Sempervivum tectorum (Houseleek) is an ornamental, evergreen, perennial, mat-forming succulent that typically forms rosettes, up to 10 cm in diameter, of 50 to 60 thick, glabrous leaves up to 3 inches long. They are green, sometimes purple-tipped. The mother rosette spreads in all directions by horizontal stems to form offsets. In summer, leafy, pubescent, upright flowering stalks rise from the mother rosette up to 30 cm tall, topped with cymes of red-purple flowers.
Scientific Name: Sempervivum tectorum L.
Common Names: Houseleek, Liveforever, Common Houseleek, Hen and Chickens, Old Man and Woman, Roof Houseleek, Hens and Chicks, Bullock’s Beard, Bullock’s Eye, Devil’s Beard, Earwort, Fuet, Healing Blade, Homewort, Imbroke, Jove’s Beard, Jupiter’s Beard, Jupiter’s Eye, Poor Jan’s Leaf, Roof Foil, Sengreen, St Patrick’s Cabbage, Thunder Plant.
Medicinal benefits of Sempervivum tectorum (Houseleek):
- Sempervivum tectorum (Houseleek) leaves and their juice is used for their cooling and astringent effect, being applied externally to soothe many skin conditions. As with many other remedies that are both astringent and soothing, houseleek simultaneously tightens and softens the skin.
- The fresh leaves are astringent, diuretic, odontalgic, refrigerant and vulnerary. They are used as a poultice in much the same way as Aloe vera in the treatment of a wide range of skin diseases, burns, scalds, bites, and stings, etc and have also been used to get rid of warts and corns.
- The Sempervivum tectorum plant is also sometimes used internally in the treatment of shingles, skin complaints and hemorrhoids, though some care is required since in excess the plant is emetic and purgative. The leaves are harvested as required and used fresh.
How to grow and maintain Sempervivum tectorum (Houseleek):
It thrives best in full sun to light shade. In indoor an east or west-facing window where they receive four to six hours of sunlight is ideal.
It needs excellent drainage. Poor, sandy soil would be just fine. You could work some peat into heavier soil, to lighten them and improve drainage. Soil pH should be in the neutral range, 6.6 to 7.5.
Water lightly, but you don’t need to water newly planted Common Houseleek every day, the way you would with non-succulents. Common Houseleeks need to let their roots dry out between waterings.
It prefers an average summer temperature 65 degrees Fahrenheit – 70 degrees Fahrenheit / 18 degrees Celsius – 21 degrees Celsius. In winter, some varieties can withstand temperatures down to freezing.
Fertilize with a controlled-release fertilizer at the beginning of the season or weekly with a weak liquid solution. Use a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer at 1/4 strength on mature plants, and a fertilizer with less nitrogen on young plants.
Re-pot as needed, preferably during the warm season. To re-pot, a succulent, make sure the soil is dry before repotting, then gently remove the pot. Knock away the old soil from the roots, making sure to remove any rotted or dead roots in the process. Treat any cuts with a fungicide. Place the plant in its new pot and backfill with potting soil, spreading the roots out as you re-pot. Leave the plant dry for a week or so, then begin to water lightly to reduce the risk of root rot.
Pests and Diseases:
Crown rot will occur in wet soils. Some varieties can get Endophyllum rust, a fungus disease. Both problems can be prevented if grown in dry conditions.
It can be easily propagated by offsets and seeds. Seeds can be sprinkled on top of a soil, gravel mix and kept moderately moist until they germinate. Once they sprout, sprinkle some fine gravel around them as mulch. Seeds are usually started in pots and then transferred to the garden as seedlings. You can start your seeds in the fall and transplant in the spring. Sempervivum earned their famous name “Hen and Chicks” from their growth habit. The mother plant, or hen, sends off numerous offsets, which will cluster around her base like chicks. These offsets can be easily re-potted, or the plants can be left to form a clumping mat.