The Plant that “Lives Forever”

close up of a green succulent

When I was little, we had mounds of green, extra-terrestrial looking plants growing along the side of our house. I recall my mom referring to them as hens and chicks, but chose to always steer clear of their spiky edges. I recently noticed that some have been popping up around Reiman Gardens and decided to do a little investigating.

The title “hens and chicks” more specifically refers to about 40 species of succulent plants in the genus Sempervivum. The name Sempervivum comes from the Latin word Semper, meaning “always” and vivus, meaning “living”. The plant may have derived its name from two different ideas: the plant’s ability to propagate very quickly and its ability to survive in tough climates.

Originating in the mountainous regions of Central Europe, these perennials thrive in cool climates with rocky soil. Sempervivum grow best in USDA hardiness zones 4-8. As a member of the succulent family, these plants store water in their leaves and can most easily be identified by their flat green rosettes with sharp tips.

It is important to remember that these plants need full sunlight. Here, the color of these plants will be best, as shade can wash them out to a pale green. Additionally, Sempervivum need to have proper drainage as plants will not tolerate soggy conditions. Hens and chicks make great additions to a container garden because they provide color and variety while being easy to maintain.

A single “hen” plant can last up to three years and begins reproducing usually after one growing season. The smaller branches are the “chicks,” and can be transplanted easily. After approximately three years, the Sempervivum will produce a tall flowery stalk before it dies and can be removed.

At Reiman Gardens, you can see a variety of succulent plants in the Children’s Garden. Be sure to look for the Sempervivum’s unique rosette shape and see how well this hardy plant combines with other succulents to add a lot of variety and unique color to a small space.

By Lauren Ehlers – Communications Intern

For more information on growing Sempervivum:
For a gallery of unique ways to grow Sermpervivum: