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Colour in a cluster


SEMPERVIVUM (Cobweb hen and chicks) plants grow in clusters like spiky cushions. The plant is succulent with leaves in tight rosettes more or less four centimetres or more across in diameter. The parent plant is stoloniferous and produces plantlets all around it. In late spring, the parent plants send out chicks (rosettes) often on long colourful stems called stolons that form dense carpets. The genus has many delightful cultivars, each with a different size, colour pattern or leaf form. The rosettes produce flowering stems that are tall bearing coloured flowers. After flowering, the rosette dies.

The plant likes bright light and grows well in room temperature. The rosette rots if water stagnates, so moderate watering is ideal. Repotting every spring is ideal.

For propagation, cut off the lateral rosettes with roots during March to April or September to October and plant in ordinary soil.

The plants have evolved a unique photosynthetic mechanism whereby carbon dioxide is concentrated within plant tissue to tackle stressful environmental conditions like high light intensity, high temperatures and low water availability. The Sempervivum genus belongs to the family Crassulaceae known for this distinct kind of photosynthetic mechanism which is called the Crassulacean acid metabolism. The plants are also called as CAM plants.

As for pests, the plant is affected by aphids, scale insects, mealy bugs and red spiders.

S. VEDAVATHY

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