Hens and Chicks
A favorite of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, hens and chicks (also called houseleek) is popular once again with gardeners looking for a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plant. The darling of today's xeriscape gardens, trough gardens, and rooftop gardens, this succulent is appreciated for its easy-care nature and tolerance for extremely dry conditions. The mother rosette (or hen) multiplies freely by runners that spread in all directions to form offsets (or chicks). Eventually the hen blooms, sets seed, and dies—leaving behind all its chicks to form colonies and carry on the botanical process. Hens and chicks grows very small, fine roots, which allows it to penetrate tiny cracks and thrive in rock gardens. This plant looks great in trough gardens and containers since its small, young plantlets will eventually trail over the sides. Hens and chicks also adds color and texture to regular gardens, to living succulent wreaths, and between pavers on patios and walkways.
While most often found in shades of green, hens and chicks plants come in a variety of colors. Some plants even change color depending on the amount of sunlight they receive. In the right conditions, green plants will form red tips; sometimes the whole plant turns red. Other varieties form intricate cobwebbing on the tips of the leaves, which adds intriguing texture to rock gardens.
Hens and Chicks Care Must-Knows
Hens and chicks thrives in well-drained soil and full sun. Not enough sun, and the plant stays green (no color changes) and its leaves will be thin and sparse. Too much moisture, and this plant rots and dies. If grown under the proper conditions, it will slowly spread to form impressive colonies. The small plants (or chicks) can be plucked off the main plant and used to propagate new plants. Simply set the small plant atop lightly moist soil.
Due to the succulent craze, there has been an increase in new varieties. Some of them are marketed with millennials in mind. One such example: Chick Charms brand is a collection of hens and chicks plants varying in shapes, colors, and sizes. Playful plant names include Cinnamon Starburst, Cranberry Cocktail, and Appletini.