Grow an Orostachys Pot

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This year, for a myriad of reasons, I have rapidly expanded my succulent collection, most especially sempervivums, which I just can’t seem to stop myself from buying. I bought and/or acquired by other means 25 new semps this year alone in addition to a few other related succulents, many of which are hardy and some that aren’t.

Despite the sudden influx of plants I have been growing semps (aka hens and chicks) for years. They are most likely one of the very first non-edibles I grew. Just about everyone starts with them and for good reason: the plants are virtually unkillable and require almost no care. Every beginner gardener should begin here.

What’s different this year is that I have begun to collect orostachys and rosalaria, two closely related, hardy succulents that I have never grown before. Both plants look a lot like sempervivums and are grown under very similar conditions. Most literature says they can tolerate very cold conditions but I am not convinced that some of these stranger varieties are as hardy as semps. The plants come in paler colours and have a slightly softer look about them. As a result, I didn’t want to throw them in among the semps but instead had decided to give them their own space to be showcased. I had a sudden brain wave one afternoon last week when I realized that I had just the perfect pot, a vintage, emerald green dish that I have never had much luck with. Having begun life as a dish meant to hold candy or trinkets it is shallow and only suited to diminutive plants with shallow roots that can also take a bit of drought.

Top Photo from Left to Right: Orostachys minuta, Rosularia rechingeri (turkestanica), Orostachys ‘Jade Mountain’, Orostachys ‘NYBG’.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

To prepare the pot for growing, I drilled a couple of 1/2″ holes in the bottom with a masonry bit meant for drilling into terracotta or brick. I used very sandy, gritty soil — a potting mix meant for growing cactus is perfect. I top-dressed after planting with tufa chips, a very light-weight rock that is often used in growing alpine plants. I got a big ziploc baggie for $5 from Wrightman’s Alpines.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

This is a sempervivum I potted up at the same time in a bonsai pot that has always been too shallow to grow anything else. I love this variety’s tight rosettes and mounding form. I can’t tell from the tag if it is called ‘Granide’ or ‘Grande.’ ‘Grande’ seems all wrong given that the plant is teeny, tiny.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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17 thoughts on “Grow an Orostachys Pot

  1. I have really only recently started getting into succulents–I bought my first Sempervivum just a few weeks ago!

    The pictures you share of your succulent pots are really inspiring! I wish I could find a nursery in the DC area (metro-accessible, that is) that had a good selection…

  2. Kenneth: I’ve really lucked out with a couple of local growers that come into the city for various plant sales. I suggest you look for a rock garden society in your area. They might do the same (bring local nurseries into sell at one event).

  3. Ooh, I relate to that sempervivum addiction. I think that may be the most adorable planter of them I’ve ever seen, too!

  4. I made succulent 5 pots for Mother’s Day – my mom, mother-in-law, my 2 grandmothers and me. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. I was wondering what you do with your darling pots in the winter? My hen and chicks in the garden survive our harsh climate but I am guessing I would have to move planters inside or at least to a sheltered spot since our winter temps can get to -35.

  6. Jackie: When it comes to semps I am more concerned about the containers than the plants. So I overwinter the terracotta and ceramics inside… and transplant the plants outdoors elsewhere.

    Hypertuffa containers stay outside regardless, with the plants still in them.

    Not sure what i will do with the orostachys this year. I think I will bring them in and overwinter in my hallway which is cold like an unheated greenhouse.

  7. Can’t wait to tell my dh that you have 25 kinds of sempervivums. I’m a hens & chicks junkie myself. I buy them whenever I see any that look even a little unusual. Most of mine are in terracotta and I move them into the unheated garage for the winter. It gets COOOOOLD here on Lake Erie and the pots could not make it. I put them on a shelf next to the window, water them very well one time then ignore them until Spring thaw when I start to water them a little bit. They are due to come outside now, as soon as I get the shelves out on my deck. I generally spend an afternoon repotting what survived the winter, which is usually about 75% of what I started out with. I love it when they flower on the long stocks, they really look like roosters then!

  8. How’s this for an addiction – I just counted all my named varieties of Sempervivum, – if I can find four more, I’ll have a hundred! They are all different, even those that look similar in certain stages of growth change to be completely different at other seasons. I have a lot of un-named varieties planted in various parts of the garden, especially in my rock walls. Lovely!

    I’ve just become addicted to Orostachys and Rosularia too – I’ll see if they are as easy to obsess about. They sure aren’t as easy to find, I only have one of each so I’ll be on the look out! Jovibarba are another of my favorites in a similar vein. I have about ten different ones of those, carefully planted in an old wheelbarrow.

    I’ll be interested to see how your Orostachys and Rosularia do, and how you decide to overwinter them.

  9. Cindy: The 25 mentioned are just the new plants I bought this season so far! I already had others from years past.

    Jacki: I have definitely accidentally doubled up on some varieties. I’m at the point where I can’t remember them all so it’s easy to be taken with the same varieties while shopping.

    I have seen some interesting Jovibarba but haven’t purchased any… I don’t think…. They look so much like sempervivums I find it hard to tell the difference and rely on the tags.

  10. Jacki: I was wrong. Took a look at the plants I am yet to pot up and I did buy a Jovibarba. There is another that is unmarked that I think might be one as well.

  11. I love these pictures. They are beautiful. I just found your website this morning, and I’m glad I did. I will continue to stop by. Thanks for showing us your talent.

  12. Great succulent pots! Semps are wonderful indeed. I bet you would like aeoniums as well. I am a extreme succulent lover and grower. I have a flickr sight that I gave you. I also have restarted a blogspot called Sweetstuff’s Sassy Succulents. You might want to check them out. Love your blog!

  13. I just got your first book (I’m a super beginner) and in the meantime, hubby weed-eated our front yard. Low and behold, there was about 10 hen and chick plants there I knew nothing about. This is CO and the only thing ‘volunteering’ in my yard are weeds. What do you or anyone recommend for transplanting them to a pot? Will they survive a winter outside in a pot?

  14. Mary: They will survive if the pot can take it. Alpine troughs are a better option because they don’t crack despite the heaving that happens in winter.

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