10 Common Problems With Hens and Chicks Plants

Like all succulents, hens and chicks plants can run into some common plant problems as they grow. Many of their issues however, can be remedied if they are promptly addressed. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley looks at the most common problems with these popular succulents, and what to do about them.

Houseleek plant not growing due to plant problem

Grown indoors or outdoors, hens and chicks are a succulent plant well known for how they propagate in nature. They receive their name from their growing habits of producing multiple rosettes from a single mother succulent. They are low-maintenance and grow where other plants can’t survive.

Hens and chicks come in many colors, such as red, blue, orange, and green. They range in size from two inches to six inches wide. They are very versatile and are most popular in rock beds, wall crevices, and clay pots.

Although they are low-maintenance and will grow just about anywhere you can think of, they can still develop problems. They thrive on neglect. But that doesn’t mean you can completely ignore their care. It’s still important to provide proper growing conditions to help prevent issues down the line. Common growing issues like low-quality soils, low light, and improper watering can lead to more severe problems later on. 

There are many problems you may run into while growing hens and chicks. Luckily, most of these common issues can be fixed or avoided. In this article, we will take a deeper look at the most common issues that plague this popular succulent and ways to avoid or fix them. Let’s dig in!

Swollen And Mushy Leaves

Close-up of a succulent plant in a flowerpot next to a pinecone. The plant has a rosette of oval, elongated, fleshy, pale green leaves that form rosettes. The tips of the leaves are pale purple. The leaves are swollen and soft due to excessive watering.
The main sign of a waterlogged succulent is swollen and mushy leaves.

If the leaves of your succulent appear swollen or have become mushy, this is a sign of overwatering. Overwatering is one of the most common yet avoidable problems. These plants are drought-tolerant perennial succulents and can go for long periods without receiving any water. But they also don’t tolerate excess water very well. 

These succulents benefit from a deep soaking versus a quick shower when watered. The soaking allows moisture to move deep into the soil profile so the plant can tap into it later.

Soaking the area encourages deep root growth, helping the plant withstand long periods of drought. In addition, the deep roots can access the water deep in the soil during dry periods.

Typically, the rainfall you receive in your region will suffice for their water needs. However, if you’re experiencing weeks of hot and dry conditions, give them a good soak. Soakings should only be about once a month. Checking your soils regularly will help determine if you are overwatering.

Dried And Shriveled Leaves

Close-up of a growing succulent Sempervivum tectorum in a sunny garden with dry and shriveled leaves. Plants form many beautiful, rose-like rosettes of plump, oval, succulent, fleshy leaves with pointed and purple tips. Many succulent rosettes have dry, shriveled and brown leaves.
Dry and shriveled leaves are usually the first sign of an underwatered plant.

This succulent needs to be placed in full sun to grow properly. If you have planted them somewhere with insufficient lighting, the leaves will wilt and dry out. As a result, the plant won’t be able to maintain photosynthesis and growth start to slow. It can also lead to plant death.

Choose a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sunlight daily. You may need a location that receives more sunlight if you have a larger variety of hens and chicks. They can tolerate some shade, especially if it’s during the hottest part of the day. A little afternoon shade doesn’t hurt and can actually help prevent sunburn.

The best solution to insufficient lighting is to transplant or move the plant. If you have planted in a container, move the container to a sunnier location. But if you have planted in the ground, they can be more difficult to move.

Black Patches

A close-up of a sempervivum tectorum plant with sun-damaged leaves. This is a low-growing succulent plant, in the form of a rosette resembling a rubber rose, consisting of thick, fleshy, oval, oblong, dark green leaves. The leaves are slightly hairy and have pointed tips. Damaged leaves show black spots due to sunburn.
Leaves that have black patches can be a sign of sunburn.

If you notice black patches slowly moving toward the center, this is a sign of sunburn. Sunburn happens when the plant is exposed to too much sunlight. Even though they love a lot of sunlight, sometimes it can be too intense.

Sunburn presents as black patches on the leaves that slowly move to the center of the leaf. The patches can appear white, gray, red, or orange in the early stages of sunburn. It may be tricky to identify in the early stages as it may look like other fungal diseases.

Unfortunately, once they are sunburned, they have it for the remainder of their life. The plant can continue growing and thriving if it has patches of sunburn on the leaves. But if the sunburn is extensive, the plant will succumb to the sunburn and die.

Transplanting or providing them more shade can help avoid further damage to the succulents. If you cannot transplant, finding a way to provide shade during the hot afternoons will help. Shade cloth or other methods of blocking sunlight should help prevent any further damage.

Nature Life Cycle

A close-up of the flowers of a succulent plant against a blurred background. Beautiful clusters of small pale pink flowers with greenish centers grow on tall, thick, erect burgundy-green stems.
The death of the plant after flowering is a natural life cycle.

Hens and chicks are monocarpic. This means once the hen produces a flower, she will die. This is the plant’s natural cycle and can look like a problem. The flower will rise from a stalk from the hen, and within a few weeks, the flower will die. The hen then soon follows.

Don’t panic. This is the natural process of the plant. The chicks will continue to thrive and take her place. You shouldn’t remove the stalk to prevent the hen from dying. She needs to go through this process to keep the rest of the colony healthy.

You can remove the dead hen once she has finished flowering, but it isn’t necessary. The chicks will cover her in no time, and you won’t notice that she is gone. The chicks will keep growing in her absence, and in the future, they will send up their own flowers.

Cottony Leaves 

Close-up of a mealybug between the leaves of a succulent plant. Mealy bugs are soft-bodied insects with oval bodies covered with white fluffy wax. The leaves of the succulent plant are succulent, plump, pale gray-green-yellow in color.
When infested with mealybugs, the plant leaves become weak and begin to wilt.

Mealybugs appear as tiny white, fuzzy bugs that crawl all over the succulent They can be difficult to identify with the naked eye, especially if it’s a small infestation. However, if you manage to see mealybugs crawling on your succulent, it’s important to take action quickly. Mealybugs are most commonly found on succulents grown indoors.

The plant may look like it is covered in white cotton, which is a sign of mealybug infestation. You may also see that the plant leaves begin to weaken and wilt. The leaves may also start to twist and curl. There are several signs of infection, which is what makes it hard to diagnose.

If you have identified mealybugs on your plants, the first step is to move the plant into quarantine. This will help control the spread of the bugs to any other plants you have in your home.

For plants that are infested, there are a few different ways to manage infestation. Many methods online use common household chemicals to eliminate them. Your local garden center should also have products to help control and eliminate an infestation.

Dried Leaves at The Bottom

Close-up of a sunlit succulent plant with dry bottom leaves. The plant forms a beautiful rosette of oval, oblong, fleshy, flat, dark green leaves with pointed tips. The leaves are slightly pubescent. The lower few rows of leaves are dry and brown.
This succulent naturally loses its lower leaves to produce new growth.

This is common in succulents and isn’t cause for alarm. You do not have to remove these leaves as the plant will naturally drop them. This process allows this succulent to grow new leaves towards the top of the plant.

Many plants naturally lose their leaves on the bottom before producing new growth on the top. Once the plant drops these bottom leaves, you can remove them from the area or container. This will help control the spread of diseases and pests while keeping the area neat and clean.

Browning Stems

Close-up of a succulent plant in a large green and blue flower pot, indoors. The plant has many rosettes of plump, fleshy, juicy, oval, bright green leaves covered with fine white hairs. The stems of the plant are brown due to root rot.
Poor drainage soil can lead to succulent root rot.

This succulent prefers well-draining soils and will develop problems if planted soil that quickly becomes waterlogged. Poorly draining soils will lead to root rot. Root rot slowly turns the stems and leaves brown. Plants will become stunted and eventually die.

Root rot is hard to identify until it’s too late. The disease slowly decays the roots, and as the roots die, the fungus moves up the plant. The stem will begin to brown first, slowly killing off the rest of the plant.

Unfortunately, if your plants have root rot, there isn’t much you can do to save them. You will want to remove the dead plants to help control the spread to others. The only solution is to prevent root rot from killing more plants by amending the soil or choosing a new planting location.

This problem is tricky to fix once plants are firmly rooted in the soil. If your soils are heavy in clay and have trouble draining, you can add sand or gravel to the soil. This should be done before planting. Adding sand or gravel once they are planted and mature can cause damage to the roots.

Rotting In The Winter

Succulent plant in the garden covered with snow. The plant has a beautiful, dense rosette of dark green fleshy leaves, with pointed tips and brown, dry lower leaves.
During wet winters, hens and chickens can suffer from rotting.

Although hens and chicks are winter hardy, they can suffer from rot during extremely wet winters. If they are planted in less-than-ideal soil conditions and your region has a wet winter, this is the perfect storm. The plant will most likely rot due to the poor draining soils attributed to wet winter conditions.

These succulents are hardy in hardiness zones 3 to 8. They can withstand some pretty cold temperatures. But even in perfect conditions, they can succumb to rot. In the fall, remove any debris from around the plant to allow for proper airflow and allow the sun to help dry the soil out. Debris that keeps moisture locked in can contribute to rotting plants.

Unfortunately, if your plant rots during the winter, there is no way back. Choose a different location with better-draining soils to plant in the spring. You can also amend the soil with sand or gravel to help prevent rotting and create a better growing environment for your plants.

Stretching Plants

Close-up of a young succulent plant in a yellow ceramic pot against a blurred lawn. The plant has a rosette of plump, fleshy, oval, slightly elongated, light green leaves with rounded reddish edges. The middle stem is stretched up and to the right. The succulent is covered with water drops.
In low light, your plant may stretch out in search of a light source.

This popular succulent grows naturally low to the ground. But when they aren’t getting enough sunlight, they can start to stretch out, looking for a new light source. The plant will start bending and stretching in different ways, seeking sunlight.

A healthy plant will form short rosettes that don’t get taller than a few inches. If you notice your plant continuing to grow upwards, this is a sign they aren’t getting enough sunlight. Hens and chicks are vibrantly colored plants. If your plant is faded green, or has more of a white color, it’s time to move them to a sunnier location.

As the plant continues to stretch, you will also notice more space between the leaves. Finding the perfect location can be a bit of trial and error. It may take moving your plant to a few different locations before you find the perfect place for optimal growth.

Sticky or Misshapen Leaves

Close-up of a sprout of a houseleek plant infested with black aphids against a blurred green background. The plant is a long rosette of oblong, oval, bright green leaves with pointed red tips. Aphids are tiny insects with oval black bodies.
Aphids suck the juice from the leaves, and they become sticky and misshapen.

If you notice the leaves are sticky or misshapen, this could be a sign of aphid damage. Aphids are a common pest and nearly impossible to avoid. Aphids are typically light green with fat, teardrop-shaped bodies.

They love to hang out on the undersides of the leaves. So, if you believe that aphids are the culprit, check the undersides of the leaves and crevices of the plant. As the aphids grow, they leave behind their exoskeleton. This will appear as white specks on the leaves of the plant and is a good indication of an infestation.

Aphids will suck the sweet sap from the leaves, which is why they may be sticky. When they suck the sap from the leaves, the leaves become misshapen from where the aphids have sucked the sap. You can find many methods to control aphids online, or your local garden center will have an insecticide for treating aphids.

Final Thoughts

Hens and chicks are beautiful succulent plants that come in numerous colors and sizes. They are noted for being low-maintenance and easy going. But they can develop problems if not provided the proper growing conditions or environment.

Luckily, most of the problems that they can present are treatable. Keep a close eye on your plants to catch problems and treat them early.

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