Every plant has both an active growth phase and a dormancy phase, where they rest. This resting period encourages the plant to grow energetically in its coming growth period.
So, a common question that comes to everyone’s mind is do hens and chicks go dormant? When and why?
Hens and Chicks go dormant in the winter when the temperature drops below 65°F. Even if you live in warmer climatic zones, these plants might experience a semi-dormant stage when the temperature drops during the night. You can move them indoors during winter to prevent dormancy.
However, even during their resting period, Hens and Chicks will need some care so that you don’t commit any mistake by seeing them not growing.
This article will deliver concise guidance about the Hens and Chicks dormancy and how to take care of them during their dormancy period.
What is dormancy?
Hens and Chicks receive a dormancy period where all their growth, development, water absorption, and even reproduction halt.
It is like hibernation in animals, where they rest and minimize their metabolic movement.
Dormancy makes the plant ready by conserving energy to fight the upcoming environmental changes they will face once their growing months arrive.
The plant stores unused energy when dormant while protecting itself from the harsh temperature above.
For Hens and Chicks, it is winter.
You will know when your plant gets dormant. They will begin with leaves.
They will turn brown and fall off the plant. The signs of life, growth and development get diminished.
Some people are unaware of this situation and start thinking that maybe they are in some problem.
Instead of correcting things, they end up distressing the plant.
That is why it is essential to understand the dormancy care of Hens and Chicks.
Also read: How Fast Do Hens And Chicks Grow?
When and why do Hens and Chicks go dormant?
Hens and Chicks go dormant in the winters.
Generally, Hens and Chicks require a lot of sunlight and average temperatures ranging between 65 and 75°F to thrive.
Two things trigger dormancy:
- Low temperatures
- Low sunlight levels
When the sunlight intensity and level drop along with temperature during the winters, the plant gets a hint.
They start realizing that now they will not receive their required components for active growth.
Thus they start their energy-saving mode.
When the plant rests, it will need little watering to stay hydrated and no fertilization.
Usually, Hens and Chicks don’t require much feeding even when they grow.
But little fertilization in the spring increases their growth rate.
Hens and Chicks start turning brown and shed leaves.
It mostly happens with those varieties that grow lots of leaves.
Especially the lower leaves start to drop.
The rosette gets tighter as if protecting itself from the cold temperatures.
It is the plant’s natural way of reacting to harsh weather conditions.
A different situation is noticed when Hens and Chicks get shifted indoors.
When they stay indoors, they don’t get the same cold temperature as outside.
As a result, they will not remain dormant.
Some people deliberately bring the plant indoors to force them not to go dormant.
In such conditions, the plant can either continue resting or keep growing.
I would recommend letting the plant stay outdoors because resting is good.
It gives them the energy to grow busily during the springtime.
What do dormant Hens and chicks look like?
These plants will easily tolerate temperatures of about -30°F to -40°F.
When the Hens and Chicks go dormant, they look as if they are dead.
They look pretty different during such weather.
The outer leaves turn dry, brown, and fall off, resembling death.
The remaining leaves will become intact and tight inwards as if protecting the rosette from the cold temperatures.
The cobweb varieties of Hens and Chicks have webs on the surface of rosettes.
These webs protect the center of the rosette from extreme temperatures.
When the winter gets too cold, they close their rosettes so tightly that they start turning white.
Primarily, the young offsets do this more. They resemble snowball when compact.
Some varieties will display red winter tones during the winters depending on the temperature and the time limit of receiving sunlight.
This color change makes them strong enough to withstand such low temperatures.
The color revelation happens because of two pigments – anthocyanin and carotenoid.
The color change occurs during warm temperatures too.
Warm summer dormancy doesn’t do any good to the plant.
It saves the plant from the damage of high temperature.
But winter dormancy also rejuvenates the plant to save energy to use in the spring.
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Indoor vs. Outdoor
Lots of people grow Hens and Chicks in pots and keep them outdoors for a good amount of sunlight.
Indoors, the plant’s need for sunlight doesn’t fulfill.
Again, during the winter months, the gardeners bring them indoors to protect them from the cold temperatures.
As a result, they don’t stay dormant. It is because indoors, they don’t get the cold temperature like outdoors.
If you grow them as an indoor plant from the beginning and provide them with all requirements like light, water, well-drained soil, and temperatures between 65°F and 75°F.
The plant will not go dormant.
How do I revive Hens and chicks indoors?
Indoors, you get the license to manipulate and control the plant’s growth and surrounding environments.
To wake the Hens and Chicks up from dormancy:
- Give them adequate light.
- Take them outdoors under the fully exposed sun.
- Water them thoroughly. You can even fertilize them slightly with a mild fertilizer.
It boosts and increases their growth.
All this care sends the plant a signal that it is time for growth. Soon, you will see new growth and new young offsets.
Since Hens and Chicks are cold-hardy succulents, they will tolerate low temperatures nearly -30°F or even below.
They look diverse due to such low temperatures, and they will bounce back to health once spring arrives.
Though some people bring Hens and Chicks indoors to save them from cold temperatures, it is unnecessary.
They will be in their survival mode outdoors and won’t die.
Also read: Can You Grow Hens And Chicks Indoors? (+Care Difference)
Will Hens and Chicks always go dormant?
Hens and Chicks don’t always need to go dormant.
If their environmental conditions are not extreme enough to send them to dormancy, Hens and Chicks will continue their growth.
They will start slowing their growth once the temperature drops below 40°F.
If your region stays within such temperature during winters, the plant will not go dormant but slowly continue its growth.
Sometimes the Hens and Chicks will also go dormant at 90°F in the summers.
They will not shed leaves in such conditions, but they slow down their growth.
It isn’t apparent to understand when the plant goes dormant.
The above explanations are just mere observations.
How to understand whether my Hens and Chicks are dead or dormant?
It becomes hard to understand whether the plant is dead or just dormant.
When a plant stays dormant, some people mistake it as a problem, start watering or fertilizing and end up killing the plant.
When a plant stays dormant, the outer leaves of the Hens and Chicks wither and die.
The other leaves stay compactly closed to protect the rosette center from cold temperatures.
It doesn’t mean the plant died.
If you are confused about dormancy and death, try inspecting the roots.
If you see that the roots are rotten, shriveled, and dry, it means the plant has died.
The roots will release a foul smell.
Sometimes, the rot will progress towards the rosette and make the plant black gradually.
But, if the roots are healthy, it means Hens and Chicks are resting.
Once the spring arrives, they will bounce back to active growth.
Also read: Are Hens And Chicks Annual Or Perennial?
How to care for Hens and Chicks during winter dormancy?
When Hens and Chicks grow actively, they will need all their requirements adequately.
But when they are resting, their need and care differ from the growing months.
Hens and Chicks generally go dormant once the temperature drops below 40°F, which is expected.
They go through a semi-dormant stage during the summers when the temperature rises to 90°F, which is rare.
That is why dormancy care and winter care for Hens and Chicks are more or less the same.
Now, let’s dive into the care tips during dormancy.
Water the Hens and Chicks less.
In their actively growing months, Hens and Chicks use a lot of energy to absorb water.
During dormancy, they slow down this process.
In that case, frequent watering like their growing season will result in root rot.
When you water the plant by checking the soil’s moisture without following any routine, you will observe that you are watering less than in spring and summer.
Decrease watering gradually from the second fall, when the temperature starts dropping. Water only when the top 2-3 inches feel bone-dry.
You can go easier on watering because these succulents can store water in their leaves.
They can stay without water for a week or two in their growing months. So, now imagine how long they will stay without water in winter.
Always check the moisture level before watering. It helps to understand the plant’s watering needs much better.
Also read: How Much Water Do Hens And Chicks Need? (Underwatering+Overwatering)
Generally, Hens and Chicks don’t require fertilization.
The plant will thrive without it. But, little fertilization during the growing season helps increase the growth rate.
When the Hens and Chicks stay dormant during the winters, some people mistakenly fertilize them to stimulate their growth.
Do not make this mistake.
If you see that your plant is not growing, inspect the roots.
If they are healthy, it means they are resting.
Fertilizing will only degrade their health.
Also read: Do Hens And Chicks Need Fertilizer? (+Best Fertilizer For Hens And Chicks)
Since they are resting, it might strike you that they will not need any light.
Some gardeners even shade the plant to give them a hint that winter is arriving. That’s wrong. It doesn’t work for Hens and Chicks.
They are indeed resting, but photosynthesis is still going on.
You don’t need to shade them or transplant them to a shady area.
Let them have the light they are receiving.
However, if you own the dwarf varieties, they are subject to burning. You can provide them shade from direct sunlight.
Let the outdoor Hens and Chicks outdoors if they are in containers.
Taking the Hens and Chicks indoors will stop them from dormancy, and they will continue their growth.
Though it is not a bad idea, it is better not to pamper the Hens and Chicks.
Allowing them to face some stress makes them feel that they are growing in their native land.
As a result, they will give you better results.
Keeping the plant outdoors:
- It gives them stress to reveal the actual colors, like red or purple.
- It makes them go through a dormancy due to which the plant can store energy.
- The plant will use this energy in the spring for active growth.
Also read: How Much Sun Do Hen And Chicks Need? (Light Requirement)
Other winter care
Spray some fungicide before winter arrives.
There are chances of fungal development in the winter months, especially when there is no frost. Spraying some will prevent their growth.
The soil will not hold too much moisture.
That is why you should be careful while watering the Hens and Chicks.
Add some rubble to the soil surface for better wintering.
Don’t cover or mulch the Hens and Chicks with dried leaves or barks.
It can increase the risk of fungal infections, especially if the soil bed got covered with snow.
However, you can mulch them with some small stones or pebbles. It also gives a unique look.
Once the snow begins to liquefy, clear them as soon as possible.
It will stop excessive moisture and rotting.
Do this only if there are no chances of late frosts.
Remove the old withered leaves from the soil bed.
Again spray some fungicide or insecticides.
Insects and larvae might stay between the plant outlets. Spraying some fungicide will prevent it.
Also read: Hens And Chicks Temperature Tolerance: (How Cold, How Hot?)
Understanding the dormancy season of Hens and Chicks is very tricky. As I said earlier, naturally, they stay dormant in winters. They also go dormant if the temperatures are too high, which is rare.
Just because the plant hibernates doesn’t mean you should be careless towards them. Prepare it for the winter dormancy. Follow the winter tips I shared to ready them for winter.
Besides feeling the temperature drop, take a look at your calendar to know the expected winter and frost. Take precautions according to that. You don’t need to bring the plant indoors or change its planting site.
Let them stay in their position. These succulents are harder than you can imagine.
Don’t make any drastic change in their requirements during the winter dormancy. Just cut back watering, let them have light for the ongoing photosynthesis, and don’t fertilize. For wintering them, spray some fungicide and mulch with pebbles.
Reference: Wikipedia, Iowa State University of Science and Technology, The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, NSDU, The Ohio State University, Missouri Botanical Garden.