Sempervivum varieties, more commonly known as hen-and-chicks, are easy to grow. These perennial succulents form low-growing mats of rosettes that put out short spikes covered with small flowers all summer in shades of pink. Hen-and-chicks typically prefer full sun to partial shade, and grow just about anywhere except soggy soil, including containers. Hen-and-chicks are an ideal candidate for living roofs, rock walls and as a ground cover.
Aggressive Growth Habit
Renowned for aggressive reproduction, all 40 species of hen-and-chicks feature an interesting growth habit allowing them to spread quickly and can become an invasive nuisance. The mother plant, known as the hen, sprouts horizontal stems in all directions that root to become new plants known as chicks. When summer arrives, the hen sprouts a flower stalk and then dies. The remaining chicks fill the hen’s space and become hens, thus continuing the growth cycle. Despite their prolific nature, hen-and-chicks have shallow root systems. Thus, it’s a simple, but constant, task to pluck unwanted chicks out of the soil.
Medium-Size Varieties with Red
The hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum) varieties “Pacific Rim,” ”Arno” and “Sioux” splash your garden with red, bear light-pink flowers and grow 4 to 6 inches wide by 6 to 8 inches tall in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 9. “Pacific Rim” has fuzzy foliage in grey-green with crimson tips, “Arno” forms light-green rosettes with a distinct ruby-red center, and “Sioux” displays its light-green tightly tufted foliage with leaf tips and leaf backs in coral red. All three hen-and-chicks offer medium-sized rosettes.
Large Varieties with Colorful Tips
For large rosettes, plant hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum) “Commander Hay,” “More Honey” and “Sir William Lawrence” (Sempervivum calcareum “Sir William Lawrence”). “Commander Hay” puts out fuzzy, deep-red foliage that develops green tips in the warmer months. “More Honey” has apple-green foliage edged with white hairs and develops orange-red tips in the colder months. “Sir William Lawrence” has deep-green foliage tipped in bronzy-brown. “Commander Hay” and “More Honey” grow in USDA zones 1 through 9, while “Sir William Lawrence” grows in zones 2 through 9. All three large varieties of hen-and-chicks grow 4 to 8 inches tall by 6 to 12 inches wide.
Silvery filaments resembling a spider’s web connect each leaf of cobweb hen-and-chicks (Sempervivum arachnoideum). Sempervivum arachnoideum features small rosettes in grey-green, grows 2 to 4 inches tall in full sun in USDA zones 1 through 9. “Cobweb and Buttons” has medium-small rosettes in pale green and grows 4 to 6 inches tall. “Clarchin” has medium-size, medium-green rosettes flushed with pink and grows 4 to 8 inches tall. “Cobweb and Buttons” and “Clarchin” grow in USDA zones 2 through 9. All three cobweb hen-and-chicks spread 6 to 12 inches wide.