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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.

Common Questions

How many members does the Senecio genus have?

The Senecio genus, includes approximately 1250 species, making it one of the largest genera of flowering plants.

Do members of Senecio make a good garden or landscaping plant?

Yes, many Senecio species are popular in gardens for their attractive foliage, interesting flowers, and ease of care.

Which Senecio species are most frequently grown by gardeners?

The most frequently grown species include Senecio rowleyanus (String of Pearls) and Senecio mandraliscae (Blue Chalksticks).

Are members of the Senecio plant genus fragrant?

Most Senecio species are not typically known for their fragrance. They are usually chosen for their interesting forms and ease of care.

What is the perfect location to grow Senecio?

Senecio species generally prefer a sunny location with well-drained soil. Many are drought-tolerant and thrive in a variety of conditions.

Is Senecio invasive in the USA, if so in which states?

Some Senecio species can be invasive, notably Senecio jacobaea (Tansy Ragwort), in certain parts of the USA. Always check local regulations for the most current information.

How do I remove Senecio plants from my garden?

To remove Senecio, pull out the entire plant including the root system. Be careful as some species can be toxic.

Summary

The Senecio genus includes a wide variety of plants native to many parts of the world. They range from annual and perennial herbs to succulent and shrubby species. Notable for their diverse leaf forms and yellow or white flowers, some species are popular in horticulture.

Grow Senecio from seeds, cuttings, or division, ideally in spring or autumn. They prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil. Watering needs can vary greatly depending on the species, with succulent types requiring less frequent watering compared to the herbaceous ones.

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.