Will chicken and hen succulents grow under a blue spruce?
Good question! In my experience there are two things that hens and chicks (Sempervivum) really dislike – dim light, and acid soil. Both of these conditions can be found under spruce trees. However, I’ve got a couple of tricks up my sleeve as far as finding ways and places where these great plants will be happy.
First of all, trim off any lower branches from the trees so that light can reach all the way under it. Then, generously sprinkle dolomite lime onto the soil.
Spruce needles are so acid as they break down that it will take a considerable amount to buffer the soil, so don’t be afraid to put on too much. A bag of Dolomite lime costs about $5 at the garden center, and one tree could easily take a whole bag, spread out from the trunk about four or five feet (1.2 meters).
The biggest issue with planting Sempervivum under anything is that the seasonal dropping of needles is almost impossible to remove, short of vaccuuming them up.
If the only place you have in your garden to grow hens and chicks is under trees, be prepared for them not to reach their full potential, as the other restricting factor is that the trees hog all the moisture. Even in a steady downpour, where is the dry spot? Under the spruce trees, of course!
Hope this helps,