Hens and Chicks are lovely perennial succulents that can be grown easily. People love them because of their appearance and ability to thrive under negligence. It doesn’t count whether you are an expert or a beginner. Taking care of this plant is easy.
No matter how easy growing them is, few things are to consider. So, in this guide, we will learn all about caring for your hens and chicks plant.
Here is a simple easy to follow guide to care for your hens and chicks:
- Hens and Chicks will need full sun for at least 6-8 hours every day.
- Watering once a week or biweekly should be sufficient.
- Plant your hens and chicks in rocky and well-drained soil that doesn’t hold moisture at all.
- Hens and chicks can grow even with Little to NO fertilization. However, fertilizing them once a month is good for overall growth.
- Maintain a temperature between 65-75°F to provide appropriate living conditions.
- Look out for pests and use a neem oil spray once a month to keep them at bay.
- Keep the plant away from hot and cold drafts as it can damage the leaves.
There is a lot to know about these succulents besides care. If you wish to grow Hens and Chicks, this guide will give you in-depth knowledge about them.
Hens and Chicks: An overview
Hens and Chicks are also called Sempervivum. It means always living.
Just like its meaning, they will stay alive always.
Hens and Chicks are native to Europe and Africa.
They are also known as Houseleeks.
They contain a concentric ring of leaves which forms a rosette.
Hens and Chicks have many varieties and colors.
They are available in blue, red, green, purple, and copper shades.
The plant’s feature of producing small offsets justifies its name.
The mother plant (Hen) produces many young offsets (chicks).
You can separate and replant them.
When these chicks grow big, they will again produce chicks.
Because of this ongoing cycle, you can have them year after year.
Hens and Chicks foliage spreads up to 1-2 inches in width.
The mature size of this plant is 6-12 inches in height and 6-18 in width.
Are Hens and Chicks indoor plants or outdoor plants?
Hens and Chicks are grown both indoors and outdoors.
However, they do outdoors better than indoors.
They require bright full sun for 8-10 hours which is better available outdoors.
Still, you can grow indoors the varieties that require indirect sunlight.
Dwarf Arachnoideums and Globiferums love to grow under partial sunlight and are thus ideal for indoors.
Are Hens and Chicks easy to grow?
Yes, they will need the least care and maintenance.
Hens and chicks will not bother you with fertilization, exposure to extreme temperatures, humidity, or soil.
Hens and chicks thrive on rocky soil without fertilizers.
They don’t require any humidity and can tolerate temperatures below -20°C.
Different varieties of Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks have many varieties. Some are large, and some are dwarfs.
Some popular varieties are:
This variety is the most common.
Tectorum has green foliage with red or maroon tips.
The center of this plant is also maroon.
Tectorum grows busily along with lots of baby plants.
They grow up to 1-3 inches in height and 4-6 inches in width.
They are ideal for zones 3-8.
Also called Cebenese, Arachnoideums grow 3 inches in height, 4 inches in width, and spread about 12 inches.
Their leaves have light green color with a mauve edge.
The plant has white webbing at the center, resembling ‘cobwebs.’
Cobweb is another common name of this variety.
These white webs support moisture retention in the plant.
The plant also develops pink flowers before dying.
Calcereum varieties are ideal for zones 4-9 and are native to the Southern Alps.
Calcereum has large rosettes of green foliage with sharp and thorny maroon tips.
Due to pricky tips, some people think of them as cacti.
But the Cactus plant grows thorns from areoles, and Hens and Chicks don’t have that.
Calcereum grows 4-6 inches tall and 4 inches wide.
Along with their babies, their width is about 9-12 inches.
They produce many babies and pink, star-shaped flowers before dying.
All the varieties produce death blooms.
These are also the larger varieties that grow 3 inches in height and 5-6 inches in width.
They are ideal for zones 4-9.
The color of the foliage is maroon, and their borders are cream color.
These are native to the Carpathian Mountains in Europe.
Even in cold temperatures, their color remains evident.
Heuffelii is accessible in different colors.
They even produce yellow flowers.
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When and where to plant Hens and Chicks?
Plant Hens and Chicks in the spring.
However, you can plant them any time if the weather is not too cold or hot.
Planting Hens and Chicks in such cold or hot climates will shock them.
Choose a site that receives full sun constantly.
The larger varieties will grow without shade.
But the smaller varieties will need protection from the afternoon sun.
Make sure that the planting site doesn’t receive any prolonged shade.
That will result in dull color and floppy growth.
The location you selected shouldn’t keep the soil saturated always.
It happens when you plant under roofs, where rainwater falls upon the soil bed, or near fountains.
How to plant Hens and chicks?
- Choose an ideal site.
- Dig a hole enough so that the roots can fit in (1-3 inches deep).
- Plant the Hens and Chicks in the hole and spread the roots well.
- Now cover the sides with soil and press the soil around.
- Perform slight watering after planting and regular watering till the plant gets settled.
- To improve drainage, add a fine layer of small stones and gravel to the soil bed.
Hens and Chicks care guide
Now, let’s learn the ultimate guide tips for Hens and Chicks.
Though they don’t require much guidance, following specific care tips will keep them alive forever, for which they are known.
Light requirements for Hens and Chicks
In general, Hens and Chicks require 6-8 hours of full sun daily.
Adequate sunlight encourages good development, maintains a balance, and makes the plant bright.
The larger varieties need 8-10 hours of full sun without any protection.
Hens and Chicks will not survive if you plant them in full shade. The color will be dull, and it will suffer root rot.
The plant will suffer sunburns if you suddenly shift them from partial shade to full sun.
The dwarf varieties or new, young plants thrive when they receive 4-6 hours of the direct morning sun, but not the sunlight during the middle part of the day or afternoon.
If you suddenly shift the plant from its place to a location getting direct sunlight all day and afternoon, it will suffer sunburns.
First, you shouldn’t suddenly change their location.
If you think that they need shifting, do it gradually.
Secondly, if your plant is doing great in its present location, don’t bother it.
Watering the plants more often will reduce the risk of sunburns.
Suitable soil for Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks have a low demand for soil quality.
They need only well-drained neutral soil.
Use raised beds for proper drainage.
I would like to recommend some recipes for soil mix:
Other types of soil recommendations are:
Succulent soil for potted plants. It contains perlite and pumice, encouraging good drainage.
Rocky soil because it doesn’t hold moisture for long. Though root development is tricky, you won’t face problems because they have shallow roots.
All the substrates I recommended contain neutral pH levels, ideal for the plant. So you can worry less about it.
Don’t use peat, pure clay, or pure sand.
The first two will hold moisture for a long time, resulting in overwatering.
Pure sand will drain water so fast that it will suffer underwatering.
Hens and Chicks water requirements
Hens and Chicks will require watering once a week as a rule of thumb.
Watering depends on many factors: soil type, plant variety, season, age, etc.
Don’t worry, as I will explain in brief.
If you use any soil I mentioned in the article, water the plant once a week.
If the soil dries quickly in summer, give water to the plant twice a week.
The same goes for rocky soil.
But if Hens and Chicks are growing over gravel beds or rocky slabs, consider watering them daily.
The large varieties need more water, but infrequently.
They can hold moisture for long periods because of their big leaves.
The smaller varieties will need less water but more frequently.
Spring is their growing season, and summers are hot and dry.
Hence, they will need more water.
Moreover, watering in the summer frequently decreases the risk of sunburns.
The best way to understand watering needs is by checking the moisture level.
After planting, water the plant when the top 2-3 inches of soil gets dry.
After the plant gets established, give water to it when 1-2 inches of topsoil is dry.
Temperature tolerance of Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks can grow in zones 3-8 outdoors without any difficulty.
These hardy succulents will easily adapt to temperatures around -30°F to -40°F.
Generally, their average temperature ranges from 65°F to 75°F.
You will see Hens and Chicks staying intact, even when covered with snow.
If you have them grown in pots, you can keep them outside too.
The only thing you must be careful about is keeping them near ground level.
If you keep them somewhere above, frosty winds will cause frost damage
in the leaves.
Along with bright sunlight, high temperatures increase the risk of sunburn.
The plant slows down its growth if the temperature is around 80-90°F.
Watering, however, decreases the risk.
But if the sun’s heat is too high, water acts as an amplifying glass for the sun and burns the leaves.
They don’t like high humidity.
An average humidity of 30-50% is enough.
Fertilizing Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks don’t need much fertilizing.
You must have read the “Soil requirement” point where I pointed out that they can grow on rocky soil.
The juicy leaves of Hens and Chicks hold moisture and nutrients.
Moreover, these plants release auxins which generate their growth.
You can still fertilize them.
It encourages faster growth and more baby plants.
Apply a mild, balanced fertilizer by diluting it to half the strength.
Do it only during the spring once a year.
You can also keep only 2-3 pellets beneath the mother plant.
Water thoroughly to spread the food evenly.
If you practice gardening and are well-experienced in fertilizing, feed Hens and Chicks with a mild liquid fertilizer once a month during spring.
If you are unsure about it, avoid it. It won’t cause any harm.
Only feed them when you see growth problems.
If your Hens and Chicks are growing stretchy and wild, it means you have over-fertilized them.
Fertilize them as recommended.
Hens and Chicks blooming
Hens and Chicks will flower before they die. They live only for 3-4 years.
After that, they will flower, indicating it is time to bid goodbye.
But don’t you worry. Your Hens and Chicks must have produced many baby plants.
Plant to have them in your garden all the year.
You will find a stalk growing taller from the middle of the rosette. It is a flower stalk. This flower stalk will either stop at 1 inch or 1 foot.
After that, a star-shaped flower will emerge from the top of that stalk.
If you think that trimming the bud at the beginning will increase the plant’s lifespan, you are wrong.
Still, cutting off the flower bud is your last chance to get another set of babies.
Eventually, the plant will flower and die.
In general, Hens and Chicks are propagated by dividing the offsets.
But, if you want seed propagation, don’t cut the flower stalk.
Let the flower bloom and die.
After that, collect the seeds and sow them in the following spring.
Read further to know about propagation.
Propagating Hens and Chicks
There are two ways to propagate Hens and Chicks – by dividing offsets and seeds.
The most common process is the vegetative process, i.e., dividing.
You have to wait for years to grow from seeds until the plant flowers.
Within a few months of planting in the spring, they will reach their potential.
In the coming spring, you will see the plants producing many chicks.
One hen can deliver about 4-6 chicks in one growing season.
However, it depends on the variety.
The larger varieties can produce only 3-5 chicks, but they are bigger.
The smaller ones will produce around 10-15 baby plants.
You can start propagating Hens and Chicks in the second year only.
Divide the daughter plants and replant them.
Make sure that the soil quality remains the same.
Maintain shade for the young plants for at least 1-2 weeks.
Once the middle part turns green, remove the shade and give them sunlight according to their need.
For seed propagation, wait until the flower fades and dies.
Though it is challenging and time-consuming, there are high chances of hybridization.
By this, you can get unique Hens and Chicks with attractive features.
Spread the seeds on the soil bed. Keep the soil evenly moist.
For best results, start seeds indoors.
- Use seed germination soil mix.
- Spread the seeds and cover lightly.
- Keep the soil moist.
- Instead of using a watering can, spray water on the soil.
- Once they sprout, keep them in partial shade.
- Once they get established, transfer them to the ground in a sunny spot.
Propagation by offsets can be done both in soil and water.
For water, it is the same method as soil.
- Divide the plant, trim off some stem if it is too long and place it in water.
- For a good balance, use a jar with a narrow mouth.
- Cover the mouth of the jar with plastic, create a hole and place the plant.
- Only the bottom of the stem should sit in water.
- Let them have dappled sun.
- Change the water every 2-3 days.
Transplanting Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks will multiply and produce lots of baby plants.
Soon, they will overcrowd and fight for space.
To let them breathe and have space to grow chicks, remove the baby plants from time to time and replant them in a different location.
- Choose the chicks that are 1 inch in diameter for separating.
- If you want to remove the smaller ones, remove them in clusters.
- Together they can fight transplant shock.
- Slowly remove the babies. A little snipping will be enough.
- Now, remove the dead leaves from the base.
- Trim the stem and plant them. Dig a hole about 1-3 inches and place the plant, and you are done.
- Water after 3-4 days and let them have shade for 1-2 weeks until established.
Follow the same method for transplanting from container to ground.
Wintering Hens and Chicks
Hens and Chicks will easily endure the frozen cold.
But, they shouldn’t get an early frost and receive frost when the temperature is suitable for it.
A balance between snow and temperature helps them to overwinter.
First, prepare your plant for winter.
- Spray some fungicides on the plant. There can be high risks of fungal diseases in the winters. Fungicides will prevent it.
- You can take your Hens and Chicks indoors if they are in containers. It will stop them from dormancy, and they will continue to grow. It will also be better if you let them stay outdoors. But, put the container at ground level to prevent the winds from leaf damage.
- Use plastic pots instead of porous pots. They can break due to the freezing weather.
- Don’t water the plants. Due to their dormancy, they won’t consume water.
Hens and Chicks toxicity
Hens and Chicks are not poisonous or toxic for humans or pets.
They are declared non-toxic by the renowned American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
If ingested mistakenly, it will only cause vomiting. After some time, everything will be fine.
The only problem that occurs is when their saps touch the skin.
It causes itchiness, redness, and a burning sensation.
But that too gets diminished within a few hours.
Growing Hens and Chicks in pots
You can grow Hens and Chicks in pots too. They are great for containers.
Use a container with drainage holes, add the recommended soil recipes, and plant the succulent.
Water slightly and again water when the top 3-4 inches gets dry.
One advantage of growing Hens and Chicks in pots is bringing them indoors whenever the temperature rises or drops.
Although, it won’t be a problem if you keep them outside.
Hens and Chicks common problems
No matter how much you care for these succulents, they can show symptoms implying some problems.
Signs like droopy leaves, yellow leaves, brown leaves, red or purple leaves, wrinkled leaves, dying leaves, leggy plants, etc., might appear in the plant.
Signs are an indication that something is incorrect.
However, identifying the problem by symptoms and fixing it will save the plant from distress and death.
Some common issues are overwatering, underwatering, over-fertilization, inadequate light, and poor drainage.
In certain cases, some signs are natural, mere indications that their time is over now.
Without further analysis, let’s find out.
Yellow leaves on Hens and Chicks
The common cause behind yellow leaves is overwatering.
Hens and Chicks will need watering when the soil is dry.
Water them frequently in the spring and summer because they thrive in these seasons.
Once the temperature begins to drop, reduce watering frequency.
Underwatering can also be the reason.
Another reason is poor drainage.
If you try the soil recommendations I shared, you will rarely see your plants undergoing watering issues.
The following reason behind yellow leaves is the lack of sunlight.
Hens and Chicks need ample sunlight.
If they don’t receive enough sunlight, the leaves will be pale yellow.
Later on, it will become leggy, trying to reach the light.
Brown leaves on Hens and Chicks
Brown leaves are primarily signs of sunburns.
The small varieties will not tolerate the sun of the daytime and afternoon.
Exposing them to full sun will result in sunburns.
Sudden location change from the partial sun to full sun will also give the same result.
Another reason is winter.
Some varieties hold lots of leaves that turn brown and then die in winters.
Dying Hens and Chicks
There are several reasons behind a dying Sempervivum.
It can be due to overwatering, underwatering, and low light conditions.
Water the Hens and Chicks just as I recommended in the “Water requirement” point.
Along with that, also use the recommended soil mixes.
It will make the plant suffer less from water issues.
The monocarpic method means the plant’s lifespan is over.
Now they will flower and die.
You don’t have anything to do here because it is natural.
Give them adequate light.
Hens and Chicks will tolerate full sun to partial shade.
But they will not enjoy low light conditions.
Without enough light, the plant will start to become pale, rot and begin to die.
Droopy Hens and Chicks
The reasons are more or less the same as the above issues.
Droopiness in Hens and Chicks cause due to improper light and watering.
Follow the light and water requirement points to correct your mistakes.
Other reasons behind a droopy sempervivum are diseases and dry soil.
Fungal disease happens when the soil is always damp and suffers root rot.
To fix it, apply some fungicides.
For treating root rot, remove the affected roots and plant them back.
These succulents will again form new roots.
Leggy Hens and Chicks
Two situations are responsible for leggy Hens and Chicks – low light and flowering.
I’ve cited multiple times that Hens and Chicks are big fans of sunlight.
Low light will make them tall and leggy.
It indicates that they are constantly trying to receive some light source.
It will also rot the plant due to slow water absorption.
When this happens, trim off the extended part along with some leaves.
After that, it will be back in shape. Shift the plant to a sunny location.
You cannot do anything about their tall growth due to flowering.
It is the plant’s natural process.
Even if you cut off the stem, eventually, the plant will still die.
Also read: How Do You Fix Leggy Hens And Chicks?
Dry, crispy, and shriveled leaves
The main reason is underwatering.
Being drought-tolerant doesn’t make them grow successfully without any water.
Ultimately, they will need water.
They will thrive only when the soil is evenly moist.
So continue watering them once a week and reduce when the cold arrives.
Shriveling of the bottom leaves is also a sign of overwatering, low light, and other stresses.
But the primary reason is underwatering.
Another reason is the variety.
Some varieties have lots of leaves.
When winter arrives, the leaves at the bottom will start to shrivel and die.
Red or purple leaves
It is natural.
The plant produces pigments called anthocyanins and carotenoids when they face extreme temperatures, underwatering, or too much sunlight.
It is usual and reasonable. It makes the plants reveal their true colors.
Some people stress their plants on purpose to make them change their color.
This kind of stress is good because it keeps the plant healthy, makes it think they are in their native land, and encourages showing their colors.
However, red tints in the leaves and stems are signs of pest infestation.
You need to fix them soon.
Leaves curling down
It can be the result of excessive water and low light.
Hens and Chicks can tolerate drought, but they have significantly less endurance to overwatering.
Follow the water and light requirement points to improve the plant’s health.
Hens and Chicks pests and diseases
Usually, Hens and Chicks don’t attract pests.
But if pests attack them, the plant is having some stress.
Aphids, scales, mites, and mealybugs.
These pests are common. Prolonged damp conditions attract these bugs more.
These pests cannot kill the plant quickly as they are hardy succulents.
But their infestation deforms the plant.
They feed on the saps of the plant and make the plant stretched out.
To keep these bugs away:
- Take a cotton ball; damp it with rubbing alcohol, and dab it on the infested areas.
- Aphids will easily fall off the plant.
- The alcohol can also weaken the shield of mealybugs.
- Spray with water to remove the corpses.
- Release ladybugs to the soil bed. They will eat up all the aphids and also keep the plants safe.
- Spray neem oil for 7-10 days until the problem gets resolved. It is effective and safe. But don’t expose the plant under the direct sun after applying this. Do it at night instead.
- Spray dishwasher soap. Mix 1 teaspoon of dish wash with 4 ounces of water and spray it.
- Once the bugs fall off, spray with water to clean the plant.
- For serious issues, use insecticidal soaps, for example, Safer Soap or other chemical pesticides.
- If your plant is newly bought, isolate the plant for a few weeks.
- If it’s growing seamlessly and there are no signs of pest attack, join it with other plants.
- Keep the plant dry and free from dead leaves.
Dear and rabbits
During the late winter or spring, rabbits and deer will be seen munching up your precious Hens and Chicks.
To stop them:
- Create a fence around the garden bed.
- Using products containing ingredients that release a terrible smell can stop them.
- Plant other plants that have a strong odor. It can keep deer and rabbits away.
- Spray Plantskydd repellent. It stops rabbits, deer, chipmunks, and other pests from feeding on the plant. You don’t even have to re-apply it during rains.
Moles, voles, and other rodents
These pests don’t feed on the plant.
Instead, they take them out of their place while creating tunnels for themselves.
In one single night, they will create a tremendous mess in your garden bed.
The way of stopping deer and rabbits is applicable for rodents too.
Using Plantskydd is very effective. It works for all types of pests – rodents, deer, rabbits, etc.
You can also use products like mothballs or cayenne powder.
Slugs and snails
They stay underground.
They come out and feed on the leaves at night, biting here and there.
However, the sharp edges of pebbles can create a cut on their body and slow down their feeding in the process.
But, still, you must find ways to deter them.
You can use beer cans as traps:
- Take a can filled with beer and keep it underground where you expect them to be.
- 1 inch of the can should be above the ground to bring it for emptying it.
- The smell of beer will attract them and, they will begin to move towards the can.
- Once they fall in it, they will drown and die.
- Empty the can every morning.
Hens and Chicks are hard succulents and resilient to diseases.
The only disease that occurs is rotting.
It happens mainly due to poor drainage or low light.
The damage begins with the root and slowly moves toward the center of the plant.
It results in black leaves at the bottom of the plant.
If the problem is limited in the roots, remove all roots and plant them at a dry location.
Within a few weeks, the plant will again develop new roots.
The chances of fungal diseases are during the winters when the soil remains cold and damp for prolonged periods.
To prevent the development of fungi:
- Spray with some fungicide before the temperature drops too low.
- Don’t mulch with dried barks or leaves. Use stones or pebbles instead.
Summing up of the care guide
Select a sunny spot and let them receive full sun or partial shade, as per the variety’s need.
At least 6 hours of sunlight is necessary for a plumpy plant bearing colorful leaves.
Water them whenever you find the soil got dry from the top 1-inch.
Water more during the summers to reduce sunburn risk.
Reduce watering when the temperature begins to drop. Hens and Chicks go dormant in winters and thus don’t need much watering in the winter.
However, if you take potted plants inside during winters, they won’t grow dormant.
In that case, you can continue watering them to keep them slightly moist.
Check the moisture before watering.
A suitable temperature is around 65-75°F.
Hens and Chicks will thrive at such temperatures.
Hens and Chicks can tolerate and survive temperatures about -30°F.
You can plant in a substrate having equal parts of garden soil and sand or gravel.
Other suitable substrates are rocky soil, gravel beds, and rock slabs.
All these will significantly help in sound drainage.
Fertilize only during spring.
It helps in faster and bigger growth of the plant and more offsets.
When they flower, you can either let it die on its own or prune off to get another set of babies.
Propagate Hens and Chicks by dividing offsets.
Though you can do it by seeds, the division is simple and takes less time than a seed.
You can propagate both in water and soil by dividing offsets.
Keep an eye on pest infestation.
For pests like rodents and deer, create a fence, grow strong-smelled plants and use commercial products to deter them.
Also read: 13 Tips For Growing Hens And Chicks