Hens and chicks—the common name for the similar-looking but unrelated Echeveria x imbricata
and the more cold-hardy Sempervivum tectorum
—is a longtime favorite for containers, rock gardens, and growing in the crevices of stone walls. Sempervivum's ground-hugging rosettes can be green, red, chartreuse, or purple to silvery blue in color. Echeverias come in rose, green, gray, and mauve, often with a contrasting edge color or a stripe. Both multiply without much effort, sending out shoots with their progeny attached; these may root on their own if they are in contact with soil. Otherwise, they can easily be detached and rooted.
Desert-loving yuccas, agaves,
and aloes, with their swordlike and strappy leaves with sharp tips, add a sculptural element to any garden. Though these large-scale specimen plants have long been associated with the dry Southwest, there are hardy varieties that withstand below-freezing temperatures.
That indoor classic, the treelike jade plant (Crassula ovata
), is another favorite for outdoor containers—though it is not hardy in cold climates. In the same family, baby necklace (Crassula rupestris x perforata)
looks like a string of beads or buttons.
The lesser-known, multistemmed Aeoniums
bear striking rosettes, sometimes variegated, in shades of green, red, and blackish purple, at the ends of their branches. Equally good as container and garden specimens, these generally grow 18 inches to 3 feet tall and 2 to 4 feet wide. They don't tolerate freezing temperatures, however, so they need to winter indoors in cold climates.