Hens and Chicks fall into the category of easy plants to grown and the display possibilities are endless.
They're the perfect choice for outdoor gardening even if you're known to kill just about anything green.
Why Hens and Chicks?
Whether you have a green thumb or not, chances are you can successfully grow hens and chicks.
They're a succulent which means they are virtually kill-proof and their Latin name, Sempervivum, literally means "live forever".
I have never grown them before but have always wanted to. I have no idea why I waited so long but on a recent trip to Chicago, I saw this container PACKED with Hens and Chicks at Meijer.
It was less than $9.00 so I grabbed it and put it in the cart not thinking that I had to pack it in my trunk with everything else I was hauling back to Pennsylvania and keep it from tipping over or getting smooshed.
I put it in the trunk last and hoped for the best.
Thankfully, it survived the trip well!
I let the container sit on my porch for a few weeks while I looked around for the perfect planters.
In my mind, I knew it had to be strawberry pots and I found them on clearance at Joann's.
Once I got them home, I realized they weren't exactly what I wanted.
I wish they had little "pockets" like the ones above to hold the dirt in place but they didn't so I just had to roll with it and make the most of it.
They were maybe $8.00 for both so it wasn't a big deal. Next year, though, I'll probably replace these pots with the ones I should have gotten.
The Right Soil and Drainage
It's important to use the proper soil for succulents.
I already had what I needed on hand but the ones I recommend and used are in the supply list below:
*As a side note, I purchased all of the soil, etc., that I used above at Walmart but if you don't feel like schlepping the bags home or you can't find it locally, the links in the box above are for these items available on Amazon.
How to Plant Hens and Chicks
Once I had everything gathered up I started the planting process.
I used scissors to cut into the plastic container that the hens and chicks were in just to make it easier to separate them.
They were pretty tightly packed in place and I didn't want to break off any of the chicks.
Place a rock at the bottom of each planter to keep the dirt in but allow for drainage. You could use a paper coffee filter as well.
Next, I added perlite to the bottom and topped that with a mixture of sphagnum peat moss and the cactus potting mix.
I stopped just shy of the first set of holes.
At this point, I gently broke apart some of the hens from the group using just my fingers, no tools, and tucked these in the openings.
Next, I added more of the sphagnum peat moss and cactus potting mix until it was just below the lip of the strawberry pot, perhaps ½ inch from the top.
The dirt will settle so it's a good idea to not leave too large of a space between the top of the pot and the dirt.
I then planted the remaining hens with trailing chicks at the top of each pot.
What Do I Do With The Chicks?
The chicks are the small trailing babies. Once they are mature enough to "live" on their own, the stem will become thinner and thinner and the chick will fall off.
Once they fall off, simply pick them up, make a small hole in the dirt with your finger, and place the chick in the dirt alongside their mother hen or in a separate pot.
You may be able to notice hairlike roots along the new stems.
If there is dirt beneath the newly emancipated chick, they will take root right where they lay.
What Does It Mean When The Hens Flower?
Unfortunately, when a hen bears flowers it means they are entering the last phase of their life and will die shortly.
Cutting off the flowers will not stop the process but at this point, the hen will have produced many, many chicks, and will be 2 to 3 years old.
Once the flowers died, I cut off the stalk, let the hen die and then removed her from the pot.
This is done easily by simply pinching and carefully extracting.
The hen will in all likelihood be brownish black and dry to the touch so not much is required to remove her from her spot in the pot.
How to Care for Hens and Chicks
Once you have transplanted your hens and chicks, water them well. After that, allow the soil to dry out before watering again. They are drought tolerant and will do well in the heat.
Hens and chicks prefer full sun to partial sun so keep that in mind when placing your hens and chicks in their permanent, or semi-permanent, home.
These plants are hardy in zones 4-8. If you're not sure of your zone, you can find that info here.
How To Care for Potted Hens and Chicks Over the Winter
I live in southwest Pennsylvania and the winters here can be somewhat harsh.
I left my hens and chicks in their pots in a flowerbed that is exposed to the elements and they did well.
However, if you live in an area where temperatures in the winter dip below freezing, it would be wise to move your hens and chicks indoors if planted in containers.
I great way to keep them insulated and safe is to place them in a container with packing peanuts or anything that can withstand water.
Some packing peanuts dissolve when exposed to water and are recyclable so be sure that the ones you are using are not the wonderful eco-friendly kind.
Keep them in an area that is protected like a garage, basement, or enclosed porch, and water them as needed.
Do try, however, to make sure that the area you are overwintering your hens and chicks in does get some sunlight.
Once there is no more danger of frost, move your plants outdoors.
Fertilize them and watch them grow beautifully over another summer.
Do They Come Back Every Year
They certainly do!
The hens will live for approximately 3 years and will die, but each growing season they will bear chicks which will grow and so the cycle continues.