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Hen and Chicks?

You Can Grow That!

Hens and Chicks

I spent a dollar to buy two Hen and Chicks plants at a yard sale in autumn. With snow predicted, I “heeled in” the plants in my vegetable bed. When the snow finally melted in March, I found this little family looking healthy and ready for action. Eventually, these will find a home in a rock garden I plan to build where the compost heap now rests.

I’ve been a sucker for succulents since I grew a jungle in my bedroom during my high school years. So, despite my garden’s intense focus on food plants, I’ve mused for a long time about establishing a succulent garden in my yard. Near the end of last year, I was working specifically toward that end: I had packed several carloads of rocks back from my brother’s farm to use in building a rock garden that would host a variety of cold-hardy succulents.

One afternoon in late autumn, I stopped at a yard sale. There, the only items that interested me were foam coffee cups planted with Hens and Chicks. Each cup had a price of fifty cents—lower than I’ve seen nursery plants discounted at the end of the season. I bought two. I hope my experiences with them so far inspire you.

No Garden Yet

By the time it got too cold to garden, I’d not yet prepared my new planting bed. I had enough rocks stacked on the driveway, but I needed to move the compost heap and it became too unpleasant outside for me to feel motivated.

Hens and Chicks Hedge Row

To emphasize the certainty that you can grow Hens and Chicks, I captured this photo of a border along a sidewalk in Toronto. Toronto is well north of me and they experienced as punishing a winter as ours. However, by early March, snow had melted off and revealed this healthy-looking planting bed. Hens and Chicks have crowded the bed enough that it could benefit from thinning—a procedure the harsh winter failed to accomplish.

I didn’t want my Hens and Chicks—along with several other succulents I’d acquired—to spend winter outdoors in pots. And, there was no way I’d try to keep them growing indoors under lights. So, I decided to “heel in” the plants at one end of the vegetable bed.

Heeling in means planting a seedling poorly; without commitment. You can dig a shallow hole or find a bare patch of soil, lay the roots of the plant against the soil, and then cover the roots with more soil. I’ve seen young fruit trees heeled in while they were all but lying flat on the ground.

In any case, I heeled in the Hen and Chicks plants along with close to a dozen other succulents I’d bought at a garden center at “we don’t want these anymore” prices. Winter happened.

It was an impressive winter! We had more than a month where temperatures never rose out of the teens, and we had many, many days near and below zero. We also had snow, which is a blessing. Snow covered the garden continuously for several months and provided some relief from the cold for perennials.

Finally, Thaw

A rule of thumb for central Pennsylvania is to plant peas on St Patrick’s Day. Usually by mid-February daffodils are at least sprouting and by March warm days beckon us to garden. This year St Patrick’s Day came and went and we got to April 1st before there was any real beckoning.

Hen and Chicks Chick

A chick must have broken off one of the potted plants when I heeled it in last autumn. Under snow at seriously frigid temperatures, the little plant managed to drop roots into the soil. It looked perfect when the snow melted, and it will look just fine in its new home when I get the rock garden assembled.

But look at the photos! Hens and Chicks are very well, thank you. The two plants I heeled in are healthy and ready to move. What’s more, a small “chick” that must have broken off last fall had rooted where it lay despite the cold and snow!

To reinforce the point, I’ve included a photo of a border along a yard in Toronto. I visited Toronto in early March—at least one hardiness zone farther north than central PA. In the city, snow had melted, and that dense growth of Hens and Chicks made a dramatic in-your-face, winter, statement.

If you have any doubts about succeeding with gardening, try growing a Hen and Chicks plant. If a small piece of this plant can break off and root itself during a miserably cold winter, I feel safe to suggest: you can grow that!

Follow this link for more You Can Grow That posts.

 
http://www.smallkitchengarden.net/you-can-grow-that/hen-and-chicks

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6 Responses to “Hen and Chicks?”

  • Mel:

    Thanks for de-mystifying succulents. I had no idea that they were so easy. I’m going to order some seeds online – I expect them to be a bit more work than this, but I’ve gotten confidence from your article. If just one seedling makes it, I expect I’ll be able to get me some cuttings.

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Mel – Thank you for your comment. I hope it goes without saying: make sure you select succulents that are cold-hardy in your area. I’ve been amazed at some succulents and cactus; prickly pear, for example, can wither flat during winter, shiver under the snow, and bounce back strong in spring. There are many succulents, however, that won’t survive frost. Good luck! I’ll post photos of the new rock garden once it progresses beyond my thoughts.

  • Mel:

    Oops, I did not mention: I’m from the Caribbean, I’ve never seen snow. I’ve only ever seen succulents in Garden Centres under shade cloth, except for aloe, which almost everyone has in their yards (in the shade or part shade) – when you need an aloe plant a neighbour will usually dig up a whole plantlet for you. Growing from cuttings and seed is a bit unheard of.

  • I love succulents! Thanks for “de-mystifying” them as Mel said. I love how easy succulents are! Plus they look absolutely gorgeous! Great post! I enjoyed reading this a lot!

  • Succulents are really amazing! Basically I love them in glass containers. Never knew that they are so easy to grow and taken care of. The way you have represented them is gorgeous. Just read your post. Really a great one!

  • Daniel Gasteiger:

    Nowshin – I should do a followup post about my heeled-in succulents. Haven’t yet had time to build the rock garden, so there’s a gorgeous succulent patch in my vegetable bed. Once the summer veggies are all planted (just beans and a few more sweet pepper plants to set out), I’ll finally get to work on the new ornamental bed! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment.

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