Mexican natives that form rosettes of fleshy leaves, often marked or overlaid with deeper colors. Baby plants (offsets) form around the mother plant, hence, the common name. (For other plants called hen and chicks, see Sempervivum.) Bell-shaped, nodding flowers, usually pink, red, or yellow, in long, slender, sometimes branched clusters. Good in rock gardens. Some make good houseplants if sited in a south- or west-facing window; they benefit from being moved outdoors to a lightly shaded spot during the warm months. Feed houseplants monthly with a general-purpose liquid houseplant fertilizer diluted to half-strength; reduce feeding and watering in winter.
E. agavoides Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Stiff, fleshy, smooth, sharp-pointed leaves are bright green, marked with deep reddish brown at tips and edges. Rosettes reach 68 in. across; flower stalks to 112 ft. bear small red-and-yellow blooms in spring to early summer. 'Lipstick' has bright green leaves with a crisp red edge. 'Maria' grows up to 12 in. wide and has green leaves edged and tipped with red.
E. crenulata. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Short, thick stems hold foliage rosettes to 1 ft. across. Pale green or white-powdered leaves to 1 ft. long, 6 in. wide, with purplish red, crimped edges. Blooms from early summer until winter; flower stalk rises to 3 ft., topped by clusters of a few yellow-and-red blossoms. Shelter from hottest sun; water freely in warm weather. Makes a striking container plant, indoors or out.
E. elegans. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Tight grayish white rosettes to 4 in. across, spreading freely by offsets. Pink flowers tipped in yellow, in clusters to 8 in. long, bloom from late winter to early spring. Useful for pattern planting, edging, containers. May burn in hot summer sun.
E. hybrids. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Often grown as houseplants. Generally have large, loose rosettes of big leaves on branched or unbranched stems; leaves are crimped, waved, or wattled, sometimes heavily shaded with red, bronze, or purple. They include 'Afterglow', with powdery, pinkish lavender leaves edged with brighter pink edges; 'Arlie Wright', with large, open rosettes of wavy-edged pinkish leaves; 'Black Prince', which grows only 3 in. wide and has dark reddish purple leaves; 'Blue Curls', with frilly-edged, blue-green leaves that pick up pink tones in cool weather; 'Cameo', with big, blue-gray leaves, each centered with a large, raised lump in the same color; 'Domingo', with powder-blue leaves; 'Lola', which has silvery pink-to-mauve leaves and is about 4 in. wide; and 'Perle von Nrnberg', which features pearly lavender-blue foliage. 'Doris Taylor' is a smaller selection with short, close-set leaves densely covered with short white hairs.
E. imbricata. Zones CS, TS; USDA 9-11. Saucer-shaped gray-green rosettes reach to 46 in. across. Clusters of bell-shaped red-orange flowers bloom from late spring to early summer. Spreads freely by offsets.
E. runyonii. Zones LS, CS, TS; USDA 8-11. Blunt-tipped gray-green leaves form an open rosette to 5 in. across. Showy spikes of coral blossoms from late spring to early summer. Likes the dry, chalky, rocky soils of the Southwest. 'Topsy Turvy' features blue-gray, upwardly curving, V-shaped leaves.
E. secunda. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Gray-green or blue-green rosettes to 4 in. across; spreads freely by offsets. Egg-shaped red flowers with a yellow interior bloom in late spring or early summer. E. s. glauca (E. glauca) has blue-green leaves faintly edged in purple red.
E. setosa. Zones TS; USDA 10-11. Very tender species forms dense rosettes to 4 in. wide; leaves are dark green, densely covered in stiff white hairs. Urn-shaped red flowers tipped in yellow appear in late spring or summer. Good choice for rock gardens, shallow containers; makes an excellent houseplant.