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With around 60 species and more than 3000 (yes, three thousand!) named cultivars of sempervivum available, it was always going to be difficult for me to choose just one to illustrate as Plant of the Month.

0315 Fig1 Lilac Time

Fig 1 Sempervivum 'Lilac Time'

Sempervivum 'Lilac Time' is my plant of choice, as this cultivar exhibits most striking colour at all times of the year (see Fig 1). It was bred by Enid Milton (UK, 1980) and has large blue-green rosettes which turn lilac in summer sunshine. A similar cultivar is Sempervivum 'Blue Boy' bred by Kevin Vaughn (US, 1977) that has smaller rosettes which turn blue-grey rather than lilac. Both of these are available from several nurseries in the UK.

 0315 Fig2 Lilac Time September

Fig 2 Sempervivum 'Lilac Time' in September

It is an easy plant to grow outside, requiring a well-drained soil and plenty of sunshine. Once established, it will just look after itself! Such plants offset readily and these offsets can be removed and potted on to ensure survival of the exact cultivar (random seedlings from cross-pollination will not grow 'true to type'). After the third or fourth year the most mature rosettes will grow upwards into a tall stem resulting in an inflorescence of many flowers – these rosettes will then die, for sempervivums are monocarpic.

 0315 Fig3 Lilac Time July

Fig 3 Sempervivum 'Lilac Time' in July

So that you can see how this cultivar grows and stands out amongst other plants, I have added two 'wider' shots of this same clump growing in my raised 'Houseleek Bed', taken in September one year, showing its autumn coloration (see Fig 2) and in July the following year, when in flower (see Fig 3). In each case the clump of Sempervivum 'Lilac Time' is highlighted by the red rectangle.

Tony Roberts

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