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.
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.
'Reinhard' bears medium-sized, emerald green leaves with purple-black leaf tips. Pastel-pink flowers appear on short stems in summer.
Sempervivum 'Rita Jane'
'Rita Jane' bears large rosettes of blue-green foliage with dark red tips.