I wanted to have a go at growing these unusual plants mainly because I can remember them from the garden at our prefab where I lived from the age of six months to twenty one when I left to get married. My mom always referred to them as hens and chickens. I ordered the seeds from Seekay at 99p for 250 seeds. when they came in a tiny plastic tube I was amazed at the size of the seeds. They are miniscule. Like dust. Today, 1st March, I have scattered a few onto a flat tray of sandy compost, not covered them but put the tray into a polythene sleeve and put in on the window ledge. This is another one on my wish list for around the pond. The soil is quite gritty there and I can place a few rocks for them to grow amongst. Update 7th March – Much to my surprise I was excited this morning to find that quite a few of these seeds had germinated. They are very tiny but gave me a bit of a lift this morning. 22nd March and these tiny seedlings haven’t moved on much. I have read that they are hardy plants but I suspect that the process of getting them to that point is a little more tricky.
Sempervivum hybridum is an old-fashioned favourite often seen in planters. Commonly referred to as Hens and Chicks, this perennial plant is unique and forms clusters of fleshy rosettes. The foliage colours can vary from greens to bronze-reds and all shades between. The succulent foliage spreads and produces a mat of foliage. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained soil. Hens & Chicks ground cover seed can be started either indoors or directly outside. If starting inside, start the seed 6 – 8 weeks before the end of frost season. If starting outdoors, wait until frost danger has passed and soil temperatures have warmed to 70F. Press the seed into the soil but do not cover it. Keep the seed consistently moist until germination occurs which is usually within 21 days. For transplanting into the garden, wait until after last frost and space the plants about 24 ” apart. Amazon.
Sempervivum means ‘always alive’. Also called houseleeks, Sempervivum are commonly grown in containers but they can thrive in bricks, driftwood and between rocks, due to their ability to grow in very little compost. South-facing rockeries, gravel gardens and vertical walls also make good habitats. They perform best in a sunny position in well-drained compost with sharp horticultural grit added for drainage. A layer of grit added to the surface of the compost further aids drainage. Houseleeks are most valued for their distinctive rosettes of succulent, spirally patterned foliage, although they also bear attractive flowers from spring to summer. Each rosette is a separate plant and is monocarpic which means that it flowers once and then dies but is soon replaced by other new rosettes called offsets. These offsets can be separated and planted up, and will then grow into new clumps. Sempervivum don’t need feeding, but do benefit from being repotted each year into compost containing slow-release fertiliser. http://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/plant-inspiration/growing-sempervivums/.