Gardening With Sempervivum

In a Damp Climate

Gardening with Sempervivum or any other drought tolerant plant takes a bit of finagling if you're in a damp or humid climate.


Sempervivum don't like getting their feet wet, and here in PEI, they would need rubber boots. Or, extremely well drained soil on top of lots of things to raise them up out of the puddles.

Luckily, I have just the thing.

When we got our wood stove installed, the guys that did it had to break out the clay liner of the chimney to feed the flexibly coil liner into the void.  The clay is in pieces, and it was specifically kept aside by this canny horticulturist for just this event.

sempervivum-waiting-for-planting600x450.jpgSempervivum waiting for planting after a winter in limbo

After dragging those poor Sempervivum all the way across the country, the least I can do is mimic their favorite place, the rock wall that they were so happy in. In an aside, the rock wall no longer exists as it was bulldozed to make the driveway wider, meaning the plants that these were gleaned from are no longer either. Makes me glad I saved the ones I did!

The idea is to lay down a big piece of cardboard (safely stored in the basement for this occasion) and then break up some of the clay chimney liner. 

That will be the first layer. 

Then, on top of that, some lava rock.  Onto that will be sprinkled a small amount of soilless mix, with additional drainage added, plus a water holding polymer. Due to the fact that there are so many instances of steer manure being contaminated by aminopyralid herbicide, I omitted the use of it in this bed.

I've used this type of mix for years for many of my semps, and other drought tolerant plants, and they thrive in it. If it's not available in your area, use some larger gravel, like aquarium gravel, pumice or lava rock, mixed with some sterilized garden soil.

Don't try using a mix that's not pasteurized or sterilized.  You will battle the weeds endlessly.

sempervivum-bed-april-19-2024-600x800.jpgThe finished Sempervivum bed, with rays of sunshine illuminating it

It's unlikely they will need watering here in this rainy province right on the ocean. 

If they get rain one or two times a month, they will not need anything else.  My only concern is that the rain might contain salt, kicked up during high winds or hurricanes.  These guys are tough, but might not like salt in their moisture.

The other thing Sempervivum absolutely need is full sun exposure, especially in a climate with a lot of rainy days.  The high ultraviolet light levels are required for the best health of these high mountain plants.

They'll gradually get  used to the new situation, and I'm sure that they'll shine just as much here as they used to in a dry climate.

They need superb drainage, and good airflow, which fortunately they'll be getting here in their new little garden.  I'll dress it up with some ruins for them, a beach and some cliffs and headlands to pay homage to their new home.

Now it's finished and ready for the Sempervivum to settle in and start growing, the only thing remaining is time.

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