I remember my grandmother always have pots of sempervivum growing both inside and outside the house. She would have called then “hen and chicks” of course, the common name we all used back in Ohio. This was long before I was taking any interest in the Latin names of plants. (LAUGH)

One of the common names, ‘Hen and chicks”  comes from the nature of the sempervivum to put off little sprouts along its base which gather like chicks around a mother hen. These also make the plant easy to propagate, as the “chicks” can be carefully pulled off and planted elsewhere. These hardy plants are great for any beginning gardener and those who just want something that is always showing some life throughout the year. They also come in a large number of varieties, so there is something here for nearly everyone.

Sempervivum tectorum

Photo: Wikipedia


Sempervivum /sɛmpəˈvvəm/,[1] is a genus of about 40 species of flowering plants in the Crassulaceae family, known as houseleeks. Other common names include live forever and hen and chicks. They are succulent perennials forming mats composed of tufted leaves in rosettes. In favourable conditions they spread rapidly via offsets, and several species are valued in cultivation as groundcover for dry, sunny spots.[2]

The name Sempervivum has its origin in the Latin semper (“always”) and vivus (“living”), because this perennial plant keeps its leaves in winter and is very resistant to difficult conditions of growth.[3] The common name houseleek is believed to stem from the traditional practice of growing plants on the roofs of houses to ward off lightning strikes.[3] The plant is not closely related to the true leek, which belongs to the onion family.

Other common names reflect the plant’s ancient association with Thor, the Norse god of thunder, and the Roman Jupiter. Hence names such as “Jupiter’s beard” and the German Donnersbart (“thunder beard”).[3]

— Wikipedia

More information on Sempervivum:


More Sempervivum books, art, plants and seed at

Previously in the Interesting Plant series: 

Interesting Plant is a series from A Gardener’s Notebook blog and podcast that highlights the most interesting plants I find in my Internet and real-world travels — Douglas