Articles on growing alpines

Occasional articles on various aspects of nursery life, growing plants and running a small business.

Sempervivum

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We have two articles on Sempervivum 

  • Basic Care - below is what we send to customers buying our Sempervivum Collections

  • We have a longer article here -  buying, growing, compost, propagation, winter care, breeding etc.

 

Thank you for buying our Sempervivum - we hope you enjoy these fascinating plants.

Some of our customers are new to Semp growing so here are a few tips to start you off. Sempervivum are generally very easy to grow, but like all plants, they have their likes and dislikes.

Basic needs. Semps like open, exposed spaces, love sunshine and tolerate drought. They must have very free-draining soil or compost and not too much feeding or too much water. They shrug off extreme cold having evolved to survive in the high mountains of Europe, so don’t treat them as house plants or over-protect them.

Changing colours. One of the fascinations of Sempervivum is how they change leaf colour through the seasons, so don’t worry if your plants aren’t the colour you expected as they will certainly change. Colour, size and shape are all affected by how the plants are grown - the best colours show when they get maximum light, not too much water and just a little feeding to keep them growing.

Planting in the garden. Choose a suitable spot as above - avoid shady places, over-hanging trees and poorly draining soil. It helps to mix some grit with the soil. Don’t plant too deeply, keep the plant slightly above the surrounding soil and finish off with a good layer of grit or gravel spread around and under the plants. Remember to label the plants or record the names!

Growing in containers. Sempervivum will thrive in pots and containers of every kind but they must have drainage holes to let water out the bottom. Tubs, troughs, planters, old boots, hollowed-out logs, teapots - use anything that has a drain hole and will hold about 1 litre or more of compost.

Compost for containers. We recommend you make your own compost as nothing you can buy is really suitable and it’s easy to do if you have (or can get) garden soil. The soil is the ‘magic’ ingredient. Make a mixture of good garden soil, any good ready-made compost (we like the peat-free alternatives) and coarse grit, equal measures of all three. Any weeds that come up from the soil are easily plucked out when small. You may add a sprinkling of ground lime or limestone chippings if you know your soil is acidic but don’t fret needlessly about acidity or exact pH etc., Sempervivum are quite tolerant.

Aftercare. Very little! Keep the plants free from weeds or fallen leaves. Greenfly rarely attack but soapy water will see those off. If a plant flowers, remove the faded flower stalk at ground level soon after it fades to prevent random seedlings popping up around your named varieties. Fill the space by detaching a rosette or two and replanting them in the gap. A little fresh soil mix will help the new starts to root and raise them level with the group. Plants are easy to increase - pull of a young rosette and place it onto fresh soil or compost. And that’s it - so easy, a child could do it. In fact, every child should do it - it introduces them to growing and caring for a living thing and that is a basic life skill.