Growing Blue Chalk Sticks: How To Care For Senecio Blue Chalk Sticks

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By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden

A native of South Africa, blue chalk succulents (Senecio serpens) are often a favorite of succulent growers. Senecio talinoides subs. mandraliscae, also called blue chalk sticks, is possibly a hybrid and was found in Italy. The South African native is called blue chalk succulent or blue fingers for its attractive bluish, finger-like leaves. It also produces white summer blooms.

Blue Chalk Succulent Info

Attractive and easy to grow, this plant thrives happily in many landscapes and containers, reaching 12 to 18 inches (30-46 cm.) and forming a dense mat.

Growing blue chalk sticks as a ground cover is common in warmer areas. Various hybrids of the plant differ slightly in appearance and may perform differently in the landscape. Most varieties grow as an annual plant in places with cold winters, but might surprise you and return depending on the microclimate and the location in the landscape.

This interesting succulent grows in winter and is dormant in summer. Trailing blue fingers can cover a substantial area quickly, particularly in areas without frost and freeze. An excellent border plant, specimen for a rock garden, or for a cascading element in a succulent container arrangement, blue chalk plant care is simple too. In fact, care for Senecio blue chalk sticks is similar to that of many other succulent plants.

How to Care for Blue Chalk

Overhead protection from trees, if you can find this and still have a dappled sun area, is a good place to plant or locate containers outside. Partial sun to light shade encourages spread of this attractive, matting groundcover.

Whatever situation you choose for growing blue chalk sticks, plant it in a fast-draining, gritty mix, as with other succulents. Sandy soils are appropriate for this plant. Clay or other non-draining soils can quickly be the end of chalk stick, as can too much water.

Limit watering as part of care for Senecio blue chalk sticks. Allow periods of dryness between waterings. Fertilize with low-nitrogen plant food, diluted or use a succulent plant food for container plants. Some recommend a weak compost tea fertilizer for succulent plants.

Cut back in late summer, if needed. Propagate more blue chalk sticks from cuttings for another display. This blue-green plant is deer and rabbit resistant, and appears to also survive fire.

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Senecio vitalis

Blue Chalk Fingers, Narrow-Leaf Chalk Sticks

This blue-green “filler” succulent is perfect for container gardens. It grows tall, adding height and texture to your arrangements. It propagates easily, so if growing outdoors be aware of where you’re planting. Watch for white blossoms in the spring.

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Quick Look:

Not suited for indoor growing

Plant grows up to 2′ (61 cm) tall

Plant grows up to 5′ (1.5 m) wide

Zone 10a (Minimum 30° F | -1.1° C)

Propagation by stem cuttings

Can be toxic to humans and animals

Get an identification and care card for this succulent and over 180 other succulent varieties!

These instant download cards give you a quick overview of each succulent’s care needs. You can store them on your computer or print them out and organize them based on your needs.

Quick Care

Senecio serpens is better known as blue chalksticks. Source: afagen
Common Name(s)Blue chalksticks, blue chalk sticks
Scientific NameSenecio serpens
Height & Spread12″ tall and 2-3′ wide
LightFull sun
WaterLet the soil dry out completely between
FertilizerHalf-strength liquid applied once a year
Pests & DiseasesUsually pest and disease-free Mealybugs
and rot

How to Propagate Senecio Serpens

Senecio serpens is a succulent that can be propagated with three methods: Cuttings, Clumps, and Seeds.

Method 1 – Cuttings

Step 1 – Use a sterilized and sharpened knife or a pair of garden shears to remove a leaf from the stem of the main plant.

Step 2 – Place the leaf on a dry and shaded area for 1 to 2 days or until it has dried out and developed calluses.

Step 3 – Once the calluses have formed, place the leaf on a bed of well-draining soil.

Method 2 – Clumps

Step 1 – Senecio serpens can grow in clumps of small plants. Gently remove the plant from the soil and pull out the clumps.

Step 2 – Replant the clump in its own pot. Make sure to fill in the pot with well-draining soil.

Method 3 – Seed

Step 1 – Before planting the seeds, make sure the temperature is warmer or that you are using a seed warmer or a Grow Light.

Step 2 – Plant the seeds in well-draining soil.

Step 3 – Water the soil whenever it is dry to the touch. Germination may take several weeks.

There are many dozens of succulent Senecio species. Here are just a few of the well-known varieties:

  • Vertical-leaf cenecio (Senecio crassissimus): This low maintenance variety is an easy grower that can handle some frost. It features bluish, flattened leaves on an upright plant. It grows 18 to 24 inches tall with an 18-inch spread, and is hardy in USDA zones 10 to 11.
  • Cocoon plant (Senecio haworthii): "Cocoon" refers to the shape of the gray leaves, which form a prostrate bush but do require periodic renewal. This plant grows to 1 foot high with a spread of up to 3 feet, and is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
  • String of bananas (Senecio radicans): This variety is more tolerant of shade and moisture. It features puffing, crescent moon-shaped leaves that punctuate long stems. It grows 6 to 12 inches tall with a similar spread, and is hardy in USDA zones 10 to 12.
  • String of beads/ pearls (Senecio rowleyanus): This plant is comprised of dangling stems of round leaves, and does well with minimal watering. it is a trailing plant that can extend 3 to 5 feet, and is hardy in zones 9 to 12. It is often used in hanging baskets.
  • Blue chalk stick/ blue ice plant (Senecio serpens): This variety has short, steel blue, tubular leaves. It grows 12 to 18 inches tall with a spread of 18 to 24 inches, and is hardy in zones 10 to 11.

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