Hens and Chicks (also known as houseleeks) is one of my favorite succulents. Ever since I introduced Helen in 2018 I’ve been so happy to learn that you guys have been giving this hardy succulent a chance in your own homes and gardens. A common question I’ve received has been, “Why is my hens and chicks so slimy?” along with photos of a mushy hen looking like it’s covered in a slick ooze. The simple answer is – she’s getting too much water.

Now, you might be crying out, “But I’m not watering her that much!” and that may be true but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s not getting too much water. The issue is likely to be with the soil and drainage.

Hens and Chicks don’t require that much soil so you can plant them in shallow containers and they’ll do just fine. If you do plant them in deep containers (like I do because I like the way it looks) it’s important to remember that the soil can retain a lot of water. This can lead to root rot and mushy, slimy hens.

Avoiding root rot in Hens and Chicks

If you’re struggling with mushy, slimy hens, here are a few tips to help you take care of your succulent:

Use a planter with a drainage hole

I love decorative succulent planters as much as anyone but it’s important to get one with a drainage hole (this one is perfect for Hens & Chicks) to avoid your plants sitting in wet soil. If it doesn’t have a drainage hole I recommend potting your plant in a smaller pot with drainage and removing it from the decorative pot when it’s time to water. Water, drain, then place it back in the decorative pot until it’s time for the next watering session.

Mix in river rocks or pebbles

If you don’t have a planter with a drainage hole or if you have your Hens and Chicks in a deep planter you can also use river rocks, pebbles, or small gravel to fill the bottom of the planter and promote drainage. I like to fill my deep planters with at least 1.5 – 2-inches of river rocks to avoid the soil getting too wet and causing root rot in my succulents.

Use a well-draining soil

Succulents require very well-draining soil to avoid root rot and mushy leaves. You want to look for a soil that is specifically designed for succulents or cacti; it should have a sand or gravel-like consistency to promote drainage and avoid retaining too much water. I love this soil mix from The Next Gardener. I switched to it recently and my succulents have done great with it.

Know when to water

Hens and Chicks are hardy succulents and do not require a lot of water. In fact, they thrive on a bit of neglect and don’t need watered more than once every 1 – 2 weeks. The soil should be dry before you water which is another reason I love planters with drainage holes. If you can, check the soil at the bottom of the planter because it should be dry before you water your succulent again. If the soil there is damp, you don’t need to water your plant. You can also use a simple water gauge to determine how dry the soil is and if you need to add water.

If you have any other succulent care questions, hit me up and I’ll do my best to answer!