Latin comes in very handy when you are dealing with horticulture as the correct ‘bi-nomials’ or plant names are in Latin. Having taken Latin, a dead language, in high school, never did I think that I would actually come to appreciate what I learned let alone actually use it. The reason that I am telling you this is that Hens and Chicks have the proper terminology of “sempervivum”. Semper meaning always and vivum, the masculine form for life, so translates to always alive. Does it get any better than that?
Today’s current trending towards succulents may well not be a coincidence, most of the plants that one sees on the market are not winter hardy in Canada, or for that matter any region of North America that gets winter. Sempervivum however, is the perfect suggestion for a succulent look outdoors in Canada. The trade name Sunvivor™ is a collection of sun tolerant and sun loving perennials for here. Sempervivum, or Hens and Chicks stand at the front of the row in my opinion for trustworthy, reliable and basically fail safe. Understanding that this group of plants will clump and produce offsets from the parent rosette is another benefit for certain. Look closely at the varieties that you are considering because there is considerable variation in leaf form, density of rosette and leaf edges. Some leaf edges will have what appear to be thorns while others exhibit fuzziness. Don’t be fooled by the current colour of the foliage as these characters are know to change under certain climate conditions. Some varieties have a distinct red border on each leaf, while others will have colour down the centre of each leaf. Many sempervivum will change colour in the fall or as the weather cools down, a time that many will also through a bloom stalk. The flowering stalks of these plants can appear quite odd as they grow rather tall in comparison to the dwarf rosette. Depending on variety, you can have pink to white flowers from mid summer through fall. If you are wanting to produce more plants, it is a good idea to remove the flower stalks early on so that all that energy goes to enlarging the rosette and the offsets.
Plants that endure lower light conditions tend to flatten their foliage out so as to offer more surface area to photosynthesize. Generally speaking, in lower light conditions the clumps are sparse, the offsets rather puny and the overall look of the clump is weak.
I suggest considering a mixture of sempervivum so that you may mix and max over time in your garden and as well have even more variety to trade with the neighbours.
Just a sample of the Sunvivors™ offered are: Silver King; Lavender and Old Lace; Purple Beauty; Forest Frost; Red Rubin; Jade Rose; Red cobweb. Take a look online and start making a list, you will not be disappointed.
January 6th, 2019