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Species Spotlight – Succulent Senecio

Senecio (Si-NEE-shee-oh) is a huge genus of flowering plants that includes ragworts, groundsels and dusty miller. Many are garden delights, while quite a few are categorized as noxious weeds. But some senecio are succulents, and they are a particularly charming and whimsical group. Senecio succulents include the wonderful string of pearls plant, blue chalk sticks plant and even one that looks like leaping dolphins. They trail, form shrubs and make lovely ground covers. Let’s take a closer look at the senecio plant and its care.

All About Growing Succulent Senecio Plants

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Succulent Senecio Varieties

the many different looks of senecio succulents

It is difficult to identify a common form or look among the senecio succulents. While each is often striking, each is also strikingly different from every other variety. Senecio serpens, the blue chalk sticks plant, is one of the finest varieties among all blue succulents. And the lovely, whimsical string of pearls plant is surely the most cherished of the hanging and trailing varieties. The plants in the senecio genus are grouped due to the similarity of the form of their flowers rather than the growth habit of the plant. Yet in the succulent forms, these blooms are typically small, and often overlooked. Most senecio are toxic, and will bite back if they are ingested.

Senecio Blue Chalk Sticks Plant
Senecio serpens mandraliscae)- Blue Chalk sticks plant

Senecio mandraliscae, known as the blue chalk sticks plant, is prized for the brilliant color it adds to the garden. It quickly forms a dense mat of slim, blue, vertical leaves, decorated by tiny white blooms in the summer. Varieties grow from 3-4 inches tall, up to 18 inches in height. It is highly resistant to deer, rabbits, drought (of course) and fire. This lovely variety is particularly effective in rock gardens and mixed containers.

Senecio String of Pearls Plant
senecio rowleyanus the string of pearls plant trailing succulent

Senecio the string of pearls plant is so aptly named! The whimsical ball-shaped leaves are like so many peas on a single thread. So much nicer to think of a string of pearls! It adds drama and elegance when the “pearls” tumble over the side of a container. This plant tends to grow quite long, and will cascade over 6 feet long! It is easy to propagate by stem cuttings. Each time you trim a stem for propagation, it encourages the stem to branch, leaving a fuller, thicker looking plant. While used primarily as a hanging plant, senecio rowleyanus also forms a fanciful ground cover, rooting all along its stem. This is such an easy and very rewarding plant to grow.

Senecio Crassissimus Vertical Leaf Senecio
Senecio Crassissimus Vertical Leaf Senecio

The vertical leaf senecio crassissimus forms a compact, upright shrub reaching about 18-24″ tall. Silvery green leaves sport a striking rosy-purple margin when grown in full sun. Come summer, it produces small, yellow, daisy-like blooms that are attractive to butterflies. This is a carefree beauty that really charms when combined with darker hued succulents.

Senecio Barbertonicus Himalaya
Senecio Barbertonicus Himalaya bright chartreuse succulent looks like pine tree tuft

Senecio barbertonicus Himalaya forms clusters of slim, chartreuse green leaves that look like a young pine tree’s. For all its spiky appearance, the leaves are soft and flexible, with no sharp edges or points. The sparkler look is jazzy yet airy and this is a gorgeous compliment to dark, “black succulents” like echeveria black prince. This variety can grow to a shrub of 6 feet tall. The bright yellow blooms of summer are sweetly scented and highly attractive to butterflies.

This photo provided courtesy of Mountain Crest Gardens – my favorite online succulent vendor.

Senecio Macroglossus Variegatus – Variegated Jade Vine
Senecio Macroglossus Variegatus - Variegated Jade Vine

The variegated jade vine, senecio macroglossus, is an intriguing variety that looks just like a glossy leafed ivy. It happily climbs and trails, more than 9 feet in either direction. It can also be used to form a handsome ground cover. Stems have a soft purple wash, and the leaves are heavily splashed with cream. Ivory daisy-like blooms are abundant in winter, serving an important source of pollen for local butterflies. As mature stems become woody, keep this robust plant looking fresh but clipping it back, and using the cuttings for propagation. Although this is a succulent, the leaves store much smaller amounts of water than most, so it needs a bit more frequent watering to remain lush and full.

Senecio Articulatus – Candle Plant or Hot Dog Cactus
Senecio Articulatus - Candle Plant or Hot Dog Cactus

Senecio articulatus is an intriguing variety whose thick, jointed stems and upright form has led to the common names of candle plant, pickle plant or hot dog cactus. This plant is leafless for much of the year, providing a strong, vertical component in mixed arrangements. Come winter, ivy-like leaves and tiny white blooms develop. Preferring partial shade, this is an excellent choice for growing indoors year-round.

Senecio Jacobsenii – Trailing Jade, Weeping Jade
Senecio Jacobsenii - Trailing Jade, Weeping Jade

Senecio jacobsenii produces wide, oval green leaves washed with pink and plum. The look is similar to the cherished jade tree (crassula ovata) with a gently cascading habit that is wonderfully lush and full, like the image at the top if this post. Often called trailing jade or weeping jade, it can cascade a full 4 feet! It adds wonderful texture, with its leaves closely over-lapping, like the shingles on a cottage roof. In addition to being a first-class trailer, jacobsenii also forms a handsome groundcover.

Senecio Plant Care

mixed succulents in fountain with cascading string of pearls senecio

Senecio succulents are typically hardy just to climates zones 9-11, though they overwinter well in any zone. All are nicely resistant to pests and foraging animals. Most will thrive given moderate to full sun. The string of pearls plant will thrive in bright light indoors, to semi-shade outdoors, to partial sun.

Be sure to use a fast-draining succulent soil when planting your senecio plants. Water only when the soil is dry, then water thoroughly. Allow the soil to drain well and dry before watering again. For an in-depth guide to watering your succulents, please read here.

When it comes time to propagate your senecio succulent, you can do so by division, leaf or stem cutting propagation. This is an easy and economical way to expand your supply of these spectacular plants.

Where to Buy Senecio Succulents

mixed succulent landscape with senecio blue chalk sticks plant as ground cover

You will find a wide array of senecio succulents online with Mountain Crest Gardens. They currently offer 16 varieties of senecio in a range of colors and textures. They carry the classics like the blue chalk sticks plant and the string of pearls plant, but also many others. While their extensive selection captured my heart, it is their fantastic quality that keeps me coming back!

I hope you have enjoyed this review of the succulent senecio. I would love to know if you are growing any of these beauties now, or if you now intend to start! Please take a moment to leave a comment and let me know!

Happy gardening!

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different varieties of senecio succulents
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