Senecio blue chalk sticks

Senecio serpens is a popular filler plant that jazzes up any garden. The cylindrical leaves are dusted with blue-grey “chalk,” ergo the name Chalksticks. They stick straight up in the air while the plant grows wide. It practically gives the appearance of a sparse shag rug.

Originally from South Africa, Chalksticks is easy to grow and maintain. With the steps we outline below, your succulent will be flourishing in no time.

Good Products for Growing Chalksticks:

  • Bontone II Rooting Hormone
  • Garden Safe Neem Oil Extract
  • Safer Brand Yard & Garden Insect Killer
  • Schulz Cactus Plus Liquid Plant Food

Quick Care

Senecio serpens is better known as blue chalksticks. Source: afagen

Common Name(s) Blue chalksticks, blue chalk sticks
Scientific Name Senecio serpens
Family Asteraceae
Height & Spread 12″ tall and 2-3′ wide
Light Full sun
Water Let the soil dry out completely between
Soil Well-draining
Fertilizer Half-strength liquid applied once a year
Pests & Diseases Usually pest and disease-free; Mealybugs
and rot

All About Blue Chalksticks

Blue chalksticks grows best outdoors in zones 9-11. If you live outside this area, you’ll need to plant in a container that can be brought inside during the winter. Alternatively, many gardeners use this succulent as an annual, allowing it to die each winter and then replanting.

The growing season for chalk sticks is spring to fall. In the summer and early fall, you may see small, white flowers. These flowers grow in corymbs, which are flat-topped clusters. Chalk sticks aren’t just pretty, but also deer, rabbit, drought, and even fire-resistant.

Senecio serpens is very similar to Senecio mandraliscae blue chalk sticks. The mandraliscae species is intense in its growth while the serpens species is a mellow groundcover. These two share common names, so they’re easily confused.

Senecio Serpens Care

Blue Chalksticks are straightforward when it comes to care. Here are their simple, yet crucial, demands.

Light & Temperature

Blue Senecios grow best in full sun and heat. They need at least 4-6 hours of direct light. They can grow in partial shade as long as they get some sun – like at the base of a tree.

If you’re keeping your Chalksticks indoors, place it in the sunniest south-facing window you have. Supplement with a grow light if needed.

Temperature-wise, your Chalksticks needs warmth. At the lowest, it can handle 20° F, but won’t survive consistent temperatures below freezing.

Water & Humidity

This lovely little succulent is a delight to grow. Source: Mr.TinDC

For Senecio serpens, use the ‘soak and dry’ method with extra ‘dry’. After each watering, let the soil dry out completely. Then let the Chalksticks sit in the dry soil for a few days before watering again. With this method, you’ll be watering about every 3-4 weeks.

When you water your Chalk Sticks, do so until water comes out of the drainage hole. Don’t forget to empty the container tray so the pot isn’t sitting in water. In the winter, only water your Chalk Sticks if it seems limp.

Underwatering will make Senecio serpens wilt, so just water more often when you see this. When overwatered, the plant will be discolored, mushy, and dropping leaves. Repot it in dry soil and don’t water again for a few days.


Use well-draining soil for Blue Senecio. Specialty succulent and cacti soils work great for this plant. You can also make your own by mixing potting soil with perlite or sand (1:1 ratio).

If the soil is retaining water, the Chalkstick’s leaves may drop or rot. Remedy this by mixing extra perlite or sand into the soil and testing the drainage.


Blue Chalksticks needs fertilizer at least once a year. More can be added during the growing season for an extra boost. If your Blue Chalksticks is planted in the ground, fertilizer isn’t necessary.

Use half-strength or diluted liquid fertilizer. It should be low in Nitrogen, which is the case for most specialty succulent fertilizers.


If your Senecio serpens outgrows its container, repot it in early spring. Choose a pot that allows room for growth and fill it with damp, well-draining soil. While you have your succulent out of the soil, check the roots for any sign of damage or rot. After replanting, water your Blue Chalksticks regularly until it’s rooted.


Senecio serpens grows in clumps of small plants. This makes for quick and easy division. Remove your succulent from its container and gently pull apart the clumps. Be careful not to damage the roots. Replant each clump in its own container or space.

You can also propagate Blue Chalksticks from stem and leaf cuttings. During the growing season, cut a leaf or stem off the plant. If any piece of the leaf is left on the main stem, it may not grow. Dip the cuttings in rooting powder and let them dry out for a couple of days.

Once your cuttings are ready, stick them upright in moist, well-draining soil. Keep the soil wet until the cutting has rooted.


Senecio serpens doesn’t have to be pruned. However, you can prune for cosmetic reasons if the plant is:

  • Growing up instead of out
  • Getting bigger than you want
  • Damaged or leggy

With sterile clippers, cut off the unwanted stems at the base. Keep the area dry until it callouses over in a few days. Continue to water the Chalksticks like normal.

It’s recommended to prune young parts of the plant so they won’t scar.


With the right care, you can develop beautifully layered succulent plants. Source: michaelday_bath

Senecio serpens, like most succulents, doesn’t have many issues with pests and diseases. You should always be on the lookout for symptoms though. Catching them early on could save your plant.

Growing Problems

Perhaps the most common growing problem for succulents is etiolation. No one wants to see that their once full plant is now tall with spaced-out leaves. The only cure for this is to cut off and propagate the stretched branches.

Etiolation is caused by a lack of sunlight, which is easily prevented. The stems stretch out looking for light. If you place your Senecio serpens in the sunniest spot possible, the stems should be fine.


Mealybugs and scale insects are the usual culprits when it comes to Blue Chalk Sticks. Mealybugs will cause a black, sooty mold. Scale insects will make the leaves turn yellow and fall off. Other symptoms include wilting, discoloration, and ant infestations.

To remove mealybugs and scale insects, gently wipe them off the plant with a cloth soaked in rubbing alcohol. You can also wash or spray the plant with insecticidal soap.

Prevent mealybugs and scale insects by misting your succulent with a neem oil and water mixture. Diatomaceous Earth also discourages insects from invading.


Most succulents and cacti are vulnerable to root rot. Caused by overwatering or poor drainage, rotted sections turn brown and mushy – yuck. The roots are in the most danger, but leaves and stems can rot too.

Root rot is easily prevented by ensuring that the soil drains well so the succulent is never sitting in water. Also, make sure you’re letting the soil dry out completely before watering again.

If your Chalksticks is already rotted, you’ll need to amputate the damaged sections. Use a sterile knife or scissors to remove rotted stems, leaves, and roots. Replant the succulent in a new container filled with dry soil. After a day or two of healing, begin to water it normally.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do you trim Senecio serpens?

A. Cut back the unwanted stems at the base where they intersect with another stem. Don’t leave any stubs behind as they can rot and grow bacteria. Keep the trimmed area dry for a few days.

Q. Should I remove the flowers from my Chalk Sticks succulent?

A. It isn’t necessary, but you can clip off the flowers to direct the growth elsewhere. Deadheading is optional.

Q. Why is my Senecio serpens succulent turning purple?

A. This pretty coloration is a result of heat and sunlight. It’s perfectly normal for Blue Chalksticks.

Q. Is Senecio serpens poisonous?

A. Yes, Blue Chalksticks succulent is believed to be toxic to humans and pets.

The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Rachel Garcia
Succulent Fanatic
Lorin Nielsen
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Curio Species, Blue Chalk Sticks, Blue Finger, Bluefinger, Blue Stick Succulent



Cactus and Succulents

Water Requirements:

Drought-tolerant; suitable for xeriscaping

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun


Grown for foliage

Foliage Color:




12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


18-24 in. (45-60 cm)


USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 °C (30 °F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 °C (35 °F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 °C (40 °F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers



Bloom Color:

Gold (yellow-orange)

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown – Tell us

Bloom Time:

Blooms repeatedly

Other details:

Unknown – Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From leaf cuttings

From herbaceous stem cuttings

Allow cut surface to callous over before planting

Seed Collecting:

Unknown – Tell us


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Gilbert, Arizona

Brea, California

Clayton, California

Fairfield, California

Hayward, California

Los Angeles, California(2 reports)

Pomona, California

Richmond, California

San Leandro, California

Sierra Madre, California

Thousand Oaks, California

Vista, California(9 reports)

Fort Myers, Florida(2 reports)

Hobe Sound, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida

New Port Richey, Florida

Palm Beach, Florida

Lake Charles, Louisiana

Houston, Texas

Portland, Texas

Redmond, Washington

Seattle, Washington

show all

This succulent, Senecio talinoides cylindricus, likes to roam in the garden so make sure it has plenty of room!

If you want a succulent which likes to ramble, then Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks is the one for you. I bought my now zealous but adorable beast as a very small plant (it was in a 4″ pot) and now it’s grown up and through my equally zealous Rosemary “Blue Spires”. Both seem happy to to cohabiting the same space in the front garden and I leave them be except for a prune once or twice year.

I love the color of Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks , which ranges from shades of pale green to blue green, right on the same plant. The leaves are narrow (hence the origin of the common name) and curve upward off of stems which get pretty darn big and long over time. They can get dense and crowded at the ends leaving some of those stems a bit bare at the base. It’s an unconventionally attractive plant to have in the garden and very easy to take care off. Here’s what I know about it:

As you can see, it’s prone to a rather leggy form. If pruned, new growth will appear at the base.

Size: Mine has gotten 2-3′ tall by 5-6′ wide.

Exposure: It needs part to full sun. My Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks gets lots of sun in the morning & early afternoon.

Hardiness: The lowest it will go is 25 degrees F.

Watering: Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks are drought tolerant & therefore have low water needs. Mine in the garden gets drip irrigated every 8-14 days depending on the temps. In the large pot, it gets thoroughly watered every 1-2 months.

Soil: Good drainage is necessary. I amended my front garden with a local sandy loam. For the large container, I used succulent & cactus mix combined with potting soil & worm castings.

You can see this plant growing both in my garden & in a large pot:

Fertilizing: Like all succulents, none is just fine. I compost my garden every 2 years & top dress all my container pots with worm castings every spring.

Propagation: I do it with great success by stem cuttings or leaf cuttings. Both root easily in succulent & cactus mix.

The individual leaves start to root after a couple of weeks.

Pruning: I prune mine to control the size. The long stems get very heavy & all the good looking, healthy growth is towards the ends. If pruned a couple of times a year, the growth will stay denser (this is because multiple heads will appear at the ends) & new growth will appear at the base. I plan on giving mine a total cut back late this winter to rejuvenate it. Some of those stems are getting mighty long!

Pests: Mine has never had any but I imagine it would be susceptible to aphids & mealybugs like other succulents.

Flowers: Small, fuzzy ivory flowers appear in clusters at the ends of the stems. Mine flowers in late fall through the end of winter.

Uses: I think of my My Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks in the garden as a lower growing, sprawling shrub. I also have 1 growing in a container but just know that it does tend to take over. There is a lower growing variety, Senecio mandraliscae or Blue Chalksticks, which is a rambling ground cover. The color of this plant is quite beautiful.

The ivory flowers are insignificant but they do have a rather ethereal quality when there’s a few of them open at the same time.

This plant grows really fast outdoors, so for those of us who are a bit on the impatient side then this is 1 to consider. I’ve never grown it as a houseplant, but imagine it would do just fine indoors with high light and low water. If you want a cool succulent with a lot of character which has a mind of its own, then Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks is for you!

Happy gardening,

Senecio Mandraliscae is a dwarf shrub in the family of Asteraceae and a species in the Senecio genus.

This attractive blue-green plant is native to South Africa.

The synonyms used for this plant are:

  • Curio Talinoides var Mandraliscae
  • Senecio Talinoides
  • Kleinia Mandraliscae
  • Senecio Talinoides Mandraliscae
  • Kleinia Comptonii

The common names for Senecio Mandraliscae plants include:

  • Blue Stick Succulent
  • Blue Chalk Sticks
  • Bluefinger

Other popular Senecio varieties include:

  • Senecio rowleyanus – String of Pearls Plant
  • Senecio Barbertonicus – Lemon Bean Bush
  • Senecio Stapeliiformis – The Pickle Plant
  • Senecio serpens – Mini Bluechalk Sticks
  • Senecio vitalis – Narrow-leaf Chalksticks

Senecio Mandraliscae Plants Care

Size & Growth

This plant is a spreading succulent producing pencil-like, silver-blue fleshy leaves.

It quickly forms a dense mat of upward curling leaves in the garden.

It grows about 12” – 18” inches tall and 18” – 24” inches wide.

Flowering and Fragrance

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.

The bloom time is the summer season.

The Blue Chalk Sticks loves to grow under the full sun, but also tolerates light shade.

When growing indoors, place this plant in a room with plenty of sunlight.

Provide partial shade during harsh heat to prevent discoloration.

It is ideal to move the plants outdoors when temperatures continuously stay above 40° degrees Fahrenheit (4° C).

Transfer them back indoors before the first frost.

This plant’s USDA zones of hardiness are 9 – 11.

Watering and Feeding

The water needs of the Bluefinger are moderate during the fall and spring season.

This plant is drought tolerant, but regular watering is tolerated as well.

Keep the soil dry during the winter season to prevent stem rot.

The plant easily adapts to varying growing conditions from drought to harsh heat.

Feed this plant with a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer during the early spring season.

The fertilizer should have equal parts of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen.

Avoid over-fertilizing the plant as it might result in weak growth.

Soil & Transplanting

The Blue Chalk Sticks must be grown in a well-draining soil mixture.

Use a succulent soil mix or a cactus mix to enhance its growth and reduce the chances of rot.

The pH level of the soil should be mildly alkaline or mildly acidic; however, the plant is also tolerant of poor soils.

Grooming and Maintenance

Prune the dead and wilting stalks and flowers to maintain a tidy appearance of the plant.

These species are prone to getting leggy, especially when growing in pots, which is why trimming it each year is recommended.

This process must be done during the later summer season.

Be sure to remove and reroot the plants after three to four years during the mild months.

How to Propagate Blue Chalk Sticks

The propagation of this plant is done with seeds or cuttings.

The easy way is to use cuttings during the summer.

Take the cuttings from the Bluefinger and leave them for two weeks to dry.

Be sure to use a sharp, sterile knife or scissors to take the cuttings and remove the leaves.

Plant it in well-draining, loose soil and water it every time the soil gets completely dry.

When using seeds, make sure the temperature is warm.

  • Use a seed warmer or grow light if needed.
  • Seeds must be sown in well-draining soils.
  • Water properly when the soil is dry.
  • The germination process usually takes two to three weeks, depending on the conditions.
  • Once the roots are established, transplant them in their permanent positions in the garden or a bigger container.

Blue Chalk Sticks Pest or Diseases

This plant is generally disease and pest free, like most of the succulent plants.

Be on a lookout for succulent mealybugs as they might cause molds on leaf surfaces.

If leaf drop or yellow spots are seen on the plant, it might be scales infestation.

Use rubbing alcohol-dipped cotton swab or soft cloth to wipe the mealybugs and scales off the plant.

Bacterial or fungal rots might cause dropped or wilting leaves.

Provide more light and increase watering to resolve this problem.

Prune the damaged foliage to maintain the appearance of the plant and to prevent further infestation or damage.

This plant is resistant to deer and rabbits and is also fire resistant.

Blue Chalk Senecio Uses

This plant forms a dense mat ground cover and works well in a rock garden, succulent garden, in borders, lawn edges, and median strips.

The blue-green shade of this plant makes it an excellent contrast to Phormiums, Aeoniums, and mixed with other succulent plants.

It may be used as a single plant in a container and also in mixed containers.

It is also suitable for xeriscape plantings, in Mediterranean climates, and adds a distinctive touch to other floral arrangements.

Introduction to Succulent Senecios

Senecio are members of the family Asteraceae, the same family the daisies are found in. Some of the common names for Senecios are ragworts and groundsels. Most of the succulents species are not called either, however. Some of the plants I first learned to be Senecios are now known as Kleinia so I will at least mention this group.

Here’s an example of a Ragwort, Senecio flaccidus… a drought-tolerant plant but NOT a succulent Senecio

Examples of two more relatively common Senecios that are NOT the succulent variety: Senecio bicolor subsp. cineraria (aka dusty miller) and Senecio mikainioides (aka cape ivy- photo Mystic)

Though flowers may be a plus with some non-succulent Senecios… (here Senecio polyodon left- photo growin; Senecio confusus middle- photo RWhiz; and Senecio petasitis right- photo Calif_Sue)…

Succulent Senecio flowers are rarely much to look at (Senecio talinoides left and Senecio kleiniaeformis middle); an exception is Senecio stapeliiformis right (photo Franj)

There are about a dozen succulent Senecios I have found to be excellent garden and container plants in my xeriphytic landscape. They are among a collection of potted things I can ignore for long periods without worrying about them dying from lack of water or attention. Some are the perfect groundcover landscape plants for large open areas (no longer in existence in my garden) or for planter boxes in need of something that drapes over the edges. Some Senecios are the best hanging plants I have. And some are just curiosities I see frequently in the cactus and succulent shows, though most of these are a bit too touchy for my personal growing practices.

As a group, most of the commonly grown succulent Senecios are very drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant and even relatively cold-tolerant. Some succulent species are rot prone, but fortunately those ones are not usually the common species. Their colors range from deep green to a wonderfully chalky blue color, with purplish, striped and variegated forms existing as well.

As a group, Senecios are one of the more toxic plants and have been known frequently to cause significant toxicity in farm animals which eat groundels and ragworts indiscriminantly. However specific cases of toxicity from any of the succulent species are very scarce and I could not find a single reported toxic exposure to one of these plants in my searches for one. However, avoid putting pets and children at risk as some Senecio species have potent liver toxins; it is better to be safe than sorry.

The following will be a discussion of some of the more common succulent Senecios in cultivation and certainly not an all-inclusive treatise of the genus Senecio.

Senecio articulatus, aka candle plant, is a very commonly sold species of Senecio, at least in southern California nurseries. It is grown mostly as an oddity in pots. This is a thick, tubular, striped species that is leafless half the time and looks a bit like a Euphorbia. This is definitely not one of the easier species for me to keep alive–multiple attempts have all ended in mound of rotten mush. This one is strictly for those naturally blessed with the talent for keeping easy-to-rot succulents alive, or who have some self control when it comes to watering things.

Senecio articulatus as a potted plant (left photo Happenstance) and in a botanical garden (right)

Senecio crassissimus, or vertical leaf senecio, is a nice looking, turquoise to purplish species with flat, suuculent, vertically oriented leaves. This one has turned out to be relatively easy to grow and less apt to rot than it looks like it might. Mine grows in mostly full sun and has had no problems with extreme heat or cold down into the mid-20s F.

Senecio crassissimus photos (right photo mgarr)

Senecio ficoides, aka Blue Chalk Sticks, is a relatively rare ‘blue ice plant’ at least compared to the other two Blue Chalk Stick species. This is the largest of the three and sort of a slow grower. Otherwise, it seems pretty similar in all other respects (see Senecio talinoides below).

Senecio ficoides in southern California

One of my favorite of all the Senecios is Senecio haworthii. Though this is another fairly easy-to-rot species, I find that I can keep it alive. A very slow grower, this plant tends to stay pretty small, growing maybe 18 inches high in many years. Its main obvious attraction is that it is nearly pure white, and stands out nicely both as a potted plant and in the landscape. The leaves are a short, elliptically tubular shape covered with a shiny, silvery layer of scales. Though I am sure it does, I have yet to see a single one of these in flower.

Senecio haworthii in my garden (left), old plant in a nursery (center) and in landscape southern California (right)

Senecio kleiniaeformis, (Spear Head), is another blue groundcover species. This one is a bit slower growing and makes a decent potted plant as well. Though not as blue (usually) as the “blue chalk stick” Senecios, this one does look somewhat similar, but has a diamond-shaped leaf tip. It also has pale yellow flowers instead of white. The photo at the top of this article is this species, too.

Senecio kleiniaeformis photos (left photo Calif_Sue)

Senecio jacobsenii (syn. Kleinia petraea), or Weeping or Trailing Jade is another excellent potted succulent species. The leaf shape and color is very similar to that of a Crassula ovata (or jade plant); hence the name. This is a slow grower, but highly tolerant of a wide variety of conditions including low light, sun, cold, heat, and excess water. Though I include this here as a Senecio, more correctly this is one of the Senecios that has been reclassified into the genus Kleinia. Since I don’t really know the difference, and just about every nursery selling this plant still lists it as a Senecio, for the sake of confusion I have done so as well.

Senecio (Kleinia petraea) jacobsenii

Senecio radicans, (String of Bananas or Necklace Plant) is a common succulent species in cultivation. I have many Senecios in my garden that closely resemble this species, but may actually be something closely related. However, they grow aggressively and are quite hardy as this one is. Of the common hanging string-form of Senecios, this one is by far the easier to grow and maintain in a garden or pot. It is much less prone to rot and much more sun/shade tolerant. In fact, in my garden, I have not found a good way to kill it accidentally as I have for most other succulent species. It tolerates lots of water and virtually no water (to a limit I have discovered), full, hot sun over 110F, permanent shade, cold (at least down to 25F which is as cold as it gets here) and attacks from insects. I would consider this one of my top ten easiest succulents to grow. Though it can be grown as a ground cover, it becomes a big mess as one so I don’t really recommend it for that. I have found that this species is very easy to grow from ‘cuttings’ and sometimes even fallen strings of plant reroot right on the surface of the soil. Flowers are relatively unsightly and small.

Senecio radicans photos (all by Happenstance)

photos of my Senecio radicans-like plant

Senecio rowleyanus, (String of Beads or Pearls), is one of the most commonly sold and grown succulent Senecios throughout the country. It is a curious plant indeed, comprised nearly entirely of spherical ‘leaves’ connected by a very narrow, string-like stem. Flowers are white, puffy and less than impressive. Despite its commonplace occurrence, this is not the easiest plant to grow. In my southern California climate it is best to just water when dry and do very little else. It is prone to rot if overwatered, and burns badly in hot, full sun. However it seems to like as bright a light as possible and resents being in dark shade. Though it is very drought-tolerant, not watering it at all when hot and dry will cause the spheres to shrink and the strings to break apart and fall off. Cold, damp weather is tough on it, too, unless allowed to dry out periodically and kept above freezing most of the time. In the PlantFiles, it is listed as cold tolerant down to 10F but I find that hard to believe. However it never gets cold enough in my area (thank goodness!) for me to find out what its cold tolerance really is. As an indoor plant it performs quite will in bright light, but is prone to mealy bugs, so keep on the lookout for pests. This plant performs best as a potted plant with hanging strings of spheres and can be quite ornamental. In my climate, a warm Mediterranean one, it can be grown as a ground cover as well.

Senecio rowleyanus (variegated in second two photos)

Senecio rowleyanus in a pot and as a groundcover

though obviously closely related, this is an unknown Senecio I have in the garden that looks similar and grows exactly like Senecio rowleyanus

Senecio scaposus is a very attractive, thick rosette of numerous tubular, peeling leaves that have an over grey to silvery-green coloration. Some forms have a spoon-shaped leaf tip. This is a great potted plant for full sun, but watering must be done with great care at it rots pretty easily. This is one of those succulents that detests water when it’s super hot out… just when one would think a plant might need water most. I invariably forget this fact and water it anyway… which is why I no long own any Senecio scaposus.

Senecio scaposus colors and forms

Very old garden plant (left); showing new growth color (middle); this is an easy plant to rot (right shows one of two plants rotting in same pot)

Senecio serpens (aka blue chalk sticks or blue ice plant) is perhaps the best-looking of the three blue chalk stick Senecios, with relatively short, compact and extremely pale blue tubular leaves. This plant grows as a low, neat groundcover and makes an very ornamental pale blue swath in full sun in warm climates. As for cultivation, it is pretty similar to the more common Senecio talinoides (aka mandraliscae) below.

Senecio serpens in Southern California

Senecio serpens is an excellent landscape plant to grow around other succulents as it stays short and does not compete with them visually; flowering (right)

Senecio talinoides (syn. Senecio mandraliscae) or blue chalk sticks, is one of at least 3 species of Senecio with this common name. Some consider this a hybrid ‘species’ between Senecio mandraliscae and Senecio aizoides while others say Senecio talinoides is the true species and the other two are just subspecies of Senecio talinoides (which is how I will keep it in this article). This species is similar to Senecio ficoides and S. serpens and personally I have a hard time telling them apart sometimes. It does not help that some websites are obviously confusing them as well. All are called Blue Chalk Sticks and all have the same white, puffy, uninteresting flowers. Only their overall leaf size and growing habits vary a little. Senecio talinoides may be the most aggressive of these species, but I have not grown all three to know that for sure. All are cold-hardy down to the mid-20s F and are excellent groundcover succulent species. Some call these Senecios the blue ice plants since they have a similar appearance and growth habit. I find all these blue chalk sticks to be some of the easiest of all the Senecios, tolerating a wide variety of growing conditions from extreme heat and blazing sun to shade, to high moisture (low rot potential for this one) to being very drought-tolerant. These species do tend to get sort of leggy, which is particularly a problem if grown as a potted plant, and yearly trimming back is often necessary.

Senecio talinoides in Huntington Gardens, Southern California

Some consider Senecio cylindraceus to be a subspecies of Senecio talinoides, so I include these photos of Senecio cylindraceus here. This plant grows similarly but has much thinner leaves and tends to grow taller, up to two feet.

There are many other succulent species of Senecio in cultivation (see below) but these are the most common ones I come across or grow with regularity.

Senecio acaulis Senecio barbertonicus Senecio crassifolius

a caudiciform species: Sencio deflersii (left); Senecio oxyriifolilius (center) Senecio pendula (right)

Senecio stapeliiformis (left) Senecio vitalis (photo Kell) middle Senecio saginata (right)

Two large, succulent Senecio species that have now been moved to other genera: Kleinia nerifolia (left) and Pittocaulon praecox (left)

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