Underwatered Sempervivum – Signs and How To Revive

Underwatered Sempervivum - Signs and How To Revive

Sempervivum plants are more commonly known as houseleeks, or hen and chicks. They are drought-resistant succulents that thrive in sunny areas, and are very easy to cultivate, making them popular indoors plants. They form attractive mats of tufted leaves in a rosette formation. Despite being succulents, these plants are still prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for long periods. This article will help you learn how to spot an underwatered sempervivum and how to revive it.

Underwatered sempervivum – Signs and how to revive

Signs of underwatered sempervivum 

  1. The leaves are shriveled.

An underwatered sempervivum will become shriveled and wrinkly, because the water stores in its leaves have been depleted. The plant will look droopy and wilted from this moisture loss. 

  1. The leaves are dried up and brown. 

Another sign of an underwatered sempervivum is dry, brown leaves. The leaves at the bottom start to dry out first, and as the plant uses up more of its water stores, the higher-up, younger leaves will also start turning brown. The dried-out leaves may also drop off so that the plant can focus more water and energy on survival. 

  1. The leaves have a flat, soft texture.

Underwatered sempervivum plants lose their firmness and plumpness, and the leaves become soft and flat instead. It looks almost as if the leaves are deflated – which they are, because their water stores are gone. 

How to revive an underwatered sempervivum

Fortunately, it is easier to revive an underwatered sempervivum than an overwatered one. To revive your underwatered plant, give it a thorough soaking with water. Drench all of the soil to ensure that all the roots have access to water. Allow the soil to dry, and then give it another good watering. 

You will need to review your watering schedule going forward. If you have been watering the plant routinely once a month, try increasing the watering to every two weeks and see what happens. It might take some trial and error before you find exactly the schedule your plant prefers, and this will also depend on your local climate and weather conditions. Just make sure you do not replace underwatering with overwatering, as this can lead to root rot. 

How to water sempervivums  

These plants like sandy, well-draining soil. Use pots with ample drainage holes, and allow the soil to dry out between waterings. It is better to water sempervivums deeply and infrequently, rather than little and often. Check the plants and soil regularly to make sure you are neither overwatering nor underwatering. 

Sempervivum plant care

Sempervivum plants can have glossy or matte leaves, and they come in a wide range of colors. Some species have bluish-pink leaves with magenta tips, while others have apple-green leaves with swirls of wooly hairs. The plants bloom on stalks, with star-shaped flowers in red, pink or yellow. Each rosette only blooms once. 

These plants can withstand a range of lighting conditions, from partial shade to bright sun. Outdoor plants should be acclimatized gradually to direct sunlight, to avoid sunburn. They can withstand intense heat but make sure not to expose them for too long. 

Sempervivums can survive despite infrequent but thorough watering, and will stay healthy if they are only watered once a month. If the weather gets colder, water your plant less so that the roots do not become soggy. 

These plants prefer porous, well-draining soil, just like other succulents. If your plant is in a pot, keep its roots dry and happy by using a conventional cactus mix. If it is planted in a garden bed, see to it that the soil is not too dense by adding coarse sand, gypsum or pumice. 

The easiest way to propagate this plant is to remove offsets from the parent plant. Cut off the stem connecting the two and replant the offset in porous soil. Newly-potted offsets need more frequent watering to establish their root systems. Once there is evident growth, you can revert to infrequent watering as you would for mature plants.

Sempervivums can tolerate a range of temperatures, but generally prefer an average temperature of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature becomes too low, the plant will go into a semi-dormant state and stop growing. 


Sempervivums are popular indoor plants because of their unique and attractive appearance. They are low-maintenance succulents that are very easy to grow and propagate. Like most plants, however, they are prone to the effects of underwatering if neglected for too long. The most common signs of this are brown, shriveled and dried-up leaves. 

To revive an underwatered sempervivum, you need to give it a thorough soak in water, and increase your watering depth and frequency for several weeks until you see a response. Allow the soil to dry out before watering the plant again, otherwise you risk overwatering it instead.

Image: istockphoto.com / Mariel887