London (change)

Growing sempervivums

Sempervivums, or houseleeks, are hardy, succulent, alpine plants that grow in the wild between rocks in mountainous regions.

Sempervivum means 'always alive' – a reference to the fact that houseleeks tolerate extreme temperatures and drought. The hardiness of sempervivums (also known as hen and chickens), makes them excellent, easy-to-keep garden plants.

Sempervivums are commonly grown in containers, but they can thrive in bricks, driftwood and tufa rock, 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, outdoor position, in a 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 – 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.

Sempervivums don't need feeding, but do benefit from being repotted each year into compost containing slow-release fertiliser.

Discover 10 sempervivum cultivars, below.


Sempervivum arachnoideum

Cobweb houseleek, Sempervivum arachnoideum

Possibly the most famous species, the cobweb houseleek bears a network of white hairs at the leaf tips, which protect the plant against dehydration and intense sunlight. Sempervivum arachnoideum bears small pink flowers in early summer. 

Sempervivum 'Engles'

Sempervivum 'Engles'

Sempervivum 'Engles' has downy bronze-green leaves, which darken to almost purple in winter. 

Sempervivum marmoreum

Sempervivum marmoreum 'Brunneifolium'

This cultivar bears large rosettes of triangular-shaped, silvery bronze leaves.

Sempervivum 'Pippin'

Sempervivum 'Pippin'

Sempervivum 'Pippin' has large rosettes of deep green, spatula-shaped leaves with dark purple tips.

Sempervivum 'Pluto'

Sempervivum 'Pluto'

'Pluto' is a beautiful houseleek, bearing large rosettes of deep green leaves with dark purple tips.

Sempervivum 'Purple Dazzler'

Sempervivum 'Purple Dazzler'

Sempervivum 'Purple Dazzler' has bi-coloured foliage in mid-green and dark purple, the colour of which darkens in winter.

Sempervivum 'Terracotta Baby'

Sempervivum 'Terracotta Baby'

This cultivar bears medium-sized rosettes of long, spoon-shaped leaves in dramatic dark red-burgundy. The colouration becomes darker in winter and a brighter, more intense red in summer.

Sempervivum 'Reinhard'

Sempervivum 'Reinhard'

'Reinhard' bears medium-sized, emerald green leaves with purple-black leaf tips. Pastel-pink flowers appear on short stems in summer.

Sempervivum 'Eddy'

Sempervivum 'Eddy'

'Eddy' bears striking red spoon-shaped leaves, which darken towards the centre.

Sempervivum 'Rita Jane'

Sempervivum 'Rita Jane'

'Rita Jane' bears large rosettes of blue-green foliage with dark red tips.




Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Growing sempervivums
Your comment will appear after a quick registration step

audrey23 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I had two different ones of this plant, don't know what kind though.I had them both in a large clay pot and one overgrew the other and killed it off. I was gutted !! It is nice to see all the different kinds tho.

DavidCheetham 24/11/2011 at 15:28

does anyone have any info on propogating? I had a large full pot on a wall which got knocked off by a cat and now some of the rosettes have broken off. I am hoping that they will be ok and start to root if I replant them. I would also like to try and divide the large pot up into about three. Is it ok to carfeully divide the rosettes and replant ??? Any advice gratefully received.

17frontstreet 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I grow a number of different sempervivums in containers.My major problem is caused by birds pulling out the rosettes, completely ruining the clumps.I thought in the spring they were after nesting material but the problem has returned.I resorted to covering the containers with mesh but this spoils the appearance.Anyone have a cause and cure?

bionicwoman51 24/11/2011 at 15:28

I have had some of these houseleeks growing in pots outside for years without really doing anything to them they have survived year on year. Amazing little plants.

hels138 24/11/2011 at 15:29

my first year trying to grow houseleeks in containers. My octogerian next door neighbour has for years been growing them successfully with little attention to their care!

See more comments...