Have you ever come across those captivating plants known as hens and chicks? If so, you might be reminded of Grandma’s lovely Sempervivum plants that adorned her backyard. These succulents boasted sculptural rosettes that gracefully hugged the ground. Grandma’s plants would shoot up tall stems with dusty pink blooms during the flowering season. But did you know that there are other varieties of hens and chicks plants to explore?
Nurseries and plant catalogs now offer a wide range of hens and chicks plants beyond the traditional Sempervivum. I discovered this while interviewing my friend Katherine Tracey of Avant Gardens Nursery on my public-radio show and podcast.
A Conversation with Katherine Tracey: Q&A on Succulent Hens and Chicks
During our conversation, I asked Katherine about how she became a succulent collector. She shared that she was always drawn to low-maintenance plants that required minimal watering. In the past, sedums were popular among gardeners due to their ability to withstand tough conditions. However, Sempervivum, or hens and chicks, were also gaining attention. These plants were often sold in small packs, making them easily accessible.
As Katherine began exploring more about rock gardening, she started collecting alpine plants and discovered the resilience of hens and chicks. Unlike other delicate gems, these plants thrived even in harsh winter conditions. The Sempervivum stood the test of time, providing evergreen beauty and adding splashes of color throughout the winter season.
Unraveling the World of Hens and Chicks
Sempervivum, with its numerous cultivars, is the most well-known genus of hens and chicks plants. Katherine personally cultivates around 35 varieties, each offering unique characteristics and contrasts. For instance, ‘Commander Hay’ stands out with its large, bold rosettes, while ‘Pacific Devil’s Food’ showcases a mesmerizing chocolate-bronze color during the colder months.
Apart from Sempervivum, Katherine introduced me to other interesting genera within the hens and chicks family. Rosularia, with its pale yellow flowers, offers a subtle variation from the typical pinkish-lavender blooms found in Sempervivum. Jovibarba, although a small genus, is known for producing many offsets or “rollers” that detach easily and root themselves. Lastly, Orostachys, also known as the “dunce caps,” features gray rosettes that produce numerous offsets and thrive in well-drained soil.
Creative Ways to Incorporate Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks plants can be used to create stunning displays in various garden settings. For instance, they are perfect for green roofs, where their shallow root systems find ample nourishment. You may also find these plants taking advantage of crevices in old stone walls or even forming beautiful effusions over the top of walls.
Combining hens and chicks with other plants can yield visually striking results. In alpine-style troughs, miniature evergreens like Hinoki cypress can provide the backdrop, while creeping sedums such as Sedum dasyphyllum or Sedum album act as groundcovers. The hens and chicks rosettes add depth and texture to these arrangements. Additionally, fairy gardens or miniature gardens offer another exciting possibility. Creating a miniature landscape with hens and chicks, along with other small-sized plants like Sisyrinchium, creeping thyme, or miniature Dianthus, adds charm and whimsy to any space.
Discover the Captivating World of Hens and Chicks
Whether you choose Sempervivum, Rosularia, Jovibarba, or Orostachys, hens and chicks plants are sure to delight with their resilience and beauty. These low-maintenance plants are ideal for rock gardens, troughs, containers, and even fairy gardens. With the multitude of options available, you can create eye-catching displays and explore the fascinating world of hens and chicks. To learn more about these remarkable plants, listen to my podcast episode featuring Katherine Tracey.