Part of the Rosette-forming Crassulaceae Project

Kingdom   Plantae
Phylum    Magnoliophyta
Class     Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons) 
Sub-Class Rosidae
Order     Rosales
Family    Crassulaceae
Genus     Sempervivum
Species   Approximately 35
The name sempervivum comes from the latin, and is very apt to the characteristics of the plant. Semper means "forever" or "always" and vivum means "live". This Subgenus of plants has an amazing ability to propagate itself, seeming to live forever. These plants are commonly referred to as "hens and chicks", "houseleeks", and "live-forevers".

This is an monocarpic alpine succulent, and part of the Crassulaceae family, making it a relative of plants such as jade plant and kalanchoe.

Sempervivum is characterized as a compact, rosette shaped plant which readily reproduces itself through the production of offshoots, or "pups". The main plant (the hen) will grow stems, called stolons, which will grow new rosettes (the chicks). Each rosette will, eventually, form a pink star-shaped flower, then die. The chicks will continue to live and propagate until they themselves form a flower.

Sempervivum is similar to several other members of the Crassulaceae family (such as echeveria, jovibarba and rosularia), so much so that taxonomy is still the subject of intense debate. Most of these plants are called hens and chicks and have very similar soil, light, and water needs (specific care and information can, indeed, be found at hens and chicks). Variations among plants can be huge, even within the same species, based merely on environmental factors and hybridization. This makes specific identification of cultivated plants difficult. Given that the care of most of these plants falls within the same guidelines, the is a problem for few except enthusiastic collectors.

Sempervivum Tectorum is the most commonly sold species using the name hens and chicks within the United States. The reasoning for this is simple, it is an attractive ornamental plant for indoor and outdoor use. It is extremely hardy and can survive winter outdoors in many parts of the country (winters to -5 fahrenheit). Many home supply and hardware stores will sell this as an outdoor ground cover. Most likely, it will only be labeled hens and chicks. These stores can provide adequate plant stock, however, a succulent enthusiast will do better to buy from specialized cactus and succulent gardens and nurseries which should have genus and species labeled (and, ideally, the name of the specific hybrid).

This common sempervivum species originates from the mountains of Europe, and can be seen growing in the crevasses of stone walls, and covering the entire rooftops.
OVERVIEW OF GENERAL SEMPERVIVUM NEEDS:
  • Soil: Well draining and sandy
  • Light: Direct, filtered, or indirect sunlight
  • Water: Water only when the soil is completely dry
  • Temperature: Many will withstand high temperatures, but will then require more water. Most sempervivums can survive a winter to -5 fahrenheit.
  • Humidity: The less the better during winter dormancy. Sempervivums will easily tolerate humid conditions during it's active growing state, so long as the soil is dry between waterings.
  • Fertilizer: rely on fertlizer present in commercial potting mixes. For outdoor plants, trust nature to take care of it.

Sem`per*vi"vum (?), n. Bot.

A genus of fleshy-leaved plants, of which the houseleek (Sempervivum tectorum) is the commonest species.

 

© Webster 1913.

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