Sempervivum is more well-known by its common name, Hen & Chicks or Houseleeks. The name comes from the Latin Semper means - forever and vivo means – lives. These evergreen plants originate from the European alpine regions, making them extremely hardy. They prefer full sun or very light shade and require good drainage. Sempervivum work well in rock gardens, trough plantings, strawberry planters or tucked into rock wall crevices. They are also a good choice for green roofs and make for interesting topiaries.
These aren’t your mother’s old fashioned green Hen & Chicks. There are several hundred varieties, shapes, colors and textures. Many turn a reddish color in winter; others are edged in red, while others rage in colors of brown to orange. Some varieties even look as if they are covered in cobwebs.
In the days-of-old, Sempervivum were planted on roofs of houses to guard against lightning. There is some scientific proof behind the myth; Sempervivum are naturally fire resistant and can slow down the spread of flames. The plant was also planted on the roof to bring the inhabitants good luck. Feuding neighbors were known to go up on the opposing neighbor’s roof and pull off their plants, believing that they would be vulnerable to natural disasters and left unguarded against demons.
With so many varieties to choose from and so many places to plant them, this is a fun and unique plant to experiment with.