Flowers on Hens and Chicks

Hens and chicks aren’t known for their flowers. Many people are unaware that these succulents even produce flowers. When summer hits it can be startling to see a familiar plant begin to grow in such an unfamiliar way. Don’t worry, you haven’t done anything wrong, it’s just part of the natural life cycle of the plant.
Flowering Hens and ChicksA rosette is the typical form of hen and chick plants. When the center of that rosette starts to grow upwards then you know it’s the beginning of the end. The center of the plant pushes up and up and up as it turns into a flower stalk. Finally the leaves on the end of the stalk will peel back to reveal a cluster of buds. Those buds will bloom into pink flowers.

Hen and Chick Plant Begins Flower Stalk

When the center of the plant begins to grow upwards, the plant is going to bloom.

Hen and Chick Grows Upwards

The plant begins to look odd as the center rises in a cone.

Once the flower stalk starts to push up, you really don’t know when it will stop. It could grow an inch, or more than a foot. Small rosettes can disappear and become a stalk rising straight out of the ground. Larger hens and chick varieties don’t necessarily produce longer flower stalks. However your sempervivum bloom, it’s always surprising to see the long flower stalks on such small plants.

Tall Sempervivum Flower Stalk

Small hen & chicken varieties can grow very long flower stalks.

Short Blooming Succulent

Flower stalks on hens and chicks can be very short as well as very long.

Sempervivum flowers are dainty star shaped things. The flowers of different varieties can have very subtle differences. Blooms are typically pink, but can also be red, pale yellow, or white. Up close the flowers of hens and chickens are actually very intricate and pretty.

Hens and Chicks Flower

Pink flowers on Sempervivum Succulent

White Flowers on Hardy Succulent

White flowers on Sempervivum Succulent

Despite the pretty flowers, it can be sad to see these succulents bloom. Hens and Chickens are monocarpic plants. This means that they flower, seed and then die. So, you will only see blooms on each plant once.

Sempervivum Flower Cluster

Monocarpic plants like Sempervivum bloom and then die.

The real name for hens and chicks is Sempervivum. Semper is latin for always and vivum means alive. Well, why would the name of a plant that dies after flowering once mean “always alive” or “live forever?” It’s because they don’t typically flower for several years. Sometimes a plant will grow for 4 years or more without flowering. During those years of growing the plant continues to produce offsets. Once a plant does die it has usually produced many, many offsets to replace it, giving the appearance that it lives forever.

Hens and chicks don’t always wait several years to bloom. Overcrowding or stress can cause the plants to bloom early. Some varieties of hens and chicks are more prone to bloom under poor conditions. Basically the plant is saying, “I don’t like where I’m at. I’ll throw out some seed to hopefully find a better place to grow.” We once planted some hen and chicks under a tree. Apparently it was too shady for them and in the summer almost every plant bloomed, even the babies.

Blooming Hen and Chicks

This hen and all of it’s chicks bloom from stress, not due to the typical life cycle.

Some varieties of monocarpic plants can be prevented from dying by removing the blooms. It is typically the production of seed that kills the plants. Sempervivum cannot be saved by doing this. If you cut off the flower stalk as it starts to form, the plant will still die.

Removed Flower Stalk

Cutting the flower stalk off of a sempervivum will not prevent it from dying.

Blooms from Stem

Flower buds can grow out of the stem when the stalk is cut. The plant is determined to flower before dying.

As a side note, echeveria are also commonly called hens and chicks. However, echeveria can produce flowers several times in their lives. They do NOT die after flowering. So, don’t pull out your hen and chick echeveria and throw them away just because they flower. The flower stalks of echeveria are different from sempervivum. It is not the entire center of the plant that grows upwards.

It’s bittersweet to see your sempervivum plants flower. Every succulent gardener/armchair philosopher has speculated on the last unique and showy act of hens and chicks. Some find it sad that there is no way to save the plant as it stretches, becomes ungainly and dies. Others see beauty in the death of a hen & chick plant as it reaches upwards in a burst of color and bids farewell to this world. Choose the view you want to take when you see your hens & chicks bloom.

Buds on Sempervivum

Tip of plant stalk opens up to reveal flower buds.

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45 Comments

  1. Sarah P's Gravatar Sarah P
    August 1, 2012    

    I was wondering what was going on with my hen and chicks. Thanks for this explanation.

  2. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    October 13, 2012    

    Yes, such great information, so well written. thanks for posting.

  3. Lindsay's Gravatar Lindsay
    February 3, 2013    

    Thank you for this thorough and informative post! I do have one question:

    Can a new sempervivum plant be grown from the seeds of the flower of does a new pland only begin when a ‘chick’ sprouts off of a ‘hen’?

    I have saved dried blooms from both an sempervivum and an echeveria and am curious.

    Thanks!

    • February 5, 2013    

      The sempervivum and echeveria flowers do produce seeds and you can grow plants from those seeds. Typically the “chick sprouts” will be more true to the variety of the parent plant, however, many people enjoy growing these succulents from seeds. They are tiny, like specks of dust. Follow typical semp seed planting instructions and you should be fine, though.

  4. cribbs's Gravatar cribbs
    May 5, 2013    

    My hens are flowering from the side what does this mean

    • Mike Worthington's Gravatar Mike Worthington
      July 1, 2014    

      its not a flower,,,,that is a baby or offset as they have called it above

  5. angela's Gravatar angela
    June 6, 2013    

    I have two hen and chickI bought last year together one is lite green and the other is a darker green with purple tips I call them mom and daddy the lite green one has babies this year but the other one is just getting bigger what does this mean.

    • Mike Worthington's Gravatar Mike Worthington
      July 1, 2014    

      they change color in the sun i have had pots of them for 20 years now and they just keep multiplying and growing in all weather…extreme drought, frozen in ice under 3 feet of snow…just keep them watered !!!

  6. Cindy's Gravatar Cindy
    June 12, 2013    

    I have 3 pots of hens & chicks and they are several years old. A week ago we noticed the cone shaped stalk rising up from each of the pots! I’ve never seen them flower before. What’s the odds of all 3 blooming at once? Will the rest that are in the pot be okay?

    • June 20, 2013    

      No one is exactly sure what triggers the blooming process with hens and chicks. However, besides age, some varieties also tend to bloom when stressed. If this is the case then it is very likely for all 3 of your pots to bloom at the same time. We see entire batches of them bloom at the same time.

  7. Jackie's Gravatar Jackie
    June 18, 2013    

    Txs was wondering to what was going on with my hens and chicks I have them growing around a rose bush so thought something crazy was going, so excited to see what color it blooms.

  8. Sally Tracey's Gravatar Sally Tracey
    July 3, 2013    

    Thanks so much for the information. I have a small pot of hen and chicks that had 6 or 8 flower this year on very long stalks. I think it is the 3rd year I’ve had it. Does that mean all of these will die? They’re pretty, but look very strange. I tried pasting the picture, but looks like it only pasted a non-working link.

  9. Cecile Mack's Gravatar Cecile Mack
    July 7, 2013    

    I inherited 2 potted hens and chicks over 10 years ago. One of them are starting to flower. Will this kill all the plants in this over crowded planter? And if so would planting it in the ground save the rest of the plants? Foryyears it has sent out little chicks that have dangled of the side of the container, and they die off each year, but the main container always seemed ok.

    • July 8, 2013    

      Only the plants that flower will die. It is their way of making one last effort at reproducing. Transplanting your planter into the ground at this point isn’t going to stop the flowering process.

  10. MJ Ounan's Gravatar MJ Ounan
    July 8, 2013    

    Thank you for the explanation – I thought I’d done something wrong when I transplanted a bunch of “hens.” My mother-in-law had a trough of hens and chicks that was forgotten from year to year (she passed away over 5 years ago). We never watered it, it stayed outside in the winter. This spring I finally broke it all apart – ended up with 13 containers! Even gave some away. Two of the hens (different containers) sprouted these stalks and I’ve been wondering what the heck they were doing. One of the stalks is more than a foot long (the hen is about 6 inches across) and they both seem to grow longer overnight. Sad to know these two hens will be gone soon, but they are leaving many babies behind.

  11. Linda's Gravatar Linda
    July 12, 2013    

    Thank you for the info and insights. I planted in a ‘boot’ one hen and chick about three years, this year one one of the hanging chicks is sprouting and will be flowering from what your article says. Now my question is this, I leave it out in the winter in Western New York, it gets full of snow yet has come back and grown year after year are they supposed to be brought in and not be exposed to the harsh winters in zone 5?

    • July 12, 2013    

      Hens and chicks, or sempervivum, are originally from regions like the Alps and other mountain ranges. They are designed to survive in cold, harsh environments. Zone 5 is not a problem. If they are covered in snow, so much the better. The snow actually acts as a protective blanket, insulating the plant from winds and super cold air.

  12. Dennis's Gravatar Dennis
    July 18, 2013    

    Thank you for this very enlightening article. Apparently many in our region are seeing this in July 2013. A lot of my friends commented that their plants are doing the same and none of us knew why.

  13. July 19, 2013    

    Still confused. I have numerous H&Ck’s, most about 12″ in diameter. Many have the stalk, and some have flowered. When you say the plant will die, do you mean only the small part around that which is growing a stalk, or the whole 12″ cluster contained in “one” group/plant? Thank you! I had no idea what was going with the production of the long stalks.

    • July 23, 2013    

      When you say that your hens and chicks are 12″ in diameter it makes me think that they are echeveria plants and not sempervivum (both are commonly called hens and chicks). Although, it is possible for sempervivum to grow that large. Echeveria do NOT die after they flower. If you aren’t sure what you have, best to let it be and see if it survives.

  14. Karen's Gravatar Karen
    July 23, 2013    

    I echo the sentiments of the other posts. Thank you, T. Lander, for this timely information. I, too, have never seen the long stalks before and now know I can cut them off without consequences because the main plant will die anyway. It’s looking like an alien plant with the stalks flopping down now so I’ll just tidy it up and feel comforted in knowing the babies should live on. I am in Michigan, by the way.

  15. Kelly's Gravatar Kelly
    July 23, 2013    

    The flower stem on mine got broken so I put it in a vase of water. Will it still bloom and what do you do with blooms afterwards? Anything?

  16. May Barrell's Gravatar May Barrell
    August 7, 2013    

    Great information! Learned a lot from your thorough explanation. Thank you.

    My question: The hens & chicks I have are in a large clay strawberry planter and appear to be quite happy. However, the pot was recently severely damaged, and needs to be replaced What are the pros and cons of a clay planter vs. a plastic one. Both types are available in the same size and I was wondering which type would be preferable for the plants. I live in North Carolina, and where the pot is located happens to get a lot of sun, both winter and summer.

    • August 15, 2013    

      Hens and chicks aren’t very picky. They will grow fine in both a plastic or clay planter. Plastic planters typically don’t offer as much insulation as ceramic. Dark plastic pots will heat up the material inside faster, which can be hard on plants.

  17. Karen H's Gravatar Karen H
    August 12, 2013    

    Thank you for this timely and extensive information! I’d never seen H&C do this before, so like many others who have posted, I was baffled. I’ve taken some lovely pictures of the flowers (about 10″ stalks), but now am sad to realize that I won’t get to take any more next summer…but there are chicks around the main hens that will live on, and one day bloom, also. I’m in Indiana, and the H&Cs have survived 3 winters.

  18. Melissa's Gravatar Melissa
    August 26, 2013    

    I have a question I have h/c in pots in my backyard and they have millions aunts living in the. shatters can i do to get rid of them?????!HELP

    • Emily's Gravatar Emily
      July 15, 2014    

      Sprinkle corn meal on the plant. Ants take it home, eat it, and die.

  19. Liz's Gravatar Liz
    August 28, 2013    

    I have a hen and chick I planted this year. It has a vine spreading out from it like a ground cover. I have never seen this before on this type of plant. Will you tell me what it is and how long will it live?

  20. October 13, 2013    

    my mother in law has some hens and chickens none of them are real big like some of you guys are talking on here lol.. my question is she gave me 3 like flower things they don’t have blooms or anything there just a darker green starting to get red tips… what do I have will these make more?

  21. October 25, 2013    

    Can I plant these plants in the ground? I live in north Iowa, don’t have room to bring them in. Will these live thru the winter?

    • Mike Worthington's Gravatar Mike Worthington
      July 1, 2014    

      yes…i live in Indiana and left them outside where they were incased in ice under 3 feet of snow…still doing fine !!!

  22. Donna's Gravatar Donna
    June 25, 2014    

    Oh I am glad I found this info ! I was’nt sure if you needed to trim them back or what ..Oh I am sad now to know they are dying :( I usually put mine in containers ..So I wondered If I did something wrong Well I will replace it after it blooms and looks dead I guess… Thank you for the info .! Love hens n chicks and other succulents!

  23. Mike Worthington's Gravatar Mike Worthington
    July 1, 2014    

    the bloom is called a rooster as it grows…they failed to mention that

  24. July 4, 2014    

    So grateful to get this information…..new to chicks and hens and have had a plant for only 2 years. Seemed to be struggling right from the get go and now is growing extremely tall stalks. Sad to know the flowering is the beginning of the end. Certainly have learned some things for my next plant. I enjoy them too much to give up.

  25. Frann's Gravatar Frann
    July 9, 2014    

    Thanks for this info. I was baffled as to what was going on with my plants.

  26. Sandra Gardner's Gravatar Sandra Gardner
    July 14, 2014    

    My hen and chicks looked like they were dying and now they are blooming and are so pretty, didn’t know until reading on here that that meant they are getting ready to die, now I’m sad about losing them, this is just the second year I’ve had these, my son gave me a pot of them for Mother’s Day. Mine are beautiful.

  27. Linda Stocke's Gravatar Linda Stocke
    July 17, 2014    

    I love my H & Cs but how do I plant the babies? I tried to take them off the planter and put them in the ground where others used to be but with little success. Now that I know what the flower means (mine is about 12 inches tall) I am sad to see it go. Mine are in a tall planter so when the winter comes (Chicago) should I place the entire planter into the ground or just shelter it like I do my roses? I usually just surround my roses by mulch and leaves and they are beautiful. Thanks for letting me know about the flowers though… great information.

  28. Zachary's Gravatar Zachary
    July 18, 2014    

    This is great information! I have a H&C that has a long stalk like you describe. It has little buds on the top. Forgive me if you’ve answered this already, but can I take those buds and replant them elsewhere before they bloom? I would love to spread this plant out so it can keep on going!

    Thanks!

    • July 18, 2014    

      Those little buds on top of the stalk are flower buds. If you pick them off and plant them elsewhere they will not grow into a plant like a “chick” would.

  29. Sharyn Winters's Gravatar Sharyn Winters
    July 18, 2014    

    When these blooms have finished, do you just pull out the mother
    plant?

    • July 18, 2014    

      Pull out the mother plant to keep the cleanest look. If you leave the mother plant it will just wither and rot away.

  30. Jim Brown, Kennebunk, Maine's Gravatar Jim Brown, Kennebunk, Maine
    July 25, 2014    

    My chicks and hens have been in my garden for 18 years, transplanted from another garden where they had probably been for 40 years.
    They began blooming for the first time, 3 years ago. Of note is that my Chicks and Hens have become incredible as ground cover. While some individual rosettes do die on ocassion, I do not see any participular rosettes dying as a result of the blooms, which I cut off when they have passed. The masses of the chicks and hens only grows, covering more and more ground each year. Transplanting loosened rosettes directly into soil in a new location in the garden starts a new area of ground cover. This has become one of my favorites in my perennial garden.

  31. lea romsaas's Gravatar lea romsaas
    August 23, 2014    

    I have my plants in very small pots outside one has flowered and now will that part just die off?
    can i transplant now before winter?
    Can i put in large pot and bring in over winter months or just transplant outside?

    • August 24, 2014    

      Fall is a great time to transplant. The entire plant that flowered will die, not just the bloom stalk.

  32. October 28, 2014    

    Very informative post – thank you!! Had one of my sempervivums flower this summer, and was amazed by the blooms.

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