Unhealthy Hen and Chick Plant Symptoms and What to Do

The hen and chick plant (Sempervivum tectorum) also known as common houseleek is a popular succulent with fleshy leaves arranged in a beautiful rosette pattern. This plant is adapted to hot dry conditions and this makes it easy to maintain both indoors and outdoors.

The leaves of the hen and chicken plant are edible and their sour taste makes it a common ingredient in salads. There are communities that have also used this plant as herbal remedies for many years. 

While this plant is super hardy, there are a few issues that can get it unhealthy including overwatering, underwatering, insufficient sunlight, poor draining soil, and pests or diseases.

In this article, ill explain how to identify if your hen and chick plant is unhealthy and how to revive the plant. 

Unhealthy hen and chick plant

Unhealthy hen and chick plant symptoms

Many issues will come out if you don’t provide proper care for your hens and chicks plant. When you are a beginner to this plant, it can be difficult to tell when it’s not doing well. Here are telltale signs that your hen and chick plant is unhealthy.

  • Wilted leaves is one of the main sign that a hen and chick plant is not healthy. In most cases, wilting is a sign of dehydration, root rot, or heat stress.
  • The leaves of the plant may turn yellow. This can be an indication that the plant is not getting enough sunlight, nutrients, or water.
  • Brown or black spots on the leaves. If the leaves of your hen and chicken plant are turning brown or black then your hen and chick plant might be suffering from a disease or a pest problem.
  • Leaves turning soft or mushy. This is majorly a sign of root rot caused by overwatering or fungal infection.
  • Stunted growth and lack of blooming. When the hen and chicken plant is unhealthy, it won’t bloom nor spruce new growth.

If you notice any of the above signs closely monitor the plant and evaluate its growth conditions. Act with speed to fix any underlying problem before it’s too late to save the plant. Some conditions like root rot will quickly kill the plant if there is no immediate intervention.

Why your hen and chick plant is unhealthy

Here are a number of reasons why your hen and chick plant might be unhealthy and what to do to fix the problem.


The hen and chick plant is a succulent, meaning it doesn’t like too much moisture around its roots. Overwatering can cause root rot and other fungal problems which can easily kill the plant. Signs of overwatering in hen and chick plants include shriveling, leaves drooping, and roots turning brown and mushy.

How to fix

If you suspect overwatering, try to drain out the excess water from the pot and let the soil dry completely. If the plant is not showing any signs of recovery, remove it from the soil and inspect the roots. Cut off all the damaged parts and repot the succulent in a fresh cactus or succulent mix.

The hen and chick plants are drought-tolerant, meaning they need less watering. Before you water them make sure the top layer of the soil is completely dry. Insert your finger in the soil, if the soil feels dry water thoroughly and let the soil dry out between the waterings.


Underwatering is also a major problem with hen and chick plants. While these plants are drought tolerant, they also need a moderate amount of moisture to thrive. If you completely fail to water them as needed, you’ll definitely end up with unhealthy plants.

The main symptoms of dehydration in hean and chick plants may include succulent leaves falling off or turning yellow. If nothing is done to save the plant, it may wilt and eventually die.

How to fix

The problem of underwatering can easily be solved by just misting the plant. Make sure to move the plant to a cooler place with bright indirect sunlight to reduce the rate of water evaporation. When the plant shows signs of recovery, water it deeply and let the soil dry before watering again.

Insufficient light

Insufficient light exposure may result in unhealthy hen and chick plants. Sunlight is an important resource for all green plants. It provides the energy needed for photosynthesis. When light is not enough, the hen and chick plant will grow thin and tall, particularly towards any source of light.

If hens and chicks are growing tall, it’s also an indicator that the plant is about to flower. Usually, a thin tall stem that bears blooms will grow at the center of a mature plant. Unfortunately, the plant dies off when blooming ends but leaves behind many offsets and sets.

How to fix

Hen and chick plants prefer full sun but they can also tolerate partial shade. Indoors place it near a south-facing window to enjoy maximum sunlight. If your room is not getting enough natural light, use artificial grow lights to supplement the light requirements of your succulent.

Wrong soil type

Growing hen and chick plants in an incorrect soil type can make them sickly. Like other succulents, this plant prefers well-draining soil. If the soil is compacted or doesn’t drain well, the roots can start to rot. As said, root rot is a serious condition that can kill the plant in a matter of days.

Using potting soil that has gone bad can also affect the health of your plant. This is common with soil with poor nutrition content, chemical contaminations, or pests and diseases. It’s important to use soil from a reputable source when potting or repotting and be sure to check the expiry date.

How to fix 

If you suspect root rot or incorrect soil type, remove the plant from the soil and repot it in fresh cactus or succulent mix. You can make your own cactus soil by mixing perlite, sand, and standard potting soil in equal parts. Additionally, make sure to use a pot that has drainage holes at the bottom.

Insect pests

The hen and chick plant can be susceptible to pests such as mealybugs, scales, aphids, spider mites, and fungus gnats. Insects pests suck juices and this can weaken the plant or expose it to bacterial and fungal infections. 

How to fix

Inspecting your plants regularly can help in identifying the problem of pests early enough for appropriate treatment. Washing the plant with a strong stream of water can dislodge most insect pests from the plants. You can also use neem oil or insecticidal soap to kill pests without harming your plants.

Healthy hen and chick plant

Tips for Keeping your hen and chick plant healthy

  • Water your plant deeply when the soil is dry to the touch.
  • Repot your plant every 2 to 3 years during spring and summer.
  • Separate the offsets from the parent plant every year.
  • Fertilize your plant in the spring and summer with a balanced fertilizer.
  • Protect your plant from frost in the winter, you can bring it indoors.

Final Thought

The hen and chick plant is a low-maintenance plant but growing it in incorrect conditions can cause challenges to its health. If you suspect that your plant is not doing well and you are not sure of what’s the problem, take it to a nearby nursery or gardening center for help. 

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