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Perennials: Sempervivum tectorum

Botanical name: Sempervivum tectorum

Common name: hens & chicks

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created by:
chief cultivator

Mercer island, Wa

at a glance

Soil: dry, neutral, sand
Zones: 3a thru 11a

deer resistant, fall interest, drought tolerant

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description for "Perennials: Sempervivum tectorum"

Hens and chicks plants are mat-forming succulents that produce clusters of rosettes. Few plants are as versatile. They make wonderful container plants are very forgiving about soil and moisture conditions. In the garden, they're ideal in rock gardens or at the border edge. They are also deer-resistant! Over time the "mother" hens develop brood after brood of little "chicks" that can be divided and moved to other spots in your garden. This low-growing (4") perennial will quickly spread to 2' or more in width. Although grown for its foliage, hens and chicks do flower, on a tall (1') flower stalk. The foliage of hens and chicks plants can be red, green or some mixture thereof. Hens and chicks can be grown in planting zones 3-11. Grow hens and chicks plants in full sun to partial shade and in well-drained soil. In the South, hens and chicks can profit from partial shade; but the requirement for well-drained soil is a must in any zone! The "hens" will die after flowering, but by that time they will have produced numerous "chicks" or "chickens" to take their place. To propagate, simply split off the chickens from the parent plant and transplant them. Providing contact with the soil should be sufficient for transplanting, since hens and chicks root readily. --edited by dtd siegelgirl


While the origin of the common names, "hens and chicks" or "hens and chickens" is apparent from the foregoing, the reader may be curious about the origin of the plant's Latin name, Sempervivum tectorum. The word for the genus, Sempervivum, is Latin for "always live," i.e., evergreen. So far, so good. But when you discover that the word for the species, tectorum, means "on roofs" in Latin, you may start scratching your head. What does this evergreen perennial have to do with roofs? Well, it turns out that hens and chicks, which are indigenous to Europe, were traditionally planted in thatched roofs. European folklore held that they were supposed to provide protection against lightning-induced fires, due to the plants' association with two gods of lightning: Thor and Zeus (Jupiter). In this case, folklore is justified, in the sense that succulents such as hens and chicks are fire-resistant and would perhaps slow down the spread of fire through thatch. [Source:]

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