Sempervivum, commonly known as hens and chicks, is a favorite for adding texture and pattern to the garden. The plant forms rosettes of succulent, green leaves that look like some sort of desert flower. A hens and chicks plant will produce miniature versions of itself, which are the “chicks.” Over time it spreads into a low growing mat of rosettes.
It is not uncommon for the rosettes to bloom. It just takes a year or two for it to happen. The rosette will grow taller in the center and then flowers will appear. It looks somewhat like bolting lettuce and usually happens in summer.
Bloom production signals the end of the rosette because it will die soon after, but there should be plenty of chicks to take its place.
In spite of their cactus-like appearance sempervivums are alpine plants. There are about 40 species of this evergreen perennial. Native to the mountains of southern Europe and Asia they prefer arid conditions. Plant them in full sun in a gritty, well-drained soil. Water when dry.
Sempervivums are quite cold tolerant. Some species such as S. tectorum will survive as far north as zone 4, just avoid excessive winter moisture. If you live in a hot climate, plant them in an area that will receive protection for the afternoon sun.