How to Grow Senecio Plants

Guide to Growing Ragwort, Dusty Miller, and Groundsel

The Senecio plant genus consists of many members; these can be half hardy annuals or half hardy perennials and range in height from 30 to 90 cm (12 to 36 inches).

Many Senecio plants have an attractive grey foliage.

The time that Senecio blooms depends on the species (from early spring through to late on in the winter).

Senecio vernalis
Senecio vernalis - Eastern groundsel by Matvey Andreyev, CC.

They carry yellow daisy-like flowers. Some common names for Senecio include Ragwort, Cineraria, Groundsel, Chalksticks and Dusty Miller.

Photographs of Senico serpens, S, cineraria, S. vernalis and S. mandraliscae

Dusty Miller
Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria) by Kinez. Both photographs under creative commons licence.

How to Grow Ragwort, Groundsel, Dusty Miller and other Senecio Plants in the Garden

Due to the large range in the Senecio genus it is difficult to describe accurately how to grow all the species.

It is important that you do not grow hybrid Senecio plants from seeds, as they will not keep true; grow from purchased plants or divided plants. Put out following the last frost of spring).

senecio serpens
Senecio serpens by Jason baker.

If growing Senecio species such as Ragwort, Dusty Miller, Blue Chalksticks and Groundsel from seed then sow them in the springtime, on the soil surface.

Most species prefer sunny conditions and are tolerant of partial shade. Soil should be of an ordinary nature and well drained.

If starting indoors, the seeds will take about two to three weeks to germinate at 18 to 22 degrees centigrade (64 to 72°F). They should be grown in the light and watered from below, as Ragwort plants are easily damaged by water.

Plants should be put out following the last frost, at a spacing of 15 cm / 6 inches (smaller Senecio varieties) through to 60 cm / 2 feet for larger species.

Senecio mandraliscae
Senecio mandraliscae by Pamla Eisenberg.

Caring for Ragwort and Similar Senecio Plant Species

Senecio serpens (Blue Chalksticks) plants, and similar should be cut back every spring.

In prolonged dry periods, give Ragwort, Groundsel, and other Senecio plants a light watering. If you require more plants then propagate Senecio by division in the spring-time.

Senecio Plant Growing and Care Guide

Common Names: Ragwort, Groundsel, Dusty Miller, Butterweed, Blue Chalksticks, String of Pearls, Old Man in the Spring, Grimsel, Blue Chalk Fingers, Squaw Weed.
Scientific names: Senecio vulgaris, S. cineraria, S. rowleyanus, S. jacobaea, S. mandraliscae, S. serpens, S. aureus, S. articulatus, S. macroglossus, S. confusus, S. madagascariensis and S. vitalis.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual. Half hardy perennial.
Height: 4 to 40 inches (10 to 100 cm).
Native: Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa.
Growing Region: Zones 3 to 10. As a perennial in zones 7 to 10.

Flowers: Spring, summer, autumn, winter: species dependent.
Flower Details: Yellow, pink. Ray florets. Rayless. Daisy-like. Clustered.
Foliage: Grey, silver, green. Pinnate. Lobed. Hairy.

Sow Outside: Surface. Before the last frost or in autumn. Spacing 4 to 30 inches (10 to 75 cm).
Sow Inside: Vermiculite. Water from below. Germination time: one to three weeks in the light. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Seven or eight weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost or in autumn in warm areas.

Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Ordinary soil. Regular watering during dry periods. Pinch tips. Prune once flowering has completed. In autumn. Deadhead. Perennials should be cut back in spring. Propagate perennials: dividing in the spring.
Family: Asteraceae.
Miscellaneous: Usually grown for their attractive foliage.

I hope that you enjoyed this guide on how to grow Senecio plants. You may also enjoy the following Gardener's HQ growing guides: How to grow Gazania and Gerbera plants.