28June 27, 2019

I had a question from Frank about a problem with a hens and chicks plant that was not growing the way he had hoped. He had the plant outside but it was not growing. He potted it up and brought it inside and the main part of the plant has grown but it has not produced any “ chicks”. He asked what he could do to get it to produce the “chicks”.

There really isn’t enough information to give him a good answer. What the question brought up was a couple of common problems. Those questions would be where should the plant go and how often does it need to be fertilized.

When you buy a plant, particularly a plant that is going outside in the ground, you need to pay attention to what the plant tag tells you about the growing conditions for the plant. In the case of the hens and chicks, the plant needs to be in full sun. The soil needs to drain well. If you try to make the plant grow in partial shade in a soil that doesn’t drain well, then that plant isn’t going to be happy. The plant may survive but it isn’t going to grow and it may even die. Over the years, I have had customers bring pieces of plants into my store. The plants didn’t look healthy and after a few questions, I determined that people were trying to grow the plant in a location that wasn’t what the plant required. In Frank’s case, I am guessing that he probably was trying to grow the plant outside in a location that wasn’t appropriate for the plant. We all have made the mistake of falling in love with a particular plant and wanting it so badly that we would buy the plant without having an appropriate place for the plant. Remember, when you see a plant that you like, make sure that you have the proper place for the plant where the plant will thrive.

The second part of Frank’s question was should he be fertilizing the plant and if so what type of fertilizer should he be using. Years ago, I came up with a question to ask people about their plants. The question is, “ What do plants and people have in common? “ The answer, they both like to eat.

When it comes to growing plants, the plants need some type of nutrition if they are going to be happy. You will find that some plants will just need a bit of compost placed on top of the soil early in the season for that plant to be happy. On the other hand most annual flowering plants and most vegetable plants will need a steady supply of fertilizer to keep the plants growing. Most perennial plants will benefit from an early season application of fertilizer and depending on the type of perennial, may require additional applications of fertilizer.

Many people grow tomato plants. Some people will grow them in the ground and some people will grow them in containers. Tomato plants require a steady supply of fertilizer. The plant growing in the ground may only need to be fed once a month early in the season but once the tomato flowers begin to form and the tomatoes begin to grow, you may need to fertilize every two weeks. If you are growing those tomato plants in a container, you will find that you have to fertilize every two weeks early on and once the flowers and the tomatoes form, you should be fertilizing every 7 to 10 days. The reason is that growing in containers means there is less soil for the roots to draw food from. How often you fertilize is dependant on what the plant needs and where it is growing. If you are growing plants outside in containers, you will find that you need to fertilize the plants more often than if you are growing plants in the ground. As is the case with positioning plants in the ground where the plant will thrive, the fertilizer requirements of the plant will determine how well the plant will grow.

Frank, your hens and chick plant would be happier outside in a sunny location. When you bring it outside in the pot, give it a week or so in a partial sun location because it may sunburn because it won’t use to being in the strong sun. After a while plant it in a sunny location in an area with soil that drains well. You can fertilize it once a month with a fertilizer that you mix with water. A 20-20-20 fertilizer would work well. Over time the plant will grow and soon those “ chicks “ will begin to form.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.

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