Sempervivum and Jovibarba forum: Assorted Newbee questions

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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 10, 2017 7:37 AM CST
On my way to sempaholicism this year and have a few questions (reading thru as many threads here as I can as quickly as I can) on the care of Hens and Chicks.
Background:
My growing conditions are far from 'alpine' so all of my new acquisitions are in moveable pots and containers so I can do my best to optimize sun/shade wet/dry. I've made buckets and buckets of Tapla's Gritty Mix so the well draining soil necessity is covered for all of them.

So far this spring has been cool and wet (50-70) with a day or two of intense heat and sun(80-90) then rinse repeat. I have kept them in a make shift 'greenhouse' for the most part because of rain, but there is not much sun in that area. This week I moved them out to my sunniest spot where they will get about 5 hours of morning sun. Tomorrow summer weather arrives with temps in the nineties and plenty of sun and humidity.

Questions:
1) What is it that first alerts you to Semp in trouble? What should I be looking for? Pots are mulched with a layer of chick grit.
2) What is your watering rule of thumb? Surface dry? Inch down? Entire pot? I am assuming that semps can survive too dry better than too wet? If the crown is dry but the roots are wet?
3) The plants I bought in 4x6 inch pots had roots that were 6 inches plus long. Should they be spread out? Can I trim them off when repotting with out harm to plant?
4) Can someone describe 'planting high'? I have attempted to simulate a rock crevice for a few where the stalk was 2" before any roots and I didnt have a pot deep enough so I piled up driveway stones around the stalk to raise the plant up.
5) Is now the time when most chicks are formed? When do you season or size wise harvest chicks to propagate that variety? Generally, how quickly will chicks grow if harvested now?
Should I plant them in flats, 2" or 4" pots? (I'd say most of the Hens were 4 inches when I got them, chicks an inch or more.
6) Semp "Black" has formed many chicks but they are all tightly clustered around the mother stalk. Is this normal for "Black"?

Thanks in advance to all you good people!
Judy
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Butterflies Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums
Bee Lover Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter
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tcstoehr
Jun 10, 2017 10:02 AM CST
Remember that semps are very hardy and love being outdoors. But they are alpine plants and long stretches of blazing heat is not to their liking. But they deal with it OK as long as they have moisture. I don't know about your particular climate, but some southerly regions like Texas, Arizona and New Mexico are challenging for raising healthy semps.

In general, rely upon your own general plant knowledge. Plants that look healthy and happy generally are. Plants that look like they are dying generally are.

#1 - Keep an eye on the lower rows of leaves. Are they getting mushy? That could mean rot, which is usually fatal to the individual rosette. Are they drying up and crispy? That could mean that it is having water issues which could be due to root issues. Semps should feel solid to the touch and firmly anchored in the soil. Soft floppy leaves or wiggly wobbly rosettes is trouble.

#2 - semps are not cacti, and can take more water, even in cool weather. But, as usual, in cooler weather they require less moisture. My semps are in moist soil 365 days a year, but it is well draining sandy soil. Pots are difficult in that they can be bone dry at the top but moist at the bottom. One strategy is to add small amounts of moisture regularly at the top knowing that it won't sink down so much and get the pot's bottom saturated. You'll have to find your own way of making sure your semps have moisture available regularly while avoiding soggy soil that could lead to root problems.

#3 Shake off the soil that came in those pots. If you lose some roots doing this, no problem. Spreading roots out is fine. Trimming them is also tolerated. Semps have vigorous roots that can replace themselves quickly. Some people root prune severely at transplant time. I would take it easy in that respect, although plants are often happiest when spreading new roots.

#4 Planting high I'm guessing means that you keep the leaves off the ground. People will sometime tuck gravel under there to keep the leaves high and dry. Sounds like you're doing likewise.

#5 Chicks usually pop out in April-June but can happen anytime during the growing season. I generally wait until chicks have roots on them, even if those roots are just hanging in the air, before harvesting a chick for planting. But I have received small, rootless chicks that grew roots nicely when planted. If the chick is showing a rosetted form, then it's likely mature enough to transplant. Now is a good time for chick harvesting and planting. They should grow happily with warm temperatures, adequate sunlight and adequate moisture. Remember that their roots may be extremely short so keeping them moist will help them establish.

#6 The chicking habit you're describing is sort of normal. It's not the usual way, but it seems any semp during any year might do this. It's weird but normal and not to worry about. Although it can be inconvenient.
[Last edited by tcstoehr - Jun 10, 2017 10:05 AM (+)]
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 10, 2017 6:06 PM CST

Moderator

Hi Judy. Really great to see you here.
Looks like Tim answered your questions.
Sounds like you might have pretty high humidity during the hots months?
If so Tim suggestion of just small amounts of water is sound advice, best given in the early morning when it is cool so. To much and it could steam cook the rosettes.
They probably won't tolerate you summer full sun, but filtered sun would be great. Like under a deciduous tree that doesn't have to heavy a canopy. That way they will have full sun in the winter months.

It would be great if you could show us some photos of where you have them, and what they look like.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 10, 2017 6:41 PM CST
Yikes, 'cooked rosettes'! I've encountered 'sunburn', etoliation, crispy leaves, way too wet, chicks huddled tightly under mom, tipped over pots, etc but no Leatherjackets or ants so far.
Wonder what other semp adventures are waiting in the wings!!!

Tim, your answers are most masterful. Thank you kind sir. Lynn, I think you might be right on the filtered sun rather than 4 hours of straight morning sun for them.

What does misting do for them? Is there concern about water drops on the leaves from watering or rain? I've actually dried mine off a couple of times!

Yes, I will try for pics tomorrow....after all, it is another day.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 10, 2017 7:03 PM CST

Moderator

Misting can be a good way to keep from over watering, as long as there is enough time for the moisture to evaporate before the heat of day arrives.
Look forward to the photos.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 11, 2017 1:40 PM CST
What a difference a day makes. Yesterday morning most of my semps were doing OK but I had some concerns which I raised in this thread. I decided to move them all out of direct morning sunlight to a shady filtered sun location which I did last nite. I'm glad I did, as this morning when I went to take pictures, over half of the semps had damaged leaves only on the sides facing into the sun! Ouch!

First pic is of 3 partial damaged leaves and 2 crispy on the right.




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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 11, 2017 1:54 PM CST
a few more

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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 11, 2017 2:12 PM CST
These two smaller but well rooted rosettes took it pretty hard. Can they be saved?
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Some came thru OK


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And I have some waiting in reserve



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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 11, 2017 2:21 PM CST
One pot of arachs came thru but the other not so much.

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Top main rosette was floppy and upon investigation it broke off and was squishy down to the stalk stump remaining. What to do?

Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 11, 2017 3:01 PM CST

Moderator

Never give up Judy. As long as there is life keep trying to give them what they need.
With the last photo I would separate all the semps that have healthy rosettes and replant them. That soil looks pretty soggy.
These I would let dry out and callous over for a couple days, then replant. I can't tell from the photo, are all of the leaves mushy?
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Name: Patty
Washington State (Zone 8b)
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
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Patty
Jun 12, 2017 8:23 AM CST
What makes the leaves on mine crispy is if they are wet and then get hot sun. The combo fries them fast. Thumbs down
Patty 🌺
Name: Tim Stoehr
Canby, Oregon (Zone 8b)
Butterflies Sempervivums Region: Pacific Northwest Vegetable Grower Cactus and Succulents Sedums
Bee Lover Region: Oregon Dragonflies Keeper of Poultry Cat Lover Composter
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tcstoehr
Jun 12, 2017 11:00 AM CST
I'm seeing the outer/lower leaves dropping while the center leavers are held up high. I've seen this happen when a semp is introduced to more sunshine than it is used to. Sometimes after shipment in a box. In these situations the plant recovers just fine as it adjusts to the sunlight and regrows its roots, although the older/lower leaves may suffer badly. This may or may not apply to your situation.

Take a look at this guy. It was shipped to me from Washington where the weather there (and here) had been unusually cool and cloudy for a long time. They were put into a pitch dark box and unpacked three days later. Then they were planted in my garden just as a heat wave moved in. The lower leaves drooped down and the centers went vertical, like your pictures. You can see several leaves dried up completely while others remain half fried. I have every confidence that they will acclimate just fine.
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Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 12, 2017 12:22 PM CST

Moderator

Great explanation Tim. I find that with my newly arrived plants. The ones I got in April now look like the have been here forever. The newer ones that arrived about 3 weeks ago and finally putting out new little white hair roots. Soon they will get a grip on the soil and take off growing like old pros.
It can some times keep us up at night worrying about them.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 12, 2017 7:52 PM CST
Thanks Patty I will be so much more careful from now on. They are all out of the rain and out of direct sun. Most of my crispy leaves were the lower older leaves possibly lack Guess that could be one sign of lack of water moisture? Wouldn't the lowest oldest leave shrivel and dry up first? Or do I have that wrong? I did notice that two of my Hens had burned tips on their innermost rosette leaves Sighing!

Lynn, are you also saying that not only water and intense sun but water and intense heat can steam cook these beauties? Do you figure it takes 3-4 weeks for a new semp to settle in? Is that true for transplanting, too?

Do you all pluck off leaves gone bad when you see them or just let them be?

Not loosing sleep or about to give up but these easy hardy plants have taken much more time and effort than I imagined they would! Does it get easier or is this a sign that I should relocate to an alpine meadow asap?

Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 12, 2017 8:05 PM CST

Moderator

Judy once you get the hang of what works in your unique growing conditions you will never look back. You will be a full fledged sempaholic.
It is the combination of high temperatures/high humidity/to much water and full sun that steam cooks them.

Amount of time to settling in depends on a lot of things.
1. Time of year, spring and early summer are the most active time of growing for semps.
2. Soil and water are two other determining factors. I do find that using a feeding of Quick Start every two weeks seems to help them get new roots growing quicker.
3. Some cultivars take off faster than others.
Rolling on the floor laughing Rolling on the floor laughing There sure would be a lot of us in that alpine meadow as your neighbors Judy.
We are at about 300 ft. But in July and August we can get into the 90's and even occasional days in the 100's. What makes it easier for me in these conditions is that during that time out humidity is very low, and night times are in the 50's and 60's.
Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 12, 2017 8:23 PM CST
tcstoehr said:I'm seeing the outer/lower leaves dropping while the center leavers are held up high. I've seen this happen when a semp is introduced to more sunshine than it is used to. Sometimes after shipment in a box. In these situations the plant recovers just fine as it adjusts to the sunlight and regrows its roots, although the older/lower leaves may suffer badly. This may or may not apply to your situation.

Take a look at this guy. It was shipped to me from Washington where the weather there (and here) had been unusually cool and cloudy for a long time. They were put into a pitch dark box and unpacked three days later. Then they were planted in my garden just as a heat wave moved in. The lower leaves drooped down and the centers went vertical, like your pictures. You can see several leaves dried up completely while others remain half fried. I have every confidence that they will acclimate just fine.
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This is what I started out with over 2 months ago. And since that time there have been few sunny dry days so I have schlepped them into sunshine for an hour or two and then back under my makeshift green house to keep them out of the rainy downpours, sometimes twice a day!
Until last week there just wasn't a stretch of sunny weather hereabouts. I thought that giving them a week of gradually more and more sun would be enough to acclimate them but I think you have nailed it with your example as I feel mine were too long in low light and then too quick in too much light plus high heat.

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Name: Judy
Mid Atlantic Coastal Plain USA (Zone 7b)
Butterflies
MariposaMaid
Jun 12, 2017 8:46 PM CST
Lynn, it would be fun to be alpine neighbors for sure! I've never seen semps growing wild. And I would love to trade you some steamy sultry nights for your cool dry ones. So, if I feel it is too hot and humid for me this summer I'll know it is awful for my semps and we can comisserate in the shade of an old oak tree and I will just have to enjoy the pics and tales of other people's semp symmetry and glory while I find my way.
Thanks for your encouragement.
Name: Lynn
Dallas, OR (Zone 8b)
Charter ATP Member Garden Sages I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I helped beta test the Garden Planting Calendar I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Database Moderator
Forum moderator I helped beta test the first seed swap Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant and/or Seed Trader Garden Ideas: Master Level
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valleylynn
Jun 12, 2017 9:28 PM CST

Moderator

You will get it figured out Judy. Each of us has different challenges to deal with. For us it is the non stop heavy rains of late winter and into spring. This year was the worst.

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