How to Grow and Care for Sempervivum tectorum (Common houseleek)

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The common houseleek, Sempervivum tectorum, is an evergreen succulent that’s native to Europe. It’s one of the most common plants in the world and has been cultivated for centuries. Its easy care and durability make it a great choice for first-time succulent growers.

The plant forms symmetrical rosettes of fleshy green leaves rimmed by red highlights. It is a low-growing succulent, meaning its rosettes don’t form on the tips of stems but rather stay low to the ground. These are slow-growing plants that stay evergreen all year long, even in cold environments.

For planting Sempervivum tectorum, a rock garden or rock wall are ideal. You can let them hang over a rock wall or tuck them into the cracks. Stones offer the perfect combination of root protection, radiant heat, and drainage. It is easy to care for and can tolerate neglect and still look amazing.

Sempervivum tectorum can be grown in any type of container as long as it has good drainage. Clay pots, plastic pots, and even cement planters are all suitable options.

Or if you have a space, you can grow this plant directly in the garden bed. Just be mindful that this is a mat-forming succulent, and it will take over any extra space you give it. Rock gardens or indoor pots are the most suitable locations for this hearty succulent.

Sempervivum tectorum flower

In optimal growing conditions, the Sempervivum tectorum blooms magnificently during the summer months. This resilient succulent produces erect stems that proudly rise from its rosette-shaped foliage. These stems are adorned with clusters of stunning flowers, each composed of approximately 12 to 16 delicate petals.

The flowers of Sempervivum tectorum come in a captivating array of pinkish and purple tones, and are arranged in dense clusters, forming a compact and symmetrical inflorescence.During the flowering phase, the stems can reach heights ranging from 12 to 20 inches.

The blooming period of this monocarpic plant, unfortunately, is fleeting, lasting only a few summer weeks. Once a rosette blooms, it perishes, ending its life cycle.

Sempervivum tectorum care

To grow and care for Sempervivum tectorum, also known as Common houseleek, you need to consider factors such as light, water, soil, and temperature. Here are some guidelines to help you:

Light Requirements

Sempervivum tectorum is a sun-loving succulent. It thrives in bright direct sunlight but can also tolerate partial shade. In case of harsh sunlight, it’s best to protect the plant from the afternoon sun to prevent scorching.This can be achieved by placing the plant in a partially shaded area or by using a shade cloth to diffuse the harsh rays.

Leaf burn is rare, but it is known to happen under particularly harsh sunlight.

Watering

Sempervivum tectorum is a drought-tolerant succulent that prefers little water. Water the plant occasionally when the soil is dry, ideally, once every one to two weeks. 

When watering, completely soak the soil until water runs out of the drainage holes in the base of the pot. In autumn and winter, reduce watering to about once a month.

It’s preferable to water deeply once in a while rather than frequently with light waterings. This succulent is more susceptible to root rot from overwatering than underwatering.

Soil

Sempervivum tectorum prefers free-draining soil. Sandy or gravelly soils are ideal.
If you have heavy clay soil, incorporate commercial soil-improver, grit, or pea-sized gravel to improve drainage.

Avoid adding too much organic matter, as it can make the soil too rich. For container planting, choose a well-draining compost with a neutral pH. Specialist cacti and succulent mixes work well

Temperature and Humidity

The ideal temperature range for Sempervivum tectorum is between 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. This succulent can tolerate short periods of cold weather, but prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures will damage the leaves.

In cooler climates, this succulent can be grown outdoors year-round. But if you live in an area that gets frosty winters, it’s best to bring your plant indoors before the first frost hits.

Sempervivum tectorum is not particularly picky when it comes to humidity levels. Their ability to withstand a wide range of humidity levels is attributed to their succulent nature, characterized by thick, fleshy leaves that store water efficiently. This adaptation allows them to retain moisture and minimize water loss through transpiration, allowing them to survive in both dry and humid conditions.

Fertilizer

Fertilizers can do more harm than good. Succulents, like Sempervivum tectorum, have adapted to thrive in poor soil conditions and do not require the same level of nutrients as other plants. 

If you decide to fertilize your Sempervivum tectorum, use a succulent-specific fertilizer and only apply it once every few months. Be sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer package carefully, because if you apply too much fertilizer, the roots of your Sempervivum tectorum can become burned, leading to stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and eventually, death.

Propagation

Sempervivum tectorum reproduces by producing offsets, also known as “chicks,” from the main rosette or “hen”. These offsets can be can be snapped off and replanted to form new colonies.

Once established, the maintenance of hens and chicks is minimal. It is a self-propagating plant that needs little influence from outside. One aspect of why it’s so widely recommended for beginners is also what earned this species the nickname “hens and chicks.”

The plant starts with a small rosette that quickly multiplies under the influence of its ability to give off new offsets. Smaller replicas of the parent plants form around the bigger rosette quite nicely. By the hand of its chicks, there is no need to worry about propagating this plant; it can do that all by itself.

Seeds are an alternative method of propagation for the Sempervivum tectorum, but the process is generally more time-consuming and less reliable than propagating from offsets. Seeds must be sown in a well-draining potting mix and kept moist until they germinate. The seedlings will then need to be transplanted into individual pots or containers. It can take several months for the seedlings to reach a mature size.

Therefore, if you already have a colony of house leeks, it is generally not necessary to propagate them from seeds. Offsets are a much easier and more reliable way to produce new plants.

Repotting

Sempervivum tectorum is a slow-growing succulent, so it doesn’t need to be repotted very often. It’s best to leave your plant in its current pot for at least two to three years.

When your Sempervivum tectorum needs repotting, it’s important to choose a pot that is only one size larger than the current one. This is because the plant produces offsets by spreading its roots underneath, and repotting can disrupt this process. If you choose a pot that is too large, the plant may put its energy into filling the pot with roots rather than producing new growth.

Here are some tips for repotting Sempervivum tectorum:

  • Water the plant thoroughly a few days before repotting. This will help to loosen the roots and make them less likely to break.
  • Carefully remove the plant from its pot. If the plant is root-bound, you may need to gently loosen the roots with your fingers.
  • Place the plant in the new pot and fill it with potting mix. Gently press down on the soil to firm it around the roots.
  • Water the plant thoroughly after repotting.

Be very careful when repotting Sempervivum tectorum, as the plantlets are very delicate. If you damage the plantlets, they may not survive.

Pests and Diseases

This succulent is relatively resistant to pests and diseases. The biggest threat to your plant is crown rot, which can happen if the soil is too moist or if the pot doesn’t have good drainage.

Spider mites, mealybugs, and scale are common pests that can infest Sempervivum tectorum. These pests are easy to spot and can be controlled with regular applications of insecticidal soap or neem oil.

Diseases are not a big problem for this plant, but powdery mildew and fungal infections can occur in high humidity environments.

 FAQs about Sempervivum tectorum:

Is  Sempervivum tectorum toxic?

This succulent is non-toxic to humans and pets.

What is the use of Sempervivum tectorum?

Sempervivum tectorum, also known as Common Houseleek, has several traditional medicinal uses. It is used in the treatment of ear inflammation and can be applied as a pack on wounds, sores, burns, and abscesses. Drinking tea prepared from the leaves of S. tectorum is recommended for ulcer treatment.

Does Sempervivum like sun or shade?

Sempervivum tectorum prefers full sun and requires at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. However, in extremely hot and sunny locations, it benefits from some afternoon shade to prevent leaf scorch.

What are the interesting facts about Sempervivum?

  • Sempervivum tectorum, commonly known as Common houseleek or Hens and chicks, is a succulent plant in the family Crassulaceae.
  • It is native to the mountains of southern Europe and is cultivated throughout Europe for its unique geometric fleshy appearance.
  • The botanical name “Sempervivum” is derived from Latin and means “live forever,” referring to the plant’s ability to produce offsets easily, spreading and perpetuating itself.
  • Sempervivum tectorum has a Roman tradition associated with it, claiming that it protects buildings against lightning strikes.
  • It is often used in rock gardens, as a border front, in rock crevices, along stone walls, as a small area ground cover, and in containers.

Is Sempervivum edible?

While Sempervivum tectorum is not commonly consumed as a food, there are some reports of its edible use. The leaves of S. tectorum can be eaten raw or cooked and have a slightly sour taste. However, it is important to note that proper identification and preparation are crucial when consuming any plant for culinary purposes.

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