Versatile hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp.) work in all sorts of containers. Surprisingly hardy, they grow outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 9 but you should cover them if a protracted or heavy frost is on the way. With their attractive rosette shapes, some with burgundy-tipped leaves, hens and chicks look good either planted on their own or grouped with other succulents that also like full sun.
Tips For All Containers
Like all succulents and cacti, hens and chicks need well-draining soil whether you plant them in the ground or in containers. Buy soil prepared for succulents or add enough coarse sand or pumice to your soil so that it falls apart loosely in you hand when you try to squeeze together a moist ball. Hens and chicks don't need fertilizer and tolerate both drought and poor soil, but they will develop root rot if you overwater. Water your container plants when you first plant them, but then water only when the soil is dry. Let the water run through the pot when you water. Always use containers that have drainage holes.
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Containers in the shape of flat bowls or small troughs mirror the small size of hens and chicks and allow the plants to take center stage. Group the plants in the containers, mixing different varieties or staying with a single type, and set the containers on an outside table or wall where you can see them easily. Or, plant an assortment of hens and chickens in a picture frame with the soil held in by a mesh screen and hang the living picture on your deck or patio.
Plant a single plant in a tall container with a narrow opening or include other succulents with similar water and soil needs. Include plants with contrasting growth habits, such as a feathery, taller-growing "Angelina" stonecrop (Sedum rupestre "Angelina"), which grows in USDA zones 3 through 11, to rise above the hens and chicks, and add a draping or low-growing succulent such as a carpet stonecrop (Sedum lineare) in USDA zones 6 through 9.
Cinder Blocks and Rocks
Hens and chicks grow naturally in the rocky, mountainous regions of southern Europe, so any container that mimics their native stone environment works well. Use cement cinder blocks planted with small groupings of hens and chicks as edging containers for a retaining wall or garden bed. Or find a large rock with several small crevices to tuck in single, small plants and place the container at the edge of your patio.