Sempervivum Is Dying: Fixing Drying Leaves On Hens And Chicks


Succulent plants are divided into several categories, many of them are in the Crassula family, which includes the Sempervivum, commonly known as hens and chicks.

Hens and chicks are so named because the main plant (hen) produces offsets (chicks) on a thin runner, often in abundance. But what happens when you notice drying leaves on hens and chicks? Are they dying? And what, if anything, can be done to remedy the issue?

Why are Hens and Chicks Dying?

Also known as ‘forever alive,’ the Latin translation for Sempervivum, there’s no end to the multiplication of this plant. The offsets of hens and chicks eventually grow to an adult size and repeat the process over again. As a monocarpic plant, adult hens die after flowering.

Blooms often do not occur until the plant is several years old. If this plant is unhappy in its condition, it may flower prematurely. The flowers rise on a stalk the plant has produced and remains in bloom for a week to several. The flower then dies and is soon followed by the death of the hen.

This describes the monocarpic process and explains why your Sempervivum is dying. However, by the time the hen and chick plants are dying, they will have created several new offsets.

Other Issues with Sempervivum

If you find these succulents are dying before blooming happens, there could be yet another valid reason.

These plants, like other succulents, most often die from too much water. Sempervivums perform best when planted outdoors, getting plenty of sunlight, and limited water. Cold temperatures rarely kill or damage this plant, as it is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. In fact, this succulent needs a winter chill for proper development.

Too much water can cause dying leaves throughout the plant, but they won’t be dried out. Leaves of an overwatered succulent will be swollen and mushy. If your plant has been overwatered, allow the soil to dry before watering again. If the outdoor area where hens and chicks is planted remains too wet, you may want to relocate the plant – they’re easy to propagate too, so you can simply remove the offsets and plant elsewhere. Container plantings may need to be repotted in dry soil to prevent root rot.

Not enough water or too little light can sometimes cause drying leaves on hens and chicks. However, this won’t cause the plant to die unless it continues for a long period of time. Some types of hens and chicks loose bottom leaves regularly, especially in winter. Others do not.

Overall, Sempervivum has few problems when located in the right conditions. Try to keep it outside year-round in a rock garden or any sunny area. It should always be planted in well-draining soil that does not need to be nutrient rich.

The mat-forming groundcover does not require separation if it has enough room to grow. One problem experienced in early spring is its availability to browsing wildlife. However, if your plant is eaten by rabbits or deer, leave it in the ground and it may possibly return from the root system when the animals have moved on to more attractive (to them) greenery.


Sempervivum Diseases, Problems, and Pests→Hens and chicks

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Sorry to hear about the worms in your sempervivum roots. I have a few questions for you. Are they planted in containers or in the ground? Do you know what the worms are? Where do you live?


Identifying Hens and Chicks Varieties

According to Britannica, the hens and chicks plant name can actually refer to any number of succulent plants in the family Crassulacae. Originally found in southern Europe and northern Africa, the many hens and chicks varieties have since moved around the world and are popular indoors and outdoors in warmer regions. The hens and chicks plant gets its name from the way little copies of the "hen" gather around it, forming a colony that looks akin to a female chicken and her children.

The plants' rosette forms are notable for having thick, bulbous leaves circling around a center point and for being low to the ground. For instance, the common house leek (Sempervivum tectorum), which grows in USDA zones 3 to 8, reaches a maximum height of only 1 foot and a maximum spread of 1.5 feet, according to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Part of the hens and chicks plant's life cycle involves the hen rosette spreading above-ground roots in all directions and the chick rosettes growing off them.


Hens and Chicks Varieties

Many cultivars have been developed from the Sempervivum genus, including:

  • 'Bernstein': a varietal with copper and gold leaves
  • 'Big Blue': an eye-catching version with bluish-green leaves
  • 'Black': a stunning version with green leaves that have purple tips
  • 'Terracotta Baby': a varietal with vibrant orangey-red foliage


Q. Hens and Chicks

Suddenly, a five- or six-inch growth has happened to my hens and chicks plant, which is growing up from the plant. Should I break this growth off or let it continue growing?

It sounds like it's getting ready to flower. The mother plant will die off after four to six years and should be removed. The plants produce a flower when mature, sending up a single stalk from 2 to 8 inches tall with a cluster of star-shaped flower buds. These should be pulled off the plant when they expire.


Sempervivum: Color changing hens and chicks succulents

Sempervivum succulents are a great option when you’re looking for colorful, cold-hardy succulents. They even change colors at different times of the year

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Sempervivum succulents (also known as “hens and chicks”) are quickly becoming one of my favorite succulent genera. The biggest perk is that they grow in my cold Utah climate! In fact, they’re generally more vibrant than other succulents during the winter.

When I first discovered Sempervivum plants, I wasn’t a huge fan because I thought the colors were boring–only reds and greens. But, thanks to the amazing selection offered by Mountain Crest Gardens, I’ve found that they actually come in quite a variety of colors, including blues, purples, pinks and even yellow!

As you spend more time with these “hens and chicks,” you’ll find that they’re really incredible plants. They propagate easily, and they’re tolerant of all kinds of problems (over-watering, under-watering, heat cold, etc) that would kill other succulents.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Sempervivum succulents are amazing! They propagate easily, tolerate cold, and handle about anything!” quote=”These hens and chicks are amazing! They propagate easily, tolerate cold, and handle about anything!”]

Sempervivum Color Changes

Another interesting aspect of Sempervivum succulents is their coloring. Many of them display some of their boldest colors toward the end of winter, and into early spring. In fact, they can change colors so dramatically that you almost wouldn’t recognize two Sempervivum plants as members of the same species!

Don’t believe me? Let me show you!

Mountain Crest Gardens sent me a few pairs of Sempervivums plants in various stages of color change. I was amazed at the difference!

I’ve noticed these changes in my succulents before–but until I compared two of them side-by-side, I had no idea how different they could look.

Each pair of Sempervivum plants was labeled when I received it. However, some of the tags got mixed up as we were potting them, and we had to determine which plants paired together. It was a lot harder than I thought, but in the end we got it right.

Here are a few examples of two Semps of the same species, but in different colors.

To be totally honest, I’ve never been great at identifying specific succulent species–but as I worked to match these plants up with the right names, I discovered a few important characteristics to look for when identifying succulents, and Sempervivum plants in particular.

Leaf Shape and Texture

At first glance, all these hens and chicks seem to be the same shape right?

But when you look more closely, you’ll notice that some of the leaves are long and skinny while others are wider and less pointed.

You can also see some differences in the textures on the edges of the leaves. Some look almost furry, while others are smooth. Others look sharp and have small hooks along the edges.

Color Patterns

Different Sempervivum plants also display subtle variations in color patterns. In fact, “hens and chicks” that are in different color stages will follow different patterns in their colors. For example, on this Sempervivum ‘Ruby Heart’ you can see some red at the top of the leaf. When a Semp takes on more color,the color simply spreads further down the leaf.

On other Semps, red bands take shape in the middle of the leaf. These bands get larger when the succulent has more red, but they’re always in the same location.

Tightness of the Rosette and Leaf Density

These traits are a bit trickier to notice if your Sempervivum hasn’t been getting enough light–but you can typically tell the difference between two different species by the compactness of their leaves.

Some succulents will form loose rosettes, while others will be dense with leaves. You can try gently pulling the leaves apart a little bit to get an idea of how tight the rosette actually is.

If your “hens and chicks” aren’t getting enough light (as sometimes happens in the short days of winter), you’ll notice that their leaves start to flatten out. They do this in order to have more area to absorb light.

[clickToTweet tweet=”If your hens and chicks aren’t getting enough light, you’ll notice the leaves start to flatten out.” quote=”If your hens and chicks aren’t getting enough light, you’ll notice the leaves start to flatten out.”]

Watch the video below to learn more about cold hardy succulent varieties!


Watch the video: SEMPERVIVUM IN WINTER! The Moment Of Truth


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