Q&A with Kevin Vaughn, Author of “Sempervivum”

By Shelley Pierce | August 12, 2018
by Shelley Pierce
August 12, 2018

Kevin Vaughn has been breeding and growing Sempervivum since he was nine years old. From his hybridizing work, he has introduced about 80 cultivars to the market, including the award winning “Lipstick” and “Jungle Shadows.” These early experiments in plant hybridizing led to a PhD in botany and a career with the USDA. Since moving to Oregon in 2010, he has organized a yearly “Hybridizers Clinic” and produces from 4-6,000 new seedlings each year from his breeding efforts.  In his latest book “Sempervivum: A Gardener’s Perspective of the Not-So-Humble Hens-and-Chicks“, Vaughn covers their history, taxonomy, culture, propagation, hybridizing, and much more.  Read on to learn more and enter below to win one of two copies from Schiffer Publishing!

1. I have always had a penchant for “hens and chicks” but never knew them by their generic name “sempervivum” nor did I know just how diverse sempervivum was. How many cultivars and colors of sempervivum are there? How many of those cultivars are easily obtainable in the United States?

There are about 7,000 cultivars available worldwide. What is offered from nurseries in the US vary by year but there are probably ~1000 cultivars that are offered for sale in any one year. Colors range from yellow, top orange, red, purple and near black along with greens and silvers.

2. What are some of the best reasons for growing sempervivum and how does your book help us to successfully grow it? Are all cultivars of sempervivum easy to grow and propagate?

Sempervivum are VERY easy plants to grow. Almost any of these can be grown easily even on a balcony or patio provided there is good light. They are NOT house plants, however. A few cultivars are more difficult to grow but most are very easy plants once a few simple rules are followed.

3. Why are sempervivum magical to you? What are some of your favorite cultivars?

Symmetry of the rosettes has always appealed to me but for me the most fun aspect is being able to create new varieties. I have created ~80 varieties on the market and won international prizes when I was in my 20’s.

4. I have seen sempervivum being grown in some unusual places, such as shoes or boots for example. What is one of the most unusual places you have seen it grown?

Because Sempervivum require little soil they can be grown in all kinds of containers. The most beautiful were the huge living sculptures that Winnie Crane constructed out of huge pieces of driftwood, with Sempervivum being grown in the cavities.

5. Tell us some surprising or fascinating facts about sempervivum.

In Europe they are planted as charms against lightning. Emperor Charlemagne even ordered all of his subjects to do this! Because they contain a lot of water, there was probably some protection from fires on the thatched roofs.

Win one of two copies of Sempervivum!

To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post by midnight on Sunday, August 19th, 2018 (be sure to provide a valid e-mail address) in answer to the following question:

  Why is appealing to you about sempervivum?

Be sure to include a valid e-mail address. The winner will be drawn at random from all qualified entrants, and notified via e-mail. (See rules for more information.)

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  • Peggy Stanley
    Comment added August 31, 2018Reply

    I've tried many times...can't grow them! I have over 200 varieties of succulents, but no hens&chicks!

  • Oldspice
    Comment added August 20, 2018Reply

    They are amazing in design and color. They look like a flower, yet they are not. So easy to take care of and so amazing to watch it grow. How could you not love this amazing succulent?

  • Larry Ramsey
    Comment added August 20, 2018Reply

    The diversity of sempervivum is intriguing to me!

  • Sandy Stuhaan
    Comment added August 19, 2018Reply

    Sempervivums, what's not to love! Color,form,and easy to grow. Very addictive.

  • Deone Geary
    Comment added August 19, 2018Reply

    Sempervivum were my grandmother’s favorite & mine, too. They are such a sweet plant; delicate yet hardy.

  • Catwoman
    Comment added August 14, 2018Reply

    they thrive anywhere and no 2 are the same brilliant for little kids too

  • bev carragher
    Comment added August 12, 2018Reply

    There is such a variety of plants. Easy to grow and look great in all types of containers. They seem to overwinter well.

  • kim minnucci
    Comment added August 12, 2018Reply

    I love the symmetry of sempervivum.

  • Diane M
    Comment added August 12, 2018Reply

    I love the variety of colors of Sempervivum. The ease of care and beauty. Would love to have this book. Thank you

  • Vickie Ann McCoy
    Comment added August 12, 2018Reply

    I love the way we can tuck the sempervivum in old boots or teacups or broken birthbaths and create garden whimsey that requires little care. And it is so easy to move a piece and start a new display. Thank you.

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