How Often Do Hens and Chicks Need Water? Your Final Guide!
Romans used to claim that hens and chicks, also known as houseleeks, could protect buildings from fire caused by lightning. Today, we know this is due to how much water this succulent stores in its leaves, which doused fires. But despite how hardy they are, hens and chicks still need adequate water to thrive!
Hens and chicks must be watered only when the soil is dry. The plant can be watered as often as twice a month. However, the 1) soil, 2) light, 3) pot, 4) season, and 5) environment will affect how frequently the plant requires water.
Overwatering is the number one cause of death for hens and chicks. But today, I’ll help you avoid this by learning the proper way to water your hens and chicks, the Sempervivum tectorum, and help you get into the flow of things!
The Best Way to Water Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks can be watered once in the morning every 2 weeks. Water the plant thoroughly until water escapes the drainage. Keep in mind that this succulent is drought-resistant and must be watered only when its soil is dry.
Although they can survive a few weeks without water, it’s best to give hens and chicks plants a consistent watering schedule. This will allow them to thrive and produce more chicks or offsets. This is, after all, part of the delight of owning succulents!
To prevent overwatering, water hens and chicks only when the soil is dry. By pushing a skewer to the bottom of the pot, you’ll be able to determine how damp the soil is.
Avoid watering if there is any damp soil clinging to the skewer. It’s important to only water hens and chicks when the stick comes out dry. Providing too much water can suffocate its roots.
Pro Tip: You can tell that your hens and chicks need a drink when their leaves have become thin and pliable, and start drooping.
Drench the soil thoroughly until water drips out of the drainage. Doing so will saturate the roots and ensure the plant is receiving enough moisture.
A good rule of thumb is to water your hen and chicks every 2 weeks. By watering it in the morning, the soil will dry up properly throughout the day and is less likely to become waterlogged.
Hens and chicks are drought-tolerant and can go as long as 2–3 weeks without water.
But just like your other plants, multiple factors can impact how frequently you’ll need to water these succulents. You can find this in the next section, so continue reading!
Learn the difference between Cacti vs Succulents.
5 Factors Affecting How Often You Water Hens and Chicks
The 5 factors that impact how often hens and chicks should be watered are the 1) soil, 2) light, 3) pot, 4) season, and 5) environment. These will also affect how much water they are given every time.
Aside from the plant’s regular watering needs, there are a few factors that you should keep in mind. Hens and chicks are succulents, but if it’s grown outdoors in more than 6 hours of sun in the summer, you might find yourself watering it multiple times a week.
It might be confusing, but just keep reading to understand how these factors affect your hens and chicks!
Soils that are gritty and filled with pumice will drain quickly and become dry faster, requiring more frequent watering. Conversely, soils high in peat or organic matter retain water for longer, needing less frequent watering.
One key factor that has the most impact on how frequently you water your houseleeks is the soil. The type of soil hens and chicks are grown in can determine how often the plant needs water.
You can place your houseleeks outdoors in full sun and only water them once a month. But without fast-draining soil, your plant can still end up sitting in damp soils longer than usual.
Peat-based soils or potting mixes high in organic matter retain moisture longer than grittier mixes. However, sphagnum moss is highly absorbent and tends to hold on to too much water, so it might be best to avoid this substrate.
Cactus soil with perlite or pumice has sharper drainage than the previously mentioned mixes, meaning the water tends to drain faster. As a result, this soil will dry out more quickly.
Hens and chicks kept in low light require less water than hens and chicks grown in 6 hours of full sun. Grown in direct light, the plant will turn red as a sign of sun stress and will need to be watered more frequently.
The amount of light your hen and chicks receive will greatly affect how often it needs water.
Houseleeks in shadier positions with less than 4 hours of direct light may not need as much water as your other plants. Since there is less sun available for photosynthesis, the hens and chicks will not need much water.
On the other hand, if it receives more than 6 hours of full sun, the hens and chicks will require more water to adapt to the generous lighting.
The leaves of the hens and chicks, or Sempervivum tectorum, will turn red when directly placed under sunlight.
Learn more in the 3 Reasons Why Cactus Plants Turn Red.
Be mindful of the season as well. Autumn and winter tend to have noticeably less light than the other seasons, so this may influence the watering needs of the hens and chicks.
You’ll learn more about how your watering sessions depend on the season, so let’s keep going.
Hens and chicks in smaller pots made of terracotta or clay need to be watered more frequently to prevent them from becoming too dry. Plants in large pots, especially ones made of plastic will retain moisture for longer and don’t need water often.
These succulents are usually grown in smaller pots to prevent root rot from excessive moisture.
If you keep your hens and chicks in a large planter, however, water should be given less frequently to avoid flooding the excess space in the pot.
Unglazed clay and terracotta wick away excess moisture from the soil and allow houseleeks to dry out faster, while plastic pots tend to hold more water.
One trick many of my friends use to determine how dry their plants are is to check the weight of the pot. If the pot is heavier than usual, there’s still water inside.
Another great tip when using terracotta or clay pots is to knock on them. If the soil and pot are dry, the pot will emit a hollow ring when tapped.
Dull and low tones, however, indicate that the pot still has moisture, so don’t water your hens and chicks yet!
Hens and chicks need more water in the spring and summer while still actively growing. Reduce watering sessions in the winter and keep the plant dry to prevent overwatering.
Our hens and chicks are just as affected by the seasons as we are. These attractive succulents tend to grow quite prolifically in spring and summer.
This is known to be its active growing season, so don’t feel alarmed if your hens and chicks seem thirstier than usual during this time.
However, in the winter, its growth will slow down significantly as it enters dormancy. It will rely on its own water storage inside its rosette-like leaves and will not need much water.
If anything, it’s best to leave it dry during the winter, as it’s much more prone to being overwatered in this cold period.
Indoor hens and chicks can be watered every 2 weeks without issue. Outdoor hens and chicks, however, lose more moisture and require water at least once a week. Refrain from watering outdoor plants after it has rained.
If you tend to be a mother hen and keep your hens and chicks planted indoors to better monitor them, try to avoid smothering these succulents with too much water.
Similar to other houseplants, hens and chicks need less water when kept indoors. They can be watered only once every 2 weeks.
Hens and chicks grown outdoors with more than 6 hours of full sun, however, will lose more moisture in transpiration, or when it releases excess water vapor. As a result, it’ll need far more water and may need water at least once a week to stay hydrated.
The weather also plays a role in the plant’s environment. If it has been overcast and rainy, the hens and chicks plant probably doesn’t need another drink, as it has already been watered.
It’s fine to leave them out in the rain every once in a while, but if it rains heavily or frequently in your area, it’s best to keep them inside.
But if the plant is kept in warm or sunny conditions and feels dry to the touch, feel free to give it some more water.
The best way to tell if hens and chicks are underwatered is by studying their leaves. If the leaves are becoming thin and wrinkly and becoming dull or yellow, the plant is dehydrated and needs more water.
But what if you’ve overwatered your hens and chicks? Is all hope lost?
How to Save an Overwatered Hens and Chicks
Overwatered hens and chicks will have brown soft leaves and roots. Take the plant out of its pot and let its roots dry before repotting in a well-draining potting mix. The plant will heal after 1–2 weeks and must be allowed to dry between waterings.
If you water this succulent more than twice a week while its soil is damp, you’re sure to suffocate its roots. Unless you act quickly, this excess water can easily kill your plant!
Hens and chicks leaves that feel soft and squishy are common signs of overwatering. The oldest leaves at the bottom of the mother plant will also turn brown.
Investigate the roots for root rot and look out for brown or mushy roots. Remove the dead roots and soggy soil as carefully as you can without damaging the rest of the root system.
Place the hens and chicks in front of a fan to dry its roots. Once fully dry, repot it in some fast-draining potting mix.
Check out these 2 Steps to Properly Clean a Pot After Root Rot.
Depending on the damage, it could take a week or two for the roots to heal and focus on new growth. Avoid watering it during this time, or the roots might suffocate all over again!
If the mother plant is dying, don’t fret. You can rescue the chicks and propagate them to create a new plant.
But as always, it’s easier to prevent this from happening than it is to treat it. So remember to always allow the soil to dry before you water them. By doing this, your hens and chicks plant can stay healthy for years!
Can hens and chicks grow in water?
Hens and chicks can be grown in water so long as the whole plant is not submerged. To successfully grow hens and chicks in water, leave its roots in water and keep the plant body dry to prevent rot. Placed in clean water and exposed to bright indirect light, the plant will eventually develop roots in less than a week.
Do hen and chick plants bloom?
Hens and chicks plants usually bloom in the summer when they are at least 2–3 years old. These plants are monocarpic, meaning they only flower once and will die after blooming, leaving the offsets to replace the mother plant.
Summary of Watering Hens and Chicks
Hens and chicks are drought-resistant succulents that can be watered once every 2 weeks in the morning. However, factors such as soil, light, pot size and material, season, and environment can all impact how often hens and chicks need to be watered.
Overwatered hens and chicks that display soft and brown leaves at the bottom must be taken out of their pots immediately to have their roots dried. Repot the plant in a well-drained potting mix and water it only when the soil is completely dry.
- “Hens and Chicks” by n/a in NC State University
- “Plant of the Week: Hen-and-chicks” by Gerald Klingaman in University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
- “Sempervivum tectorum” by n/a in Colorado State University Extension