By Jennifer Poindexter
Succulents are becoming all the rage. They’re great for natural home décor and many gardeners love them for their simplicity.
Hens and chicks (also known as sempervivum tectorum) are a favorite amongst the succulents. They can be grown indoors or outdoors and are a wonderful selection for areas where nothing else will grow.
Did you know they’re even edible? It may not be the first item you go for in a food shortage, but it’s good to know they’re there if needed.
If you need an easy way to add charm (or a hidden edible) to your home or garden, consider raising hen and chick succulents. Here’s how you can go about it:
Growing Conditions for Hen and Chick Succulents
Hen and chick succulents are a great choice for most planting zones. They grow well in planting zones three through 11.
These succulents can be grown in a container (for indoor or outdoor purposes) or planted in ground. They need loamy soil that’s well-draining and should be planted in full sun.
The only kicker is the hen and chick plant does need temperatures between 65- and 75-degrees Fahrenheit. They won’t die if the temperatures dip or skyrocket.
Instead, the plant will become dormant and stop growing. Don’t be alarmed if you live in a warmer or cooler climate and don’t experience a ton of growth from these plants.
Even in lower or higher planting zones, this succulent plant can still provide beauty with ease.
How to Plant Hen and Chick Succulents
Growing hen and chick succulents is a simple process that can start from seed. You can start them indoors or outdoors based upon your preferences.
Before we start planting, it’s important to understand how a hen and chick succulent works and what your options are.
A hen and chick plant consists of the mother plant which looks like a large rosette. The mother plant produces smaller rosettes around her. She can produce around four rosettes in a year.
The mother plant is attached to the chick plants via an underground vine that’s similar to an umbilical cord. It’s an interconnected system that produces plants for a variety of years.
There are also multiple options of this succulent. Each variety produces a different color. You can choose:
· Bernstein for goldish leaves
· Damask for red foliage
· Big blue for blue tinted leaves
· Terracotta baby for orange tinted foliage
· Black for green leaves with unique purple tips
Now that you understand how this succulent works and your options, let’s discuss planting. If you choose to start your succulent indoors, plant the seeds in a cactus soil mix. This is basically a mix of potting soil and sand.
Place the soil in a grow tray and press two seeds per cell in the tray. This is an insurance policy in case one of the seeds doesn’t germinate.
Use a spray bottle to spritz the seeds with water. The soil should remain damp without becoming soggy. Water the seeds every three to four days to keep the water ratio correct.
Place the seed tray in a warm, sunny location. This will encourage germination. Once the plants have become one inch wide, they’re ready to be transplanted into their permanent location. This could be an outdoor plot in the ground or in a container that can be moved around as you see fit.
The other option for starting hen and chicks from seed is to sprinkle the seed over rocks or soil where you want them to grow.
Ensure they’ll receive adequate sunlight for germination. Water the soil or rocks without drenching them. They should take approximately three weeks to germinate.
Once the seeds begin to sprout, surround them in rocks or mulch to help retain moisture and offer stability.
Notice I’ve mentioned growing hen and chicks in rocks. They don’t require a great deal of soil which makes them a good option for rocky or bare terrain.
Starting hen and chick succulents isn’t a complicated process. Pick your spot, pick your variety of plants, and watch them grow if planted in proper growing conditions.
How to Care for Hen and Chick Succulents
Caring for hen and chick succulents is almost as easy and planting them. By following a few simple steps, your succulents should prosper.
The first thing you must understand is the best way to kill hen and chick succulents is to provide too much care. They actually flourish from neglect.
Keep this in mind when watering and fertilizing. These plants are drought tolerant. Therefore, they should only be watered when the soil is fully dry.
Using the deep watering method is a good idea when watering these plants. Water them heavily on fewer days.
This will allow water to reach the root system of the plant, but the days in between will allow time for absorption.
If you’re unsure if the plants need water, use the knuckle test. Insert your finger into the soil next to the plant, and if the soil is dry to your first knuckle it’s time to apply more water.
If the soil is still damp to your first knuckle, wait a day or two before testing again.
When fertilizing these plants, be sure to dilute the fertilizer by half. Only apply during the spring and summer months.
Finally, be mindful that the mother plant will only survive for four to six years. This is why it’s important to understand how to harvest the chick plants to continue the cycle of these succulents. We’ll discuss this in a later section.
Be mindful to remove the chick plants every two years to avoid overcrowding. Again, you’ll use the same method mentioned when we talk about harvesting the chick plants.
Also, during the grow season, the plant will produce flowers. When the plant has completed blooming, remove the flowers.
This is the only care necessary to keep healthy and prosperous hen and chick succulents growing in your in ground or container garden.
Garden Pests and Diseases for Hen and Chick Succulents
Hen and chick succulents face minimal problems which is another reason gardeners love them. By paying attention to a few things, you should have a positive growing experience with these plants.
If growing these succulents outdoors, be mindful that some animals enjoy grazing on them in early spring. This is when the plant is waking up from dormancy and producing new foliage.
In fairness, there isn’t much else green to graze on during this time. Be mindful of wildlife’s draw to this plant and plan accordingly to protect your new growth.
The next item you should look for is root rot. If you plant this succulent where the soil doesn’t drain well, it can impact the roots.
However, there’s good news with this. If this mistake happens, simply pull the plant up with the rotten roots.
Trim the roots away and transplant in an area where the soil drains better. These plants are so tough, they should develop new roots without issue.
Finally, be on the lookout for aphids. They’ll suck the sap from these succulents and cause damage. If you notice signs of aphids, treat your hen and chick plants with insecticide. Be prepared to repeat as needed.
These are the only issues you should be aware of when raising hen and chick plants. Thankfully, these plants are resilient, and bounce back from most issues.
How to Propagate Hen and Chick Succulents
Each mother plant produces approximately four rosettes in a grow season. The chicks will eventually grow up to become hens.
You can allow the plants to sow and grow on their own until the area becomes overcrowded. This is when you may want to transplant them into new areas.
When it’s time to move your succulents, gently pull the chicks out of the ground. This will break them away from the mother plant. Take the small plant and transplant in a new location.
Add water and make sure the growing conditions are correct. If everything is in order, the plant should form roots and become established over time.
Raising hen and chick succulents can be a fun thing for gardeners to do. Whether you want to try your hand at growing something different, or if you’d like a new look for your home, these plants can provide it.
This is an excellent plant for new gardeners to try as well. Whatever your reason for raising these succulents, the ease they offer should create a positive experience for all involved.
More About Hen and Chick Succulents
I can’t imagine starting hens & chicks from seed when transplanting the chicks is so easy! Instant plants! I leave a couple of inches of the attaching runner when taking the chick off, then poke a hole that deep, insert runner until the chick is firmly on the soil, then gently push the soil around it until solid. Water in, and that’s it! My hens do not bloom until they are very mature, and after blooming, a hen deteriorates, so should be removed. I suppose seeds could be taken from the dry blossom, but why? So many chicks to move!
Barbara A Arnold says
What do you do when they grow a large type stem in the center. Not all have this but some do. Should it be removed and when. Can that stem be planted!
To fix it, we will cut the upper part of the hens and chicks plant with very sharp scissors, leaving between two and four centimeters of stem to be able to plant it. At the base (the part with roots) we must leave a few leaves so that it can catch the sunlight and breathe. Although succulents are capable of sprouting from bare stems, they do so more easily if they have some leaves.