if you want to propagate your house leek, just separate one or more chicks from the mother plant and grow them in their own pots.
When transplanting the chicks, make sure to use cacti or succulent mix and a pot with drainage holes. After planting, gently water the soil and place the pot in a location with bright light. Once the plants establish, provide care as you would for full-grown hens and chicks.
You can also grow hens and chicks from seeds but you’ll need to be patient. Seeds can be purchased from specialized nurseries or garden centers. Sow the seeds in your preferred potting mix and place the pot in a location with bright indirect sunlight.
Mist the soil to keep it consistently moist but not soggy and maintain a temperature range between 65°F to 75°F. Be patient as germination may take anywhere from a few weeks to months. Transplant the seedlings into your desired location once they develop a few sets of leaves.
Hens and chicks plants are a popular choice for various landscapes, gardens, and containers. These plants are relatively easy to grow and care for. These succulents are loved for their hardiness and unique growth patterns.
When growing them indoors, makes sure to use well-draining soil and place them in a location with bright direct sunlight. Watering should be done less often and regular inspections should be conducted for identification and treatment of any problem.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.