If you love succulents as much as we do, then you’ve probably already heard of the Hens and Chicks. It is one of the most attractive and easy-to-grow plants from the succulent family. More importantly, it grows slowly and requires little to no care. And for that, growing it is typically a blast of fun.
But you will still need to cover particular needs that most Hens and Chicks plants have. Luckily, these needs are nothing out of this world. Whether you’ve planted succulents before or not, you’ll find it a piece of cake to meet these needs.
To help you plant a Hens and Chicks and take care of it over time, we’ve assembled this quick yet comprehensive guide. You’ll find it immensely helpful!
What are Hens and Chicks Plants?
At first sight, it looks just like most succulents. The “Sempervivum tectorum,” or any of its variations, gets the name “Hens and Chicks” from the ability to grow “chicks.” These chicks grow from the main plant via roots. The main plant is called the “hen.”
But in Latin, “Sempervivum” means “always living.” As you may guess, it gives the idea that the plant never dies. That’s untrue, as most Hens and Chickens typically live about 3-6 years. However, because the “hen” spreads fast using its “chicks,” it tends to last a lot longer by spreading across entire gardens.
Like every succulent, the Hens and Chicks boasts thick leaves. These leaves are often green, but they can also attain red, purple, copper, gold, or even blue tones. Some species also produce variegated leaves (several colors at once).
The plant doesn’t typically grow more than 5 inches in height and as wide as 10 inches. Its leaves grow together, forming a spiral-like form.
Similar to some types of aloe vera, it spreads to the sides instead of upward. For that reason, it is known as a mat-forming plant as it can cover over 2 feet of space within a few months of growing.
How to Grow Hens and Chicks Plant in 5 Steps
As you already know all the basics for Hens and Chicks to thrive, it’s time to get your hands dirty. Below, you’ll find 5 steps to follow to grow this plant:
#1. Decide the Growing Method
Even though Hens and Chicks produces “chicks” or offsets that you can transplant later, it’s also possible to grow it from seeds. These seeds typically come from the flowers. But you can also get the seeds directly from a distributor. They are often affordable.
The usual way to grow the Hens and Chicks is using the offsets. Every growing season, the plant will produce at least 4 of these offsets, as they spread via roots. Just break them from the base and plant them somewhere else.
It’s important to know that in both cases, you will need a lot of sunlight. But for seeds, you will need a bit more humidity. Obviously, seeds also take a bit more to get accustomed to and germinate. Because of that, you should start seeding in the Fall.
Growing from chicks is typically easier and quicker, so we recommend starting in Spring in that case.
#2. Find the Right Place to Plant
Once you’ve decided between growing from chicks or seeds, it’s time to look for an ideal place to plant them.
Here, we recommend rock gardens (gravel preferably) as the best choice. However, you can also opt for pots or containers with gravel mixes. A succulent soil mix will also do the job.
Make sure it is well-drained. If you’re growing in pots or containers, check that it has draining holes. Otherwise, open them.
Find perfect soil & place regardless of the growing method you choose.
#3. Prepare the Pot or Garden
Now that you have a place (garden or container) ready, it’s time to prepare the soil. This should be by adding the mix as needed or fertilize.
The best mix would be gravel or succulent soil. If you don’t find these, you can always use garden charcoal as an alternative.
Either way, it is essential to have sufficient, so it covers the succulent base. Generally, you will have about 1 inch of root to cover with the mix. Or, if you’re using seeds, have at least 1 inch upwards for its growth.
#4. Planting the Hens and Chick
The process is simple. You just need to grab the chick and cover its roots with the soil. Make sure to arrange it so it has enough space to the sides to leave its chicks over time.
As for seeds, push the seeds to about 1 inch deep. Bury them in a way that they don’t get a pinch of sunray.
We recommend compacting or leveling the ground either way. The focus is to make the seeds or chicks feel as natural and comfortable as possible.
#5. Water the Chick or Seeds
If you planted the Hens and Chicks correctly, you should start seeing growth within a couple of weeks. During this process, however, you should water at least once a week. This is for chicks.
If you started from seeds, we recommend rewatering every time the soil dries up. The focus is to keep the soil moist (but not damp). For that, watering once every 3 to 4 days should be enough. It should sprout within 2 or 3 months.
For chicks, you should also place them in direct sunlight until the roots spread well. Once the plant has established, it will feel sturdy on the soil. That’s a sign it has grown properly. It should start producing its own chicks in no time.
How to Care for the Hens and Chicks Plant
Whether you start from seeds or offsets, you will need to ensure certain things for the plant to thrive. Here are some tips to follow:
1. Leave it Alone
Succulents like being left alone. The Hens and Chicks is not an exception. If you water or handle it too much, the plant is likely to feel uncomfortable or even get sick. To prevent that, just leave it alone.
2. Only Water When Necessary
Similar to the last point, you don’t need to water too much. You only need to irrigate once every 2 weeks. Preferably, you should water when the soil is dry. If the soil looks moist, even after 2 weeks, don’t water.
Apart from that, only water the soil and base of the plant. Keep water away from the leaves as it could cause disease or sunburns.
3. Use Diluted Fertilizer only
Both in the planting process and while growing, you should fertilize the plant. But this fertilizer should be the mildest you can find. And even then, you should dilute it before applying it.
We recommend fertilizing the soil only in Spring and Summer. For Fall and Winter, you can leave the plant alone.
4. Don’t let it get Overcrowded
While overcrowding in pots or gardens doesn’t cause any damage (the plant does it naturally), it’s still recommended to don’t let it happen.
Overcrowding could cause the “hens” or larger rosettes to die faster. Similarly, it could overgrow to the point of taking over plants. That’s why we advise taking the chicks away every 2 years or so.
5. Remove the Flowers
Most Hens and Chicks will die after blooming. But you can prevent that in some cases. By removing the flowers as soon as they appear, you may extend the lifespan of the plant.
This could help them grow larger, produce more chicks, and sometimes live for over 2 years more than expected.
Types of Hens and Chicks to Consider
The plant has many variations to consider. While the main “Sempervivum” genus is the most popular, you may also find other species available, such as:
Common Hens-and-Chicks (Sempervivum tectorum)
This is the standard evergreen succulent known as the Hens and Chicks or Common Houseleek. Either way, it often grows green-to-yellow leaves with slight red tones on the tips. These leaves often achieve a star-like shape with pointy ends.
As the most common type, it mostly grows between 3 to 5 inches at full height. The plant may produce flowers in the right conditions that can reach up to 20 inches in height. These flowers appear in the last few months of the plant’s life.
Cobweb Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum)
Another common, but still less popular than the standard Hens and Chicks, is the Cobweb Houseleek. It can grow to about 3 inches and spreads no farther than 12 inches around, making it ideal for pots.
This one can usually achieve green, yellow, red, and even purple tones in the leaves. The leaves are a bit thicker and fleshier than the typical Hens and Chicks. These leaves often grow a unique web of white hair. The hair travels across the rosettes from tip to tip, looking like a spider-web.
Job’s Beard (Sempervivum heuffelii)
One of the largest species of the Sempervivum, the Job’s Beard or Purple Haze, grows up to 8 inches in size as it’s also known. The leaves are often green with red tips. However, some variations can be entirely purple with green tips instead.
The plant grows more flowers than the typical Sempervivum. Each flower can reach over 20 inches and boast purple and pink colors. The rosettes tend to die after blooming.
Ornatum Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum marmoreum)
The smallest type of Hens and Chicks, the Ornatum species grows no longer than 2.5 inches in diameter and about 5 inches in height. The leaves are fleshier than the typical “Sempervivum.”
This one usually grows with bright green leaves and dark tips. However, it may also grow red-to-green leaves with purple tips. The flowers it produces can grow to about 8 inches with red or pink flowers.
Teneriffe Houseleek (Sempervivum ciliosum)
One of Hens and Chickens’ fastest-spreading types, the Teneriffe Houseleek, can grow to about 4 inches in height and about 20 inches in diameter. The leaves tend to achieve a green-to-gray tone. In contrast with other types, the leaves tend to grow outwards, opening more than usual.
These also produce flowers, but they don’t typically grow longer than 4 inches on top of the rosettes. Most flowers tend to be yellow-to-green as well.
Yellow Houseleek (Sempervivum wulfenii)
Boasting one of the brightest and vibrant colors, the Yellow Houseleek can grow to about 10 inches in diameter and no more than 4 inches in height. The leaves achieve a yellow and bright green color, with tones of gray and purple.
You can also find these to produce flowers. These flowers can grow to 10 inches tall and have lemon or yellow petals.
Does the Hens and Chicks Plant Bloom?
While not many people are aware of this, the Hens and Chicks does bloom. The flowers are often pink or purple, growing over 10 inches in height and expand to about 2 to 3 inches. Despite being rare, this flower is one of the best parts of the plant.
Sadly, this happens when the rosette (or “hen”) is about to die. Generally, it is between the 2nd and 4th year of life. Because of that, the Hens and Chicks is known as a “monocarpic” succulent.
The flowers it produces will leave small seeds behind. You can use these seeds to plant the Hens and Chick again somewhere else. Before it has these flowers and seeds, the Hens and Chicks is likely to grow many chicks or small rosettes around that you can transplant or leave to grow.
What Does the Hens and Chicks Plant Need?
By now, you should be well-aware of the different varieties this plant offers. If that’s the case, let’s give you a run over the various requirements to help it thrive:
Space & Pot
As a succulent, the Hens and Chicks plant grows slowly. Interestingly, it doesn’t grow large either. And lastly, it thrives almost anywhere as long as the right conditions make it so.
That’s why you don’t need any special space or container for it. You can use anything like pots going from 5 to 12 inches in size, clamshells, jars, teacups, and even baskets or gravel gardens. It could be either small or large.
Even though the plant produces chicks, it doesn’t get damaged by overcrowding either. This makes it an utterly versatile and easy-to-grow plant, regardless of the space or pot you choose.
They are versatile because their roots don’t grow too deep, their rosettes are often small, and they can adapt to different spaces as needed. Having said that, you should always make sure to plant them in places that drain well.
Soil & Fertilizer
In contrast with most plants, succulents grow pretty much in any soil. Hens and Chicks, significantly, can grow in gravel, rocks, sand, and succulent mixes. But of course, it is vital to ensure a well-draining base. Whatever you pick, it shouldn’t retain too much water.
For that, we recommend mixes with perlite and pumice. Stay away from vermiculite, mulch, and peat moss that typically retain too much humidity.
At the same time, you may need to add some fertilizer to the mix. In this case, you won’t need much either. A low-balanced fertilizer, soluble, and in small quantities should be enough. The plant doesn’t need much of it, so diluting will help it absorb more effectively without damage.
Water & Humidity
Like most succulents, the Hens and Chicks plant doesn’t require much watering. In fact, you could leave it without a single drop of water for 2 weeks and it won’t cause any damage.
Still, we recommend watering every 2 weeks without fault. As a succulent, it doesn’t like humidity too much. In fact, too much moisture can cause root rot quickly. Leaving it for 2 weeks without water also encourages the roots to look for water deep, strengthening them
But you still should water it. Forgetting to water the plant may also cause its leaves to wrinkle and brown over time.
Light & Air
Another common requirement for most succulents is sun exposure. You will need to ensure full-sun. At least, they should get partial shade. This means at least 4 hours of sunlight every day, preferably up to 6 to 8 hours.
Having said that, the Hens and Chicks’ leaves are not entirely sun-resistant. Meaning, hot environments with too much sunlight may cause the leaves to burn, fade, or crisp away. To prevent that, keep it in partial shade if any of these signs appear. Luckily, it rarely happens.
Temperature & Environment
To keep a Hens and Chicks plant growing, you will need to ensure temperatures between 60 and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. Yet, it also thrives in colder environments going as low as -30 and 40-degrees Fahrenheit.
For that reason, it is an excellent choice for indoor growing in warm environments or outdoor growing in cold places. As long as it receives enough sunlight, it will thrive.
So, did you learn how to grow Hens and Chicks plants? The process is not hard in the slightest. And with this guide, it should be even easier.
That’s why you should start right away. Whether you want to start from chicks or seeds, it will be a pleasure and time well-spent. More importantly, it will take little to no effort that you can put somewhere else later.
Don’t waste your time and start growing it right now! You’ll be surprised at how easy and quick it grows.