Botanical name: Sempervivum spp
Houseleeks also called Houseleeks or Liveforever are popular succulent houseplants which form mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. Sempervivum is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plants. They are also known by the name Hens and Chicks, a name they share with other genera like the similar Echeveria. These plants are perennials forming mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. They form offsets around the base of the plants and hence the name Hens and Chicks. They are low-growing reaching a height of 4 in. only. Houseleeks are endemic from Morocco to Iran, through the mountains of Iberia, the Alps, Carpathians, Balkan mountains, Turkey, the Armenian mountains, northeastern part of Sahara Desert and the Caucasus.
Houseleeks are completely hardy due to their ability to store water in their thick leaves which allows them to live on sunny rocks and stony places in the mountain, subalpine and alpine belts. Each plant grows for several years before flowering. The color of flowers is reddish, yellowish, pinkish or rarely whitish. After flowering, the palnt dies, leaving many offsets it has produced during its life and hence the name Liveforever. The species of this genus are not easy to identify; even one single clone can look very different under various growth conditions or different times of the year. The plants are very similar and closely linked to each other. Numerous cultivars have been created but a lot of them are not different from each other. The main interest of these cultivars is not their flowers but the form and color of the rosette-leaves.
Houseleeks prefer bright light with some direct sunlight. Avoid exposing the plants to too hot sunlight before acclimatizing them as they can get sun scorched. Learn how to ensure your plant receives the correct light in this guide on understanding light for houseplants
Water Houseleeks thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings. Reduce watering during the cold period to maintain the soil barely moist. Avoiding wetting the center of the rosette as it can lead to rotting. Watering from the bottom is safer. Use room temperature water to avoid plant shock. Avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Learn more on how to water houseplants.
Average warmth between 16-280C during the growing season is ideal for Houseleeks. Learn more on temperature for houseplants.
Average room humidity is ideal for Houseleeks. They have no need for high humidity. Ensure good air circulation for Houseleeks to prevent fungal diseases.
Feed Houseleeks every 2 weeks during the growing season with a succulents fertilizer. Withhold feeding in the dormancy stage. Find out more on how to feed houseplants.
Houseleeks have a small root system so frequent repotting is not necessary. Repot the plant at the beginning of the growing season only when it becomes crowded in its current pot. Use a pot 1 size larger and one that has a drainage hole to prevent waterlogging as it can lead to rotting. Use a shallow pot and be careful not to bury the stems to prevent rotting The best soil should be loose, free-draining and rich in organic matter.
Pruning Houseleeks is easy. Remove dead or diseased leaves to keep the plant neat and reduce pests and disease infestation.
Houseleeks can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from offsets which form at the base of the plant.
Propagating Houseleeks from offsets
Seperate the offsets from the mother plant. Allow the offsets to dry for 1-3 days before potting. Use an offset which has several leaves. Pot each offset in its individual pot in moist free-draining soil. Water sparingly, only when the soil is dry and avoid waterlogging as it can lead to rotting.
Loss of leaf color in Houseleeks is due to too little light; Houseleeks prefers bright light with some direct sunlight. Too little light will cause the leaves to loss their vibrant colors. Move the plant to a brighter spot.
Rotting plant base followed by yellowing and shrivelled leaves in Houseleeks is an indication of basal stem rot disease which is brought about by overwet conditions. Avoid overwatering and ensure the pot has a drainage hole.
Houseleeks are non-toxic to humans and pets. They are safe to grow indoors.