In today's Botany Photo of the Day, we feature Sempervivum 'Pekinese', another perennial succulent sited among the sand and rocks of the greenhouse wall in our E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden. In terms of habit, shape, and color, the genus allows for a good deal of interest and novelty even among a collection of apparently quite similar plants.
Like most other Sempervivum species—most of which are native to Europe and western Asia—'Pekinese' thrives in full sun and well-drained, sandy soil. The plant requires little water and is drought tolerant.
In the 3rd or 4th year of its life, 'Pekinese' thrusts a star-shaped, devil's pitchfork of a stalk up to around 25 cm. into the air that surrounds its low-growing colony of light green. In late summer of that year, the stalk puts forth pinkish flowers that remain in bloom for several weeks. After flowering, the parent plants (the hens) die, leaving behind a tight cluster of offsets (the chicks) that continue on until the year in which they too reach maturity.
Among the most interesting and humorous of folk traditions that involve Sempervivum species relates to marriage, and particularly to a woman’s choosing of a spouse: supposedly, a country maiden would pick a Sempervivum plant for each of her potential husbands, and the suitor affiliated with the plant that bloomed best and lasted longest would gain her hand in marriage.
Rowley, Gordon. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Succulents. New York: Crown Publishers, 1978.