Hens and Chicks, known botanically as Sempervivum tectorum and also commonly as "Houseleeks" are evergreen herbaceous plants that have a resemblance to succulents but actually belong to the Stonecrop family of plants. Hens and Chicks flower and propagate themselves vegetatively and form dense colonies of larger parent and smaller offspring plants. They are considered to be a ground cover but can also be used in the front of flower beds, as edging, vertical plantings and in containers. As a stonecrop species they are extremely low maintenance, drought tolerant and winter hardy in most regions of the United States.
Grow your hens and chicks plants in containers and overwinter indoors if growing them in climates in USDA Zone 3 or lower. They are winter hardy in all other zones above 3.
Provide full sun to your hens and chicks throughout the winter, cutting back any other plants that may shade even a portion of the plant colony.
Monitor water and soil moisture very carefully during the winter and do not irrigate if there is rainfall periodically. Allow the soil to dry out slightly between waterings if at all possible. You want to avoid over-watering and water-logged soil at all costs as this is one of the few things that can kill hearty hens and chicks.
Prune away any diseased, leggy, bare or damaged plant tissues with your pruning shears or by snapping off the offending foliage from the clump. Shear down the edges of the stand if needed to keep its spread within the landscape boundaries.
Mulch over the soil in and among the hens and chicks with 1 to 2 inches of organic material such as sawdust to insulate the roots against winter cold and keep weeds at bay.
Weed your hens and chicks throughout the year to prevent invasive weed species from establishing a presence in the colony as the weeds not only compete for soil space and nutrition but also mar the colorful carpet-like appearance of the plant.
A communications professional, D.C. Winston has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals and film/broadcast media. Winston studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.