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Sempervivum tectorum - L.

Common Name Houseleek, Common houseleek, Hen and Chickens
Family Crassulaceae
USDA hardiness 5-10
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Roofs, old walls, chimneys and rocks, especially on limestone[9].
Range Original habitat is obscure but the plant is naturalized in Britain.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Sempervivum tectorum Houseleek, Common houseleek, Hen and Chickens
Sempervivum tectorum Houseleek, Common houseleek, Hen and Chickens


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Bloom Color: Pink, Purple, Red. Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late summer, Mid summer. Form: Rounded.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Sempervivum tectorum is an evergreen Perennial growing to 0.2 m (0ft 8in) by 0.2 m (0ft 8in) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to July, and the seeds ripen from July to August. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



 Cultivated Beds; East Wall. In. South Wall. In. West Wall. In.

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Drink

Young leaves and shoots - raw[9]. They can be eaten in salads[9]. The juice of the leaves is used as a refreshing drink[105, 177].


Medicinal Uses

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Antidiarrhoeal  Antipruritic  Astringent  Diuretic  Odontalgic  Refrigerant  Stings  Vulnerary  

Houseleek leaves and their juice are used for their cooling and astringent effect, being applied externally to soothe many skin conditions. As with many other remedies that are both astringent and soothing, houseleek simultaneously tightens and softens the skin. The fresh leaves are astringent, diuretic, odontalgic, refrigerant and vulnerary[4, 9, 13, 21, 46, 61]. They are used as a poultice in much the same way as Aloe vera in the treatment of a wide range of skin diseases, burns, scalds, bites and stings etc and have also been used to get rid of warts and corns[4, 200, 238, 257]. The plant is also sometimes used internally in the treatment of shingles, skin complaints and haemorrhoids, though some care is required since in excess the plant is emetic and purgative[238]. The leaves are harvested as required and used fresh[238].


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Other Uses

None known

Special Uses


Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Alpine garden, Container, Ground cover, Rock garden. Prefers a well-drained gritty soil in full sun[200]. Succeeds in any sandy soil[1], doing well in very little soil in rock crevices, walls, paths etc so long as there is sufficient humus[200]. Established plants are very drought tolerant[4, 200] and dislike winter wet[200]. One of the many common names for this plant is rather interesting, but was too long to put in the common name entry earlier in this record. It is 'Welcome home husband, however drunk you be'. The plant is sometimes planted in thatched roofs since it is supposed to give protection against lightning, thunderbolts and fire to any house that it grows on[100]. It is also said to preserve the thatch[4, 115]. There is some justification to this belief because the leaves contain a great deal of water and do not burn easily - if there are many of the plants growing on the roof then they will tend to put out the fire before it can take hold properly. Individual rosettes die after flowering, but usually produce a number of offsets that continue to grow[188]. A polymorphic species, it is divided into a number of sub-species by some botanists[200]. Special Features: Attractive foliage, Edible, Not North American native.


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Seed - surface sow in early spring in a cold frame. It usually germinates in 2 - 6 weeks at 10°c. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer if they have made sufficient growth, otherwise grow them on for a further year in pots before planting them out[K]. Division of offsets in spring or early summer. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer. Plants can also be divided in September but these divisions should be overwintered in a greenhouse. Stem cuttings.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Sempervivum arachnoideumCobweb HouseleekPerennial0.1 4-8  LMNDM02 
Sempervivum caucasicum Perennial0.2 5-9  LMNDM10 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

David Beaulieu   Sat Oct 28 2006

Sempervivum tectorum is an interesting little plant, not least of all because of the history behind its name.

Sempervivum Tectorum: Hen-and-Chickens Introduction to Sempervivum tectorum, including pictures, history and use in the landscape.

david   Fri Jul 31 2009

Perhaps it will grow in the shade too.... according to the book 'A Garden of Old Fashioned and Unusual Herbs'( by Painter & Power) in damp shady conditions it grows more open and greener in colour

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