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How to Grow Senecio

Senecio Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller, Senecio cineraria

Senecio is a large genus of bedding plants, tender perennials, and houseplants that all bear daisy-like flowers. The flowers usually appear in clusters but sometimes appear singly. In most species, the eyes are surrounded by ray florets or petals.

The two best-known members of the Senecio genus are Dusty Miller, Senecio cineraria, and Florist’s Cineraria, Senecio x hybridus. Taxonomists have recently reclassified Senecio x hybridus; the Florist’s Cineraria is now Pericallis x hybrida.

The foliage of Senecio members is diverse. Leaf shapes include rounded, deeply cut, and fernlike. Foliage can be fleshy or succulent, and several species bear hairy to wooly white leaves.

There are more than 1,000 species in the Senecio genus. Most are perennials, some are succulent, and some are evergreen or deciduous vines. Among the hundreds of species are many yellow-flowered weeds.

The genus is widely distributed across all continents except Antarctica.

 Senecio vernalis
Senecio vernalis

Get to Know Senecio

  • Plant type: Perennials and some vines
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 8 to 10
  • Hardiness: Tender to very hardy depending on the species
  • Height and width: Most species grow 18 to 24 inches (45-61cm) tall and wide; vining species can grow to 6 feet (1.8m) tall.
  • Flowers: Daisy-like flowers usually bright yellow but sometimes purple or white
  • Bloom time: Summer
  • Uses: Edging plant, vining plant depending on species
  • Common name: Varies with the species
  • Botanical name: Senecio
  • Family name: Asteraceae

Where to Plant Senecio

  • Grow Senecio in full sun to light shade depending on the species.
  • Plant Senecio in average to humus-rich, well-drained soil.

When to Plant Senecio

  • Sow seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Keep seeds at 65° to 70°F (18-21°C) until seeds germinate.
  • Sow seeds outdoors at least two weeks after the last frost in spring.
  • In Zone 9 and warmer, seeds can be sown in autumn.
Dusty Miller flowering, Senecio cineraria
Dusty Miller flowering, Senecio cineraria

Planting and Spacing Senecio

  • Indoors sow seeds 1/8 inch deep in a sterile seed-starting mix. Press the seeds into the soil; do not bury the seeds. Light is required for germination. Damping-off is a common problem. Water from below keeping the mix moist but not damp and never dry.
  • Sow seed outdoors in evenly prepared soil.

How to Water and Feed Senecio

  • Keep the soil evenly moist, not wet, or dry.
  • Fertilize Senecio with an all-purpose fertilizer at planting time or fertilizer perennial species in spring when new growth begins.

Senecio Care

  • Trim perennials each spring to maintain their shape.
  • Give vining types a trellis to climb or let them cascade over walls or out of hanging baskets.

Senecio Pests and Diseases

  • Young plants are susceptible to damping off. Use a sterile seed-starting or potting mix and water from below.
  • Slugs and snails can attack Senecio.

Senecio Propagation

  • Sow seeds in late winter or early spring.
  • Perennial species can be propagated by seed or cuttings.
  • Take cuttings in late summer and root them in a seed-starting mix after dipping the tips in rooting hormone. Root cuttings in a greenhouse or under protection.
  • Herbaceous perennials can be divided in spring.
Cape ivy, Senecio macroglossus
Cape ivy, Senecio macroglossus

Senecio Varieties to Grow

  • Senecio cineraria, Dusty Miller: shrubby perennials grow 24 to 36 inches (61-91cm) tall and wide with woolly white leaves cut into blunt-tipped lobes; bears clustered heads of yellow creamy yellow flowers in almost any season; can get leggy if not cut back regularly.
  • S. confusus, Mexican flame vine: evergreen or deciduous vine sometimes grown as a summer annual; twines 10 to 15 feet; large clusters of orange-red blooms with golden centers.
  • S. compactus—now Brachyglottis compacta
  • S. cruentus—now Pericallis x hybrida
  • S. greyii—now Brachyglottis ‘Sunshine’
  • S. x hybridus—now Pericallis x hybrda
  • S. macroglossus, Cape ivy, Kenya ivy, natal ivy, wax ivy: evergreen vine twines to 6 or more feet; purple-toned stems; rubbery leaves and tiny solitary yellow daisies in summer.
  • S. viravira—also known as S. cineraria ‘Candissimus’, Dusty Miller: sprawling plant to 4 feet tall and wide; leaves resemble S. cineraria but are more strikingly white and cut narrower; creamy white flowers in summer.

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