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Origin and Habitat: Southern Africa (Cape province)
Senecio serpens G.D.Rowley
Natl. Cact. Succ. J. 10(2): 3, 1955
- Senecio serpens G.D.Rowley
- Kleinia radicans Haw.
- Senecio repens (L.) Muschler non Stokes
- Senecio serpens f. cristatus hort.
- Senecio succulentus Sch.Bip. non Forssk.
Description: Senecio serpens is a bluish-white pruinose dwarf perennial succulent semi-trailing groundcover shrub that hugs the ground less than 15 cm tall and 60 (or more) cm in diameter. This plant is similar to the more common Senecio talinoides but with smaller leaves and far less vigorous, 5-7 mm in diameter.
Stem: Succulent, ascending at first then prostrate, suckering from the base and rooting at the nodes as they touch the ground.
Leaves: About 30-50 mm long and 5-7 mm in diameter, thick, fleshy, oblong to to oblanceolate, finger-like, grooved above and blunt tipped with a brown mucro, with a narrow window above and about 10-19 obscure striation, powdery, extremely pale glaucous-blue, but can rub off the pruine and it's a blue-green beneath. In very dry conditions the leaf tips can change colour to a purplish shade.
Flowers: Terminal and held above the foliage, subcorymbose, 20-30 cm tall with 5-7 tight ray-less heads of small cream flowers.
Blooming season: Mid-summer to early autumn (depending on growing conditions).
Notes: Senecio serpens is perhaps the best-looking of the three “Blue Chalk Stick Senecios”, the other two are Senecio talinoides and Senecio ficoides.
Cultivation and Propagation: This plant grows as a low, neat groundcover and makes a very ornamental pale blue colouring in full sun in warm climates. It's fresh new winter growth provides extraordinary form and colour contrast in the landscape when placed either with other succulents (e.g. yellow Sedum) or in a mixed planting.
Soil: It requires a very free draining substrata and is very tolerant of poor soils.
Watering: It needs moderate water during from spring to autumn, keep rather dry in winter or the plants may rot at the base. But it adapts to different growing conditions from extreme heat and drought, to high moisture as it has a low rot potential.
Exposition: They seem to do well in part shade such as at the base of trees, but thrives also in hot sunny positions and will tolerate coastal conditions.
Frost Tolerance: It is cultivated in open air in the tropical and warm Mediterranean climate , with temperatures which it is good to keep over the 5°C, best 10-12°C , but can withstand light frost for short periods if very dry (hardy down to -2 to -10º C, even if with damage to the foliage) in these situations it will better resist if sheltered by the winter rains, seen that the humidity and low temperatures render it more sensitive to rottenness. Plants in containers however, suffered major leaf loss. USDA Zone 9b to 12.
Maintenance: The flower stems need to be removed to keep a tidy appearance. 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.
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