Senecio Vitalis: The Beautiful Plant That Will Add a Touch of Elegance to Your Home
Do you want beautifully structured, vibrantly colored evergreen succulents to adorn your garden? Well, you don’t have to look any further than Senecio vitalis plants with their blue-green color and blue chalk fingers on tall slender stems.
Do you want your garden or indoor plants to have a memorable and bright look of healthy greenery? You can do all this by adding Senecio Vitalis aka the Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks or Blue Chalk Fingers. Fleshy, slender, tubular lengths of blue-green leaves covered in a waxy white mist of a coating sporting crowded tufts at the stem tips seem almost surreal filling the space around them. This is a fun and easy plant to grow and maintain.
The beautiful bluish-green shrub is a joy to behold and easy to propagate. Originating in South Africa, this plant has won over the ornamental plant collectors all over the world. The strong stems are cylindrical in shape, long, and tubular. The green stems tend to turn woody as the plant ages and will put down roots in the surrounding area to give a fast-growing shrub cover. The Senecio Vitalis is specified as Senecio Cylindricus.
The succulent shrub grows to a height of 12 to 24 inches and the leaves grow slightly upcurved to about 7-8 inches in length. They are like tapering tubes that curve upwards from the stem. Interestingly, this plant is a member of the Asteraceae or daisy family. The shrubs bloom off-white or yellowish-colored disk-shaped flowers in the late Spring to early Summer held in corymbs. In addition to the flowers that grow above the foliage, the Senecio Vitalis also produces fruit that is long and thin with a feathery parachute-like growth that enables the seeds to spread by the wind.
Senecio vitalis is suitable for container gardens because of its color and bushy look. Even on the ground the Blue Chalk Fingers or Narrow Leaf Chalk Sticks give lovely elongated foliage very quickly as the plant spreads fast. The waxy coating of the leaves that cover the true vibrant blue-green color helps to protect the plant from hot and dry conditions.
Propagating Senecio vitalis succulents
The Narrow Leaf Chalksticks or Blue Chalk Fingers or Senecio vitalis typically is propagated through cuttings. However, there are other options for growing these plants that are just as easy. One is by planting seeds and the other is by potting offsets or by dividing plants and repotting them.
This succulent is a prolific spreader and will take root at the nodes as they touch the ground. Obtaining new plant material for propagation is relatively easy and quick. In certain instances, this plant can become invasive. Therefore, it is important to limit the area of growth as needed to a certain place in the garden or by placing it in containers. The plants do well in the USDA hardiness zone 9-12.
The easiest path to propagating Senecio vitalis is by planting stem cuttings. The cuttings should have a few leaves on the stem that is 4-5 inches tall. A sharp knife is useful in cutting the stem. This stem should be left to dry out for a day or two before planting. This will ensure the cutting has less of a chance of contracting root rot or mold. Plant the cutting in well-drained potting soil or succulent potting mix that is moist and not wet. This new plant can be placed in an area that is moderately sunny and humid and watered sparingly. This process is so easy that you can never go wrong.
The Senecio vitalis succulent produces seeds and these can be collected for propagation. The seeds once collected can be spread on a paper towel or seeding tray. A mist of water is all you need to start the sprouting process. Leave in a partly shady, well-ventilated area with low humidity till sprouts appear. Once the sprouts are about two months old they can be transferred to pots or the garden area and transplanted in appropriate potting soil that drains well. After transplanting the growth accelerates and brand new plants will add color and texture to your garden.
Offsets and plant division
Both offsets and material obtained by dividing clusters of existing plants are also easy ways of propagating Senecio vitalis succulents. If the correct potting mix is used and other plant needs are met, you will see rapid growth. Makes a great potted plant that will thrive indoors or can plant in an area that will benefit from quick thick clumps of color and texture.
A care guide for growing Senecio vitalis aka Narrow Leaf Chalk Fingers or Blue Chalk Fingers
The first thing to understand about growing Senecio vitalis is that it is a winter grower and is dormant during the summer period. The basic requirement for growing and caring for the Blue Chalk Fingers succulent is much the same as your typical succulents and is different only by the growing season. The important aspects to give your attention to are the requirements of soil, water, light, fertilizer, temperature, and humidity. Once these factors are fulfilled, you will have lovely, colorful succulents with high visual appeal. The texture that this plant can add to your garden is incredible to look at.
The best soil for Senecio vitalis
Similar to your other succulent plants, this prolific grower also requires soil that drains well while having the ability to retain a minimal amount of water. A mixture of perlite, sand, potting mix, and peat moss works well. Containers should have an adequate drainage system.
Senecio vitalis succulent is an easy grower and works well even with normal potting soil. Depending on the climate and levels of humidity you can make the soil sandy for better drainage. This hardy plant requires minimum care when it comes to soil. What is required is that the soil stays moist and not damp. You can add crushed granite, sand, and Pine bark to increase the drainage of the soil. Pine bark is good for water retention while allowing ample ventilation of the soil. Absorbent rock types can be added for both water retention as well as drainage.
The ideal watering schedule for Senecio vitalis
This is a succulent that is highly drought-tolerant and can go for a couple of weeks without water. However, under ideal conditions, the plant should receive water twice or thrice a week. The following tips can help you with the watering of the succulents.
- The best way to test the soil to see if it needs watering is to insert your finger into a depth of more than an inch. If the first inch of soil is dry to the touch, then it is time for watering. Water till the dirt is damp but not waterlogged and allow excess water to drain.
- When you want to plant new Senecio vitalis succulents, first water the pot thoroughly and allow the excess to drain before setting the plants in the soil.
- Never leave the plants with too much water as it leads to rot that can spread to the other parts of the plant. Remove the overwatered plants and go as far as changing the soil to safeguard the remaining plants.
- If you see moss growing inside of pots, it is a sign that there is too much water retention that will lead to fungal growth like algae.
- Placing the pot on a bed of rocks helps with draining excess water. You can also change the position of the plant to a place where it will dry out faster.
Light requirements and exposure to sunlight
The Blue Chalk Fingers aka Narrow Leaf Chalk Fingers is a winter grower. However, for the plant to develop it should receive sufficient direct sunlight through the winter conditions. The amount of full sun the plant receives will determine how dense the growth of the leaves will be. The plant can be grown indoors as long as it receives at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight per day. This can be bright indirect natural light or artificial light. If your plant does not look lively enough you can change it to a place that gets more sunlight or shade as needed.
Adding fertilizer to Senecio vitalis plants
This is a very low-maintenance plant and strictly speaking, does not need to be fertilized if the soil has sufficient nutrients. If you need to fertilize the succulent, it should be done during the winter period. Water soluble fertilizer that is nitrogen-based is the best type for Senecio vitalis. A weak solution of liquid fertilizer once a month or so will also help. Adding unnecessary nutrients to this succulent can result in the leaves, stems, and roots being damaged and can even kill the plant.
The best temperature and humidity for Senecio vitalis succulents
Cooler temperatures are preferred by the Senecio vitalis plants along with average levels of humidity. During the months of winter, you can keep this succulent in a place with less sunlight and cooler temperatures. In the summer, however, you can place the plant in a warm location with bright sunlight. You should always ensure that frost does not get to the plant. Good air circulation is also vital for the plant’s growth. If there is no frost, the cold hardy Senecio vitalis succulent will do well outdoors all year long. During times of freezing temperatures, the plants can be brought indoors.
Cultivars of Senecio vitalis
There are many interesting cultivars of the Narrow Leaf Chalk Sticks or Blue Chalk Fingers as the plant is commonly known. One of the most interesting and magical looks of all is found in the Crested Senecio vitalis. It is also called the mermaid tail as it resembles a whale’s tail. The plant can develop to be rather large in size at a height of around two feet and a width of around three to five feet.
The genus Senecio, one of the biggest families in the flowering plant world with more than 1250 species of all types, sizes, and shapes belongs to the daisy family (Asteraceae) which comprises annuals and perennials. In 1997 a new genus, known as Curio, was created and now the majority of Senecio plants are known by both genus names.
Other types of popular cultivars include Senecio vitalis include Senecio Talinoides serpens or Senecio vitalis serpens, Senecio vulgaris, Senecio haworthii, and Senecio jacobaea. All these plants have vibrant colors and a distinct presence in your garden. Trailing stems, fleshy leaves, mat-like growth, upright erect stems, finger-like leaves with a whitish film that protects them from harsh sunlight, and being drought and deer tolerant are all known characteristics of this genus Senecio.
Maintenance of Senecio vitalis plants
This is an important part of maintaining the lush looks of this succulent. Pruning helps to keep the plants ventilated. When there is air circulation it helps to minimize fungal diseases and other pests at bay.
Senecio vitalis plants are procumbent and often spread fast and this can be controlled by pruning the branches that tend to grow out of the designated area or pot. It is also a good opportunity to get rid of dead or dying leaves, flowers, and stems and clean up the plants.
Pruning periodically helps to maintain healthy growth and vibrant colors of the plant. A sharp, clean knife can be used to cut the unwanted plant material. The best time for a good clean-up is during the plant’s dormant stage.
Potting and repotting of Senecio vitalis plants
Potting and repotting of the succulent Senecio vitalis are useful in maintaining the condition of the soil and its drainage. It is also a way of getting nutrients to the plants with the renewed potting mix. Clogged drainage holes can be cleaned and this will keep the roots from rotting.
Repotting Senecio vitalis can be done once in two years. This way you will not impact the root system of the plant too much. Transplanting Senecio vitalis is best done during the growing season. After repotting, watering, and adding fertilizer if required can be done once every two weeks or once a month.
How to keep Senecio vitalis plants safe from diseases and pests
Always inspect your plants for possible attacks by pests and diseases. This hardy plant is susceptible to scale insects, spider mites, and mealybugs like any other succulent. Excessive plant growth can be bad for the plants as this will encourage pests and diseases. Treating with mild insecticidal soap is one solution.
You have to make sure that the soil drains well. If there is too much water in the soil making it damp, the roots will start to rot and spread to the plant. The damaged parts should be removed immediately and the plant repotted if necessary.
If you find brown spots on the leaves and rust, usually caused by bacterial activity, it can be treated with antibiotics in extreme cases.
Senecio vitalis toxicity
This plant can be mildly toxic to humans and animals. When handling the plant, it is recommended that you wear gloves coated with nitrile to overcome this problem.
The sap of the succulent is known to irritate the skin and eyes. Washing your hand thoroughly after handling the plant will overcome this problem. You have to be aware of the fact that the plant can be toxic to children and pets.
Frequently asked questions
Is the Senecio vitalis succulent invasive?
Why is my Senecio vitalis plant dropping its leaves?
Dropping leaves can occur due to several reasons. Overwatering can cause the leaves to drop from root rot that sets in. Underwatering also can cause leaves to drop. Fungal or bacterial diseases can also have the same effect. Inspect the plant well and remedy the situation before the plant is ruined or dies out.
What are the uses of Senecio vitalis plants?
These plants are believed to have medicinal properties even though they are also considered to be toxic. The best use for this succulent is as a ground cover, as a companion plant that adds color and glamor to existing collections of plants, or as an eye-catching plant in a container. They are especially popular choices when designing Mediterranean landscapes and rock gardens.