Post pictures of your garden or share landscaping ideas.

How to Care for the Hardy Yet Exquisite Hen and Chicks Plant

How to Care for a Hen and Chicks Plant
A hens and chicks plant requires little care, but still puts up a beautiful display. Gardenerdy will tell you how to grow and propagate this succulent plant.
Akshay Chavan
Last Updated: Jul 28, 2017
Did You Know?
According to an ancient belief, growing 'hen and chicks' on the rooftop can protect the house from lightning and even witchcraft.
A 'hen and chicks', also called 'Sempervivum' or 'Semps', is an evergreen, hardy plant, that can be grown in hot and cold climates alike. The name hen and chicks is used to refer to a group of succulent plants that appear in a low-growing rosette form. The name arises from the appearance of the plant. The mother plant called the 'Hen', grows and gives rise to its offspring called 'Chicks' by underground runners. These offspring cluster around the parent in the same way chicks gather around a hen. These chicks then start developing roots, and on separating, grow right next to the mother plant.

There are several varieties of this plant, most notably Sempervivum, Jovibarba heuffelii, and Jovibarba rollers. The mother plant continues to produce chicks and lives for about 4 years. Before dying, the hen produces a long blooming stalk. A chick, when produced by the mother, will start producing its own chicks in just 1 season.

Hen and chicks are considered rock garden plants due to their hardiness. They can be grown in the USDA hardiness zones 3 - 11. Due to their attractiveness, they are grown in containers and gardens.
How to Plant a Hen and Chicks
Hen and chicks plant
  1. Take well-drained, a quite dry soil in a pot or container. When planting outside, choose a spot with good sunlight and drainage. The soil should be neutral with a pH ranging from 6.6 to 7.5 or slightly alkaline.
  2. Loosen the top soil with a garden fork or trowel and place the plant on it without burying. Separate the plants by a distance of 4 to 6 inches.
  3. Cover the plant up till the crown. Gently tap the soil to ensure that the plant is fixed well.
  4. Water the pot until the water starts dripping from the bottom. It's a good idea to water till a depth of 7 to 10 inches on planting.
  5. Soon, roots will begin to form at the base, and the plant will get lodged firmly in the soil.
  6. When using seeds, first the seeds are sprinkled on cactus soil-mix, along with frequent misting. On sprouting, gravel is sprinkled on top as mulch. The seedlings are allowed to attain a size of an inch in width, at a sunny window. After this, they can be transplanted to a pot or outside soil.
Taking Care of Your Plant
The plant can survive cool weather, but in extreme winters it's advisable to shift the plants to a warm place or provide cover. In extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, the plants become somewhat dormant, and growth may stop. The preferred temperature range is 65ºF to 70ºF, though some species can withstand freezing temperatures.
Sunlight on hen and chicks plant
The plant thrives in hot weather, with its foliage developing bright colors when grown in the hot sun. It is preferable to plant it outdoors. If grown in poor light conditions, the plant may show signs of stunted growth. Besides, if grown in shade, the color changes to a dull green. However, in parts such as the Southern US, a slight shade can play a big role in helping the plant retain its colors. Indoor plants can be grown in the light of a fluorescent lamp.
Beautiful hen and chicks plant with water drops
The plants are adapted to arid soils and need not be watered frequently. Always water them only if the soil seems dry. Water logging or poorly drained soil can kill the plant. However, frequent watering may be required during strong summers. If the plant shows signs of stunted growth, check if it is being watered too frequently, or if the soil drainage is poor. It's a good idea to water it well after transplantation. Water once every 8 to ten days in hot weather, and monthly in winters. The outer leaves will spoil if kept wet.
Fertilizer sac
Fertilizers are not necessary or recommended. The color of the plant is the most attractive when it has been denied nutrition. On the contrary, potted plants need fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers should be diluted to half before application to potted plants during summer and springtime. Excess fertilizers can burn the plant roots. Some believe in the benefits of applying mild fertilizers, like chicken manure.
Hen and chicks plant with soil
Hen and chicks generally prefer sandy or rocky soil, with low fertility. If the soil is clayey, a small amount of compost can be mixed with it. The plant can even be grown in rock cracks, where little to no soil is present.
General Maintenance
Hen and chicks plant in hand
The plant should be observed, and overcrowding can be dealt with by repotting. Dividing the chicks by transplantation is needed from time to time. The mother or hen plant has a lifespan of 4 years, and old hens should be removed when they are about to die. This is indicated when the plant produces a terminal flower. Dried leaves should be removed immediately, as they can attract insects or cause fungal growth.
Separate the 'chicks' (offsets) from the plant by cutting the base with a knife or gently pulling them when the chicks start displaying roots or when well-grown. Keep it aside till the cut dries, and then place the chick on well-separated potting soil or sandy soil, till the roots grow to grasp the soil. This transplantation is crucial to prevent overcrowding. Ideally, it should be done once very 2 years. The knife should be sterilized with alcohol before use, so as to prevent the risk of infection.

Some varieties do not produce offsets or chicks. Instead, the infant plants are produced within the hen or mother. They have to be cut by a knife before transplanting. Other varieties can be propagated by using leaf cuttings.
When the mother plant is surrounded by the offsets or chicks, resulting in overcrowding, repotting should be done. The best time for this is during warm weather. First ensure that the soil is dry, before gently pulling and removing the plant. Clean off all soil sticking to the roots. Place the plant in the new, larger pot, preferably containing fresh potting soil, and leave it until the roots grow, and firmly anchor the plant before watering.
You may have realized by now that the plant doesn't really need any extra 'care' and is pretty self-sufficient. Any pampering in the form of excess water or fertilizer is what you must abstain from, as that is the only thing bad for your hen and chicks.