Saturday 20 October 2012

Houseleeks live forever

Sempervivum, common names house leek and liveforever

Two years ago Barbara Wood was our open day ‘artist in the garden’. She was demonstrating making pots. Our sempervivum has thrived in her well-drained pot for eighteen months now, and has never been watered. But it has rained quite a lot! It’s really quite neglected and sits on our doorstep. Completely hardy, it always looks good.

Barbara’s pot
House leeks have in recent years have become quite a cult plant. They vary in size and colour and many nice selections are now readily available. Most of them have variety names, unfortunately lazy gardeners like me tend to forget them. The sempervivums in my garden are by far the most photographed plants on open days. Visitor Martyn Webster took this one.

Houseleeks and companions
Sempervivum flowers are exceptionally beautiful for a few months but are also the plant’s achilles heal. With age, the flowers look rather tatty and need to be cut off. Usually the rosette of leaves that carried the flower dies and also needs cutting away. By this time, however, there are so many new rosettes that a beautiful clump remains which, if you allow it, will slowly increase in size.
Houseleeks are very well named, they can grow in drystone walls and cracks in old buildings. Unfortunately they often disappoint in fashionable roof gardens. The birds love to pull them out!
Sempervivum are the easiest of plants to propagate. Just pull out their rosettes with roots attached, stick them in a pot or in the ground, and watch them grow.

Tucked beneath a dwarf pine tree. Although they like sunshine they also thrive in shade.
A lovely red rosette

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