Those Underused and Under Appreciated Hardy Succulents

Jovibarba are sometimes called the 'other' hens and chicks. They are very similar in appearance and culture to the closely related Sempervivum as they both resemble a rose in form; the most obvious difference is the way the 'chicks' form.

Jovibarba species cuddling together in a trough...

Only three species are accepted as distinct by the Flora Europaea:

  • Jovibarba globifera (syn. J. sobolifera; Sempervivum globiferum) 
  • Jovibarba heuffelii (syn. J. velenovskyi; Sempervivum heuffelii) 
  • Jovibarba hirta (syn. Sempervivum hirtum)

Jovibarba globifera and its subspecies (subsp. hirtum, subsp. allionii, subsp. arenaria) originate in the eastern and southern Alps, the Carpathians and the western Balkans south to northern Albania.

Jovibarba heuffelii occurs in the remainder of the Balkans and the eastern Carpathians, southeast of Jovibarba globifera.

Jovibarba hirta occurs further west, in the southwestern Alps.

Jovibarba species

Apparently, just to add to the confusion the Jovibarba have now been returned to their original genus of Sempervivum.

As is customary with the naming of plants, both names will be in general use.

Sempervivum chicks are attached under the hen rosette, but many Jovibarba species such as allionii, sobolifera and hirta hold them over top of the adult plant on delicate brittle stems which break easily, making it possible for the chick, or 'propagule', to roll away to find a place to root, giving rise to their other name of 'rollers'.

Learn more about how to grow Jovibarba species here.

Height: 5cm or 2-3"

Spread: per rosette, 6cm or 3-4", but they form a considerable colony, sometimes over a meter or one yard across.

USDA Zone: Zone 3

CFIA Zone: Zone 2A

Growth rate: moderate

Jovibarba heuffelii are another thing entirely, splitting the crown of each rosette into two or more new crowns.

They must be surgically separated to form new plants, and as a consequence tend to be more expensive. The texture of a carpet of the sturdy rosettes, each with a 'confused center' just like an old rose variety is so intriguing. 

They come in all colors, ranging from palest taupe, to aqua with darker tips and edges, to bright apple green and mahogany.

Find out all about how to grow Jovibarba heuffelii with details about propagating them.

The other major difference between Sempervivum and Jovibarba is that the flowers are tiny downward or outward facing bells rather than upturned star shaped blooms.

Jovibarba heuffelii flower
Jovibarba heuffelii splitting at the crown to form new plants

After the bloom has finished, the rosette dies. This is called 'monocarpic' or once-blooming.

Seed propagation is one way to get lots of new plants - collect the drying seed pods after the plant flowers and place them in a paper bag, or seek out seeds online from specialty seed houses.

Interesting ways to use Jovibarba

Plant among the stones in a rock retaining wall, or as succulent groundcovers in your xeric garden in a tapestry bed.

Rock gardens and crevice gardens are fabulous planted with a single species or a mix of the many varied forms of these fascinating plants.

As they spread, the textures and colours become more and more beautiful, like an antique quilt.

If you're patient enough to wait until you have enough, succulent wreaths or succulent mosaics are fantastic ways to grow them to show off their many colours and forms. Jovibarba are gorgeous planted in a trough garden which suits their preference for excellent drainage.

Jovibarba, along with other succulents in a wheelbarrow gives a fresh and cheeky look to your garden display and keeps these precious jewels up out of harms way.

10 Best Hardy Succulents for Landscaping

See more compatible hardy succulents for your xeriscaping:

Whether you're seeking the odd and unusual, or something reliable and classic, this list will give you some great choices; click on the plant:

I make succulent spheres, and Jovibarba globes to display these interesting and versatile succulents, as well as planting them in hypertufa pinch pots and other hypertufa creations.

All these species are little known except to collectors, but I'd like to change that as I'm fascinated by the form and tenacity of these drought smart plants.

Maybe you feel the same way and would like to grow some of these unusual, colourful and rare hardy succulents in your xeric garden.

Jovibarba collection in a rustic wheelbarrow