Overcooked or overwatered or what?

by Ericka

Hi... I am a sad little gardener with an admitted non-green thumb.

My mom and grandmother have always had hens and chicks potted in various containers and locations around the house (strawberry jars, at the edge of the woods around tree roots, in a pair of my grandfather's old boots..).

Anyway, I love them but seem to have the most difficult time with them, despite their hardy nature.

I have 4 pots currently. 2 of them are terra cotta strawberry jars.

The bottom layers of my hens and chicks are turning a crispy brown, almost like how leaves turn dry and brittle after falling in autumn.

What could be going on?

I live in KY and we've had a very hot summer with little rain. Given the drought, I have watered them a few times, but sparingly. They are on the south side of my house and go into the shade in the afternoon. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Hi Ericka, it sounds as though your hens are suffering from the heat - this drying out of the lower leaves is a common strategy for dealing with drought, and in healthy plants, generally it doesn't show, as the top growth is larger than the shriveling leaves. This is also a perfectly normal way that these plants grow, so if they're not rotting, simply drying out, that's fine. Without a picture, from your description, this sounds like a normal characteristic.

My personal experience with Sempervivum is that they can take either heat, or bright light, but not both. They tend to look very stressed if this is their situation.

When you say you water sparingly, my advice is to water thoroughly, and then let them dry out. They're happier with a good drink, and then some drought. Don't tease them with a tiny sprinkle.

Depending on what the wall of your house is made of (brick?), this could be causing intense heat to build up and be reflected onto the pot, which as mountain plants, they don't have the evolution to deal with. They would generally always have a cool root run, not too warm.

Hope this helps get your Hens back on track,

Comments for Overcooked or overwatered or what?

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 06, 2012
Thank you
by: Ericka

I will give them a good drink and will move them to the west side of my house. My house is brick, so the comment about it reflecting heat on them was a good point. I guess my hens chicks were getting cooked...between the 95+ degrees that have been typical this summer, the drought, the heat absorption of the terra cotta pit, the heat reflecting off my house, and being in direct sunlight most of the day.

Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.

Hopefully, they'll recover soon, ready for their big fall show - this is when I find they have the most intense colors, as the nights get cooler. Best of luck!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Ask the Horticulturist.