Hen & Chicks

'Noire' —
A Doomed Hen & Chicks

"O beauty doomed & perfect for an hour."

-Siegfried Sassoon


Hen & Chicks (Sempervivum sp) are among the easiest plants to grow, needing very little care, & difficult to fail. Yet now & then a new one will commit seppuku.

Granny Artemis & I bought a handful of unlabeled Semperviva & planted them here & there in relatively dry & sunny locations. The habit most nurseries have of selling mixed hybrids with no indication of what species or variety they are is a little annoying, but nothing can be done about that.

Hen & Chicks bloomThe one shown on this page loved its location & decided to bloom as soon as summer began. Unfortunately, putting on such a fine display before having any chicks or developing a good root system completely exausted the plant which died a month after blooming.

Quite frequently when a given rosette of leaves puts up one of these spectacular blooms, that particular hen dies when the task's completed, or gets so elongated & scruffy it has to be trimmed out of the mass. When there are lots of chicks coming along, & other hens, one faded rosette is hardly noticeable. But if it's just one hen, alas.

It's useless to cut off the stalk before it flowers because by the time the thick stalk erupts, the hen has already very likely passed the point of no return. So I decided to watch the progress, & if the hen died afterward as seemed inevitable, so be it.

At the time this was purchased & planted, the symetrical purple & green rosettes suggested to me this was a hybrid variety Sempervivum x tectorum 'Noire.' So many named cultivars are similar, & so many random hybrids unnamed, it can be a losing game to try to identify unlabeled cultivars. But going by what I know is cultivated locally for the local market, 'Noire' was the best match from among that more finite number.

When 'Noire' does well (as is more common than the fate of this particular example) it clumps into a groundcover with lots of chicks around the hen.


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