Houseleek – Sempervivum

Colourful foliage and spikes of flowers. The houseleek is an attractive, hardy plant which has dense rosettes of bright green, pink, purple or bronze leaves. It looks particularly attractive grown in a rock garden or on a dry wall.

ANNUAL CALENDAR

SPRING

March-April:

Lift and divide mature plants.

Remove the offsets which appear around the leaf rosettes and plant them as separate plants. Sow seeds in March.

SUMMER

June-August:

Plants flower.

Remove flower spikes as soon as blooms fade and feed once or twice at this time with well-diluted foliar feed. Give container plants slow-release fertilizer.

AUTUMN

September-November:

Late varieties finish flowering. Plant out seedlings. Lift and divide mature plants. Plant offsets in pots. Overwinter them in a light, frost-free place.

WINTER

December-February:

Spread a layer of gravel beneath the leaf rosettes to help prevent rot caused by damp weather.

Growing from seed

It is fairly easy to grow the houseleek yourself from seed. Commercial packets of seed often contain several varieties which will produce a display of plants with differently coloured leaves.

March is the best time to sow the seeds. Sow them into boxes containing soil-based seed compost. Keep the seeds at 18°C until they germinate. This will take from two to six weeks, depending on the variety you have chosen. Move the seedlings when they are large enough to handle, transplanting them into pots of soil-based compost. Reduce the temperature and allow them to grow in a cool, frost-free position. You can move the young plants into their permanent position in the garden during September.

DRAINAGE FOR CONTAINERS

When planting the houseleek in a container, make sure that there are plenty of drainage holes. Place a thick drainage layer of broken terracotta pots at the bottom of the container before planting. Cover this with a potting mixture made from equal parts of soil-based compost and grit.

POPULAR VARIETIES

The common houseleek

Sempervivum teclorum, has, bright green leaves, each, 8cm across. Each leaf has a, maroon tip and the rose-, purple flowers appear in,

July. S. ‘Commander Hay’, has large rosettes of, reddish-purple leaves, tipped with green

The cobweb houseleek

S. arachnoideum, produces, rosettes of green leaves often flushed with pink, which are covered with white hairs. The rosettes are only 4cm across. Spikes of bright rose-red flowers appear in June and July.

Jovibarba sobolifera is called the hen and chickens houseleek after its habit of producing small offsets which detach themselves from the parent plant and rapidly take root. It has bright green leaves and yellow, bell-shaped flowers

The houseleek’s Latin name, Sempervivum, means ‘always alive’ and this plant is exceptionally hardy even at low temperatures and in frost.

The houseleek is a popular, low-growing, evergreen plant for containers, rock gardens and dry-stone walls. In some countries, the houseleek is said to bring luck and a container of the plant is kept next to the house door.

Colourful leaves and flowers

The houseleek has thick, fleshy leaves which form neat rosettes 2.5-8cm across. The rosettes grow very closely together, making dense clumps or mats of foliage.

The leaves vary from bright green to a reddish-purple colour, and are often tipped with a contrasting shade such as brown. Some varieties have silver-grey leaves. The leaf colours will be noticeably stronger if the houseleek is grown in direct sunlight.

The houseleek’s flowers grow from June through to September, depending on the variety. The flowers are star or bell shaped and grow on spikes held high above the leaves. The flowers vary in colour from yellow to red and purple.

Easy to grow

The houseleek thrives equally well in a tub, on a dry-stone wall or in a rock garden. It is easy to increase by division or by planting offsets in spring or autumn, and you can also grow it from seed. Plants are available year round from nurseries and garden centres. When choosing a plant, check the leaves for rot and select a specimen with healthy, strongly coloured leaves.

Do not plant the houseleek in a damp spot. It has no special soil requirements, but well-drained soil is best. When planting in a container, use a potting mixture of soil-based compost with grit added. Water the plant regularly in the growing season, but let the compost dry out slightly between waterings. Repot container-grown plants every two to three years or when the leaf rosettes cover the surface of the compost.

Houseleek

SITUATION

Likes a sunny position. Leaves will be much paler if not grown in full sun, and may die off.

SOIL

No special requirements, but ensure that soil is well drained to avoid rot damage to the rosettes. Add grit to container compost.

CARE

Requires little care apart from the application of fertilizer once or twice during the growing season.

A mixed planting of several houseleek varieties makes a colourful, long-lasting display.

PLANT HEALTH

The rosettes are often uprooted by birds, especially when newly planted. If this happens, push the rosettes back into the soil as soon as possible. If birds persist, spread fruit netting over the plants until roots are well established.

Powdery orange marks on the leaves are caused by rust. Remove diseased leaves and spray the plant with a suitable fungicide.

IMPORTANT

It is important to grow the houseleek in well-drained soil. During wet, cold weather, spread a layer of gravel beneath the leaf rosettes to keep them away from the damp soil.

Sorry, comments are closed for this post.