Droopy Drawers Sempervivum
I've noticed that some of my Sempervivum (hens and chicks), even when the plant appears healthy, with glossy and plump leaves, seem to droop on the lower layers.
After I dig them up, sometimes they have a lot of dead leaves clinging on to the thick root (caudex). Why do they do this, and is it a bad thing?
Drought Smart Plants reply:
My theory about this is that the lower leaves will droop to the soil surface for two reasons.
As this happens mostly when the soil is wet, in early spring, I think it is to pry the crown of the plant up off the soil, to get better drainage around it, and also as the leaves are pointing away from the crown, this will drain heavy rains away from the base of the plant, like the roof of a house.
I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing on its own, as if the rest of the plant is healthy it probably can resist any damage.
However, if your plants do this and also look sickly, I would take steps to dry out the area by digging up the plants, adding some good drainage material such as lava rock or even gravel, and then put the plants over top of that. The extra layer of drainage will eliminate standing water from around the base of the plants.
Root damage from excessively sodden soil will cause a lot of plant death in many hardy succulent plants. Luckily, they seem to have the ability to shrug off most short term wet conditions. The dead leaves that appear are a normal part of the aging process. You can peel these off if they seem to be rotting.
Providing some extra drainage to the soil will also prevent root damage from frost during the winter.
In some cases, the roots can be completely rotted away by the time warm weather arrives from the constant heaving caused by alternate freezing and thawing. Luckily, hens and chicks, along with other hardy succulents, have the ability to make a whole new root system and replace the ones lost to damage or rot.
The key is to observe your Sempervivum and other hardy succulents, especially before growth starts in the spring, and if there is excessive spring rain to take action if trouble appears.