Sempervivum are a great option for those who want colorful succulents that are also cold hardy. They also change colors at different times of year and are generally more vibrant in winter when most plants don’t look great.
Sempervivum, or hens and chicks, are quickly becoming one of my favorite succulent genera. The biggest perk is they grow in my cold Utah climate!
I was initially turned off to Sempervivums because I thought the colors were boring, only reds and greens. However, thanks to the amazing selection offered by Mountain Crest Gardens I’ve found there is quite a variety of colors, including blues, purples, pinks and even yellow!
These hens and chicks are really amazing once you start to spend more time with them. They propagate easily, generally tolerate quite a bit of abuse (over watering, under watering, heat, cold, etc.) and still survive.These hens and chicks are amazing! They propagate easily, tolerate cold, and handle about anything!Click To Tweet
Sempervivum Color Changes
Sempervivums are also interesting in their coloring. Many actually display some of their boldest colors toward the end of winter and early spring. In fact, they can change colors so dramatically you almost wouldn’t know two plants were the same species.
Don’t believe me? Let me show you!
Mountain Crest Gardens sent me a few pairs of Sempervivums in various stages of color change. I was amazed at the difference!
I have noticed these changes in my succulents but until I compared two side by side, I had no idea how different they could look.
The pairs were labeled when I received them. However, as we were potting them some of the tags got mixed up and we had to determine which plants paired together. It was a lot harder than I thought, but in the end we got it right.
So, here’s a few examples of two Semps of the same species, but different colors.
I’ve never been great at identifying specific succulent species, but in attempting to match these up with the right names I discovered a few important characteristics to look for when identifying succulents, and Sempervivum in particular.
Leaf Shape and Texture
At first glance these hens and chicks seem to all be the same shape right?
As you start to look more closely, you’ll notice some of the leaves are long and skinny while others are wider and less pointed.
There is also a difference in the texture on the edge of the leaves. Some look almost furry, while others are smooth. Some even look sharp with small hooks along the edges.
There are also subtle differences in the color patterns for the various Sempervivums. Even hens and chicks that were in different color stages would follow a pattern with the color. For example, on this Sempervivum ‘Ruby Heart’ the red is at the top of the leaf. When the Semp has more color it simply extends down lower on the leaf.
For others, the red creates a band in the middle of the leaf. It’s larger when the succulent has more red, but it’s still in the same location.
Tightness of the Rosette and Leaf Density
This one can be a bit trickier if your Sempervivum hasn’t been getting enough light, but generally you can tell the difference between species because of how compact the leaves are.
Some will form loose rosettes while others will be dense with leaves. You can try gently pulling the leaves apart a little bit to get an idea of how tight the rosette actually is.
If your hens and chicks aren’t getting enough light, you’ll notice the leaves start to flatten out. They do this as a desperate attempt to absorb more light. They will have more area to absorb light with their leaves flattened out as opposed to tightly curled up.If your hens and chicks aren't getting enough light, you'll notice the leaves start to flatten out.Click To Tweet
Sempervivums are a really fun group of succulents. Since most of the world doesn’t live in an ideal climate for tender succulents they provide a great option for outdoor growing year round, no matter your climate.
If you’re in the market to start (or add to) your collection of cold hardy Sempervivums, head on over to Mountain Crest Gardens! You’ll be amazed by all the varieties they offer.