Sempervivum: Color changing hens and chicks succulents

Sempervivum succulents are an attractive choice if you’re searching for cold-tolerant succulents with varying shades of color. They are known to exhibit different hues throughout the year.

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I am increasingly drawn to Sempervivum succulents, or “hens and chicks,” as they grow remarkably well in my chilly Utah environment. Unlike other succulents, these plants tend to become even more vivid in the wintertime.

When I initially encountered Sempervivum plants, I thought the shades were dull–only reds and greens. However, thanks to the wide selection provided by Mountain Crest Gardens, I now realize they come in many different colors, such as blues, purples, pinks, and even yellow!

The longer you spend with these “hens and chicks,” the more you’ll appreciate them. They are incredibly resilient and propagate with ease, surviving any number of potential issues (such as overwatering, underwatering, extreme heat or cold) which would harm other succulents.

Sempervivum Color Changes

An intriguing element of Sempervivum succulents is the dynamic range of their hues. During the late winter and early spring periods, these plants boast their most intense shades. In fact, the transformation in coloration can be so remarkable that one might not be able to tell two Sempervivum plants apart!

Do you need proof? Let me demonstrate it to you!

I was astounded by the diversity of colors I received from Mountain Crest Gardens when they sent me a few Sempervivums plants in various stages of bloom!

I hadn’t realized the extent of the differences between my succulents until I put them side by side and saw how much they had changed.

When I got my Sempervivum plants, each set was labeled. Unfortunately, when we put them into their pots, some of the tags got jumbled up and we had to work hard to figure out which plants belonged together. Despite the challenge, we eventually made the right matches.

Here are some examples of two Semps (of the same kind) that have different colors.

To be frank, I’ve never been skilled at recognizing individual succulent varieties–however, as I sought to classify these plants correctly, I developed an understanding of the key features to observe when distinguishing succulents, especially Sempervivum.

Leaf Shape and Texture

Leaf Shape and Texture

Upon closer inspection, you may observe that the leaves vary in shape, with some being slender and pointed, while others are wider and more rounded.

The edges of the leaves show a variety of textures. Some may be soft and fuzzy, while others are glossy and smooth. Furthermore, some edges can be sharp with tiny barbs.

Color Patterns

The colors of Sempervivum plants can vary slightly. For example, some “hens and chicks” can be in different stages of coloration, with the color starting at the top of the leaf and gradually extending further down. For example, Sempervivum ‘Ruby Heart’ can take on a red hue at the top of the leaf, which then spreads down the leaf as the plant matures.

On other Semps, a reddish hue forms in the center of the foliage. The amount of red increases when the plant is more vibrant, however, the pattern of the band remains in the same spot.

Tightness of the Rosette and Leaf Density

It can be challenging to distinguish between two different species of Sempervivum if the plant is not receiving enough light; however, the leaf structure can help you tell them apart, with one species having more compact leaves than the other.

You can try to determine the tightness of a succulent’s rosette by pulling the leaves apart slightly to see how dense they are.

If your “hens and chicks” don’t receive enough light, such as during the winter months when the days are shorter, their leaves will begin to flatten in order to increase their surface area and soak up more of the light that is available.

View the video underneath to find out about succulents that can survive in cold temperatures!

Designing with Sempervivums

Discover how to create a resilient succulent garden with this tutorial!

It is evident that Sempervivums are an amazing range of succulents. Given that most areas of the world don’t provide favorable conditions for delicate succulents, Semps are an ideal choice for outdoor cultivation throughout the year, no matter the climate.

For assistance in distinguishing Sempervivum varieties, Jacki from Drought Smart Plants has created a useful guidebook.

If you’re looking to start or expand your Sempervivums collection, check out Mountain Crest Gardens! They have a great selection of cold hardy plants that you’ll love.


How cold hardy are hen and chicks?

Hens and chicks require very little maintenance and can be grown in tiny, shallow containers. They tolerate even the harshest of climates, surviving temperatures as low as -35 F in zone three and extreme heat in zone eight. They are also very drought and neglect resistant.

What temperature is too cold for succulents?

Soft succulents need a minimum temperature of 32 degrees F, but 40 degrees and up is ideal. Freezing temperatures are too cold for these plants and can cause their plump leaves to freeze and rot.

How do you take care of Sempervivum in the winter?

Most of the time, your sedum and sempervivum don’t need any additional winter care. The best way to protect them is by ensuring that the soil they are planted in has good drainage, they get plenty of sunlight, and an inert mulch (such as a plant blanket or plastic) is used.

Are hens and chicks hardy in Zone 5?

Hens and chicks (Sempervivum tectorum) can tolerate temperatures as low as zone 3 and as high as zone 8.

Can Sempervivum survive winter?

These three genera—Sempervivum, Hardy Sedum, and Hardy Opuntia—are capable of enduring temperatures as low as -30F, making them highly tolerant of freezing winter weather.