Senecio is a genus of flowering plants in the daisy family that includes ragworts and groundsels. Variously circumscribed taxonomically, the genus Senecio is one of the largest genera of flowering plants. The genus Senecio includes more than 1,500 species, spread all over the world. Among these, only a few have the characteristics of succulents.
Senecios can have various dimensions: ranging from 20-30 cm to over one and a half metres in height. The succulent stems can have different thicknesses and forms, and the shape of the leaves is also extremely variable.
The leaves on succulent Senecios are generally thick and fleshy. They can be deep green, bluish, or even striped, but there is considerable variation in the leaf shape. Some are round, some are banana-shaped, and some stand upright.
Senecio flowers form in clusters on long stems. The flowers persist for weeks—their shapes include red or white spires and yellow daisy-like flowers—but it’s the foliage that interests most gardeners.
While senecio succulents grow outdoors in warm climates, they are popular indoor plants in areas with cool winters. Senecio succulents are often grown in hanging baskets with the fleshy leaves trailing over the sides.
List of Senecios Varieties
- Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller)
- Senecio confusus (Mexican Flame Vine)
- Senecio mandraliscae (Blue finger)
- Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls)
- Senecio serpens (Blue Chalksticks)
- Senecio stapeliiformis (Pickle Plant)
- Senecio vitalis (Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks)
- String of bananas (Senecio radicans)
- Spear head (Senecio kleiniiformis)
- Vertical leaf Senecio (Senecio crassissimus)
- Woolly Senecio (Senecio scaposus)
- Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea)
- Cocoon plant (Senecio haworthii)
- Groundsel (Senecio vulgaris)
- Blue chalk fingers plant (Senecio vitalis)
- Senecio angel wings (Senecio candicans)
- String of dolphins (Senecio peregrinus)/ (Dolphin necklace)
- Senecio barbertonicus (also known as Succulent Bush Senecio)
- Senecio cephalophorus (Mountain Fire)
- Senecio angulatus (Creeping groundsel)
- Senecio cylindricus ( Narrow-leaf chalk plant)
- Senecio longiflorus (Paintbrush Flower)
- Senecio macroglossus (Natal ivy)
- Senecio anteuphorbium (Swizzle Sticks)
- Senecio pendulus (Inch Worm)
- Senecio galpinii (Kleinia galpinii)
- Senecio oxyriifolius (False Nasturtium)
- Senecio citriformis ( String of Fears)
Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller), is a type of Senecio with silvery, finely textured, dissected leaves, sometimes with a lace-like appearance. Attractive throughout the growing season, the leaves are covered with fine matted hairs, giving them a felted or woolly, silver or white appearance.
After the first year, it will produce clustered heads of small, daisy-like, cream to yellow flowers, which are not particularly ornamental. Some cultivars do not flower and many gardeners prefer to remove the flowers as they can detract from the foliage. Striking in the night garden, Dusty Miller is a versatile foliage plant which is perfect to soften color contrasts in the garden, tone down bright, hot colors.
The scientific name Senecio confusus translates to “confused” referring to this vine’s rampant habit of growth. Senecio confusus (Mexican Flame Vine) is an attractive evergreen vine with fleshy, arrowhead-shaped leaves and large clusters of brilliant flowers over a long season.
Blooming from late spring to fall (all year in mild winter areas), daisy-like, fiery orange-red flowers, adorned with golden centers, appear at the branch tips. Attractive to butterflies and bees, they gradually mature to red and give way to small dandelion-like puffs of seed. Perfect on trellis, cascading over walls or in hanging baskets.
Senecio mandraliscae, commonly called blue finger is a bushy type of Senecio with bluish-green leaves that grow as long as 6 inches. The plant reaches a height of up to 18 inches and a 24-inch spread at maturity. The Blue Chalk Sticks loves to grow under the full sun, but also tolerates light shade.
This plant produces small white flowers on top of the foliage during summer seasons and early fall. The flower color of this plant ranges from creamy-white to blue-green. Quickly forming a dense blue mat with its upward curving leaves, this low-growing succulent is highly versatile and ideal as a border plant or as a groundcover. Great for creating a low, blue edging too.
Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) is a curious succulent vine with thick fleshy leaves that resemble glass beads. The threadlike stems are lined with tiny pea-shaped leaves which store water and enable the plant survival in dry climates. If the long stems can trail along the ground, they will root at the nodes to form a dense ground cover. Small creamy-white daisy-like flowers, adorned with long red stamens and bright yellow anthers, appear on short stalks in summer.
String of pearls is commonly grown as a houseplant or an outdoor ornamental in frost-free climates. It is often grown in hanging baskets to allow the trailing stems to spill downward. It could also be grown in a flat dish allowing it to maintain the trailing growth habit seen in the wild. Indoor containers can be moved outside for the growing season but need to be acclimated gradually to prevent sunburn, should be protected from excess rainfall, and must be moved back indoors before frost.
Senecio serpens (Blue Chalksticks) is a dwarf semi-trailing variety of Senecio with a great ornamental appeal because of its cylindrical blue-green leaves. The powdery glaucous blue, finger-like fleshy leaves are born on the prostrate stems. Ascending at first, the stems become prostrate, suckering from the base and rooting at the nodes as they touch the ground.
Small creamy-white flowers held in corymbs rise just above the foliage in mid-summer to early fall (depending on growing conditions). Quickly forming a dense blue mat with its upward curving leaves, this low-growing succulent provides extraordinary form and color contrast in the landscape and makes a great small scale groundcover.
Senecio stapeliiformis (Pickle Plant) is a type of senecio with erect to reclining, fleshy, bluish-green pencil-like stems, up to 10 inches long. They are adorned with purple-green patterns and lined with soft spines along the sides. In summer, brilliant red to orange thistle-like flowers, sit at the top of the stem.
Easy to grow, Pickle Plant is great for containers and can be grown as a houseplant. Slightly cascading when mature, it is also perfect for hanging baskets. Fast-growing, this attractive succulent spreads by underground rhizomes to form a great succulent ground cover in frost free climates.
Senecio vitalis (Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks) is a spreading Senecio variety of great ornamental appeal with its cylindrical gray-green foliage. Its slender, slightly upcurved leaves, are glaucous-gray, finger-like. They encircle the trailing stems and form handsome tufts at the stem tips. Erect at first, the stems become procumbent and often root at the nodes as they touch the ground.
Small creamy-white flowers held in corymbs rise just above the foliage in late spring to early summer. Quickly forming a dense mat with its upward curving leaves, Senecio vitalis makes a great finely textured, medium height groundcover and provides extraordinary form and color contrast in the landscape.
Senecio radicans is also known as “string of bananas” or “fishhook senecio,” due to the plant’s greenish-blue curved foliage and trailing stems. Senecio radicans is a fast-growing plant with vines that can reach at least 3 feet long. The plant’s small pointed leaves grow single-file along the cascading stems, with the sides of the leaves partly translucent, allowing sunlight to shine through. These leaves resemble tiny bananas, hence the name String of Bananas.
Tiny white, yellow or lavender flowers appear in fall and winter, in clusters on heads that look like paintbrushes, and have a sweet cinnamon-like fragrance. All parts of Senecio radicans are poisonous if ingested.
Senecio kleiniiformis, commonly called spear head, is a slow-growing succulent with light gray-green fleshy leaves and stalks. It makes an attractive patio or porch plant in warmer climates, and can be grown as a houseplant in cooler climates. It blooms pale yellow at the end of summer and early fall. This fun plant can attract butterflies and other pollinators when grown outdoors in Mediterranean climates, but also makes a unique indoor plant near sunny windows.
Like many succulents, spear head is an easy plant to grow as long as you provide for its basic needs. Soft succulents will not survive a hard frost, but if there is a risk of freezing temperatures they can be brought indoors to grow on a sunny window sill or under a grow light. They need bright sunlight, great drainage, and infrequent water to prevent rot.
Senecio crassissimus, the propeller plant, vertical leaf or lavender steps is an erect succulent plant that grows up to 24 inches tall and up to 18 inches wide, with thick, purple stems, holding stiff flattened 2 inch (5 cm) long, waxy, silver-grey, obovate leaves, with vivid purple margins, facing outwards. In winter the inflorescence rises from the stem tips up to 2 feet, bearing an open branched head of bright yellow daisy flowers. Easy to grow succulent house plant. Provide morning sun or very bright, indirect light. Water when dry.
Woolly Senecio (Senecio scaposus)
Senecio scaposus also referred to as wooly Senecio is a somewhat unusual-looking succulent. With its fine, hairy coating, it has a silver shimmer to the leaves. It has a very short stem, or sometimes almost no stem at all. It grows close to the soil and makes an excellent ground cover. It will usually reach a maximum height of only 12 inches.
The leaves are long, reaching a length of 3-4 inches. They are curved, and face upwards. Green in color, they might look silver because of their woolly coating. Underneath this coating, the leaves are a waxy green with a blue tinge. The leaves grow in a rosette formation, and the rosettes themselves become thicker as new leaves emerge from the center.
Senecio jacobaea also referred to as ragwort or stinking willie is an upright and long-lived herbaceous plant that forms a basal rosette of leaves during the early stages of growth. It later produces one or more upright stems that are much-branched towards the top of the plant.
Its deeply-divided leaves are dark green and mostly hairless above, and somewhat paler and hairy underneath. Its bright yellow flower-heads (20-25 mm across) are borne in dense clusters at the tops of the branches and have 12-15 elongated ‘petals’. The bases of the flower-heads are surrounded by about thirteen small greenish bracts that have black or brown tips.
The plant is generally considered to be biennial but it has the tendency to exhibit perennial properties under certain cultural conditions (such as when subjected to repeated grazing or mowing). The plant gives off an unpleasant smell when damaged.
Senecio haworthii, commonly known as the Cocoon Plant is a unique-looking and lovely succulent. It is characterized by its remarkable cocoon-like cylindrical white hairs or felted leaves. Compared to its foliage, the flowers produced by Senecio haworthii are nothing striking. The terminal inflorescence it produces consists of short bright yellow flowers. The flowers bloom anywhere between winter and summer.
While it is not as commonly found as other popular succulents and cacti, Senecio Haworthii is a favorite for many succulent growers, and for a good reason. Cocoon succulents are very forgiving plants, resistant to drought, and easy to care for.
Senecio vulgaris, often known by the common names groundsel and old-man-in-the-spring, is a prevalent winter annual weed (although also considered a summer annual since it can germinate in spring, summer, or fall). It adapts to both moist and dry sites and reproduces rapidly from seed and has multiple generations per year.
Senecio vulgaris can grow up to 45cm tall and flowers throughout the summer, producing interesting yellow blooms. It has a deciduous nature and thus loses its green foliage in the autumn and regrows new leaves in the spring. Its often found on disturbed ground, on sites like the edges of roads.
Senecio candicans also referred to as ‘Angel Wings’ is a striking fast-growing succulent with large, rounded, soft to the touch, silvery-white leaves with toothy edges. Aside from its silver leaves, this plant gets its distinctive look from its tightly mounded foliage. This plant grows around 16” inches long and slightly wider with numerous broad, heart-shaped leaves. The leaves also have tiny blunt dentations along the margins.
The Angel Wings Senecio plant is mostly grown as a foliage plant but produces inflorescence of yellow flowers during the summer season. Senecio Angel Wing is easy to maintain, is tolerant of coastal conditions, and is drought resistant.
Senecio Peregrinus, or also known as String of Dolphin or Dolphin plant is a cross of two plant variants, the Senecio Roweleyanus (string of pearls) and Senecio Articulates (hot dog or candle plant). The beautifully curved leaves that protrude from the stemmed vine look like they’re jumping dolphins kitted out, even, with what looks like dorsal fins.
String of dolphins are most commonly grown indoors as houseplants, although they can also be grown outdoors. However, they are not frost-tolerant succulents and require warm weather year-round in order to survive outdoors. They look great in hanging baskets and vertical gardens, or they can be trained to grow upwards on a trellis or moss pole depending on what look you are going for.