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Eastern Shore Food Lab

Sempervivum - Ruby Heart

A hardy plant with low weed potential, a wide variety of medicinal uses, and low pest potential provides a great addition to any plot.

Scientific Name: Sempervivum tectorum
Common Name: Ruby Heart, Hens and Chicks, Houseleeks
Plant Family: Crassulaceae

Etymology: Sempervivum means always living, and tectorum means on roofs.

Edible Parts

The young leaves and shoot can be eaten raw, and the juice from the leaves can be extracted and used as a beverage.

Historic Uses

Ruby heart has a wide variety of medicinal uses. The leaves and juice can be applied to small wounds to reduce bleeds, and have a cooling effect. In this way they have similar effects to aloe vera, and can be applied to most skin diseases, bee stings, and wounds.


Originated in Europe, and since has been brought to America, growing from USDA zone 4 and up.

How to Identify

Grow up to six inches, and flower from June to July. The flower color can range from pink to white, including shades of yellow and green. The plant is star-shaped with at least 7 petals.

Additional Information

The plant can act as a laxative and may induce vomiting if eaten in excess.

Planting Considerations

  • USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10
  • Native Range: Mountain belts throughout Europe
  • Forest Garden Layer: groundcover
  • Permaculture functions: groundcover, food, beverage, medicine
  • Soil texture: loamy and sandy soils, can withstand acidic, alkaline, and neutral soil pH
  • Height: 3-6”
  • Spread: 6-8”
  • Growth rate: medium growth rate
  • Sun: full sun
  • Bloom: June - July
  • Attracts: deer, rabbits, bees
  • Tolerates: deer, pests, drought, dry soil, rocky soil
  • Drawbacks: ingredients must be used fresh, self-pollination is difficult.