The Senecio Vitalis, or Narrow Leaf Chalksticks, is a succulent that grows heartily as a filler plant and is perfect for both indoors and outdoors. But a common problem that people have come across is finding any valuable information to help them grow their succulents.
There are a few sources that are even talking about the wrong plant since the Latin name for the plant is so easy to confuse with another plant that is so close in the nomenclature that was used to identify and categorize the two plants.
The problem is that the other one isn’t even a succulent.
So, we have gathered the most frequently asked questions and growing tips that will help you successfully grow your succulent and know what to do when problems arise.
It would be a good idea to save this post to your favorites so that if you ever have any challenges in the future with your succulent, you can reference the solution very easily.
What Is A Senecio Vitalis?
Senecio Vitalis is a species of plant from the Senecio genus of the Asteraceae family. The succulent has long, cylindrical greenish-blue foliage that grows upwards in clusters, resembling a bunch of thick grass blades.
This plant grows 18–24 inches tall and 3-5 inches wide. It thrives well in sandy, well-drained soil, and a dry climate. The Senecio Vitalis is native to the Cape of South Africa, and unlike other succulents, its growing season is in the winter, and it stays dormant during the spring and summer.
This is the complete polar opposite of every other succulent we have written about to date.
This could make for a very interesting indoor plant that could spruce up your place during the winter when all the other succulents and most other plants as well are in their dormant modes.
This way, you have different plants in season and blooming all year round, which can help with those seasonal blues in the winter that so many experiences.
What Is The Common Name Of The Senecio Vitalis?
The common names of the Senecio Vitalis are “Blue Chalk Fingers” and “Narrow-leaf Chalksticks”.
The genus, Senecio, is Latin for “old man”, and the species name, Vitalis, is Latin for “alive”. The questionable founder of the plant, Nicholas Edward Brown of the Royal Botanic Garden, cataloged and renamed the plant in 1906, but the original name of the succulent was first ‘Curio talinodes’, which was founded by Alwin Berger in 1905.
The story goes that Mr. Brown was a huge benefactor of the Royal Botanic Gardens and was favored with the name, but this may or may not be true.
‘Blue Chalk Fingers’ and ‘Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks’ are given as common names for the plant’s blue variegated leaves that are long, narrow, and cylindrical, resembling chalk sticks or fingers.
History Of The Senecio Vitalis
The Senecio Vitalis is native to the cape of South Africa, meaning that the plant is dormant in the summer and grows in the winter, something that most succulents do not do.
The name was originally ‘Curio talinodes’ and was named by Alwin Berger in 1905, but the name was later given credit to Nicholas Edward Brown of the Royal Botanic Garden in 1906, and the name was changed to ‘Senecio Vitalis’.
How To Take Care Of Your Blue Chalk Fingers Succulent
To take care of the Senecio Vitalis, you will need to change your caring habits just a tad bit.
This succulent grows best in a sandy potting soil mix or well-drained soil, placed in a pot that provides for good drainage. The succulent is like others in that it will get root rot from standing in water.
So, be sure to use a pot that drains completely with no standing water in the bottom, or you could run into problems.
You don’t have to give your succulent too much fertilizer. Give your plant some liquid fertilizer if it’s grown indoors only at the beginning of its growth phase in the fall so that it’s ready for winter. If it’s grown outdoors, your plant doesn’t need any additional fertilizer.
You don’t need to give your succulent too much water. Just use the “dry and soak” method to keep a balance between watering and how much the plant soaks up to prevent overwatering and rotting.
The dry and soak method is very simple. Soak the soil around the succulent but don’t pour the water on top of it, or the standing water may cause rot and susceptibility to pest infestations.
You water again when the soil feels bone dry using the same soak method.
Water your succulent rarely in its dormant phase in the summer, or it just won’t use the water and it will cause problems.
Any temperature above 40°F (4°C) is ideal for Senecio Vitalis. This succulent is not cold-hardy, so keep your plant from being exposed to temperatures below 30°F (-1°C).
It is suggested that if temperatures, where you live, tend to go below 30 °F (-1 °C), you must bring the plant indoors until temperatures outside have risen consistently above the intolerable levels.
Allow your Senecio Vitalis to thrive in the full sun. It is suggested that you keep your succulent out in the sun for about 6 hours per day to get the best growing results.
So, if you have a window or a corner that gets that level of sun or is close to it then that would be a great spot for your plant. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just somewhere close to that level of the sun should work.
What Soil Should I Use For My Narrow-leaf Chalksticks Succulent?
A mixture of 50% sand and 50% potting soil works well, or a well-draining soil with a higher sand content can work almost as well, but it may require fertilizer once a year due to having less potting soil to get nutrients from.
How Much Water Should I Give My Blue Chalk Fingers Succulent?
Aside from rarely watering it during its dormant period in the summer, use the “dry and soak” method for you to balance out how often you water your succulent.
Water deeply around the plant and not directly on the leaves and let the plant soak it all up before you water it again. When the soil feels bone dry, it’s time to soak it again. Simple.
What Is The Best Amount Of Sunlight For Senecio Vitalis?
6 hours of direct sunlight per day is ideal for your Senecio Vitalis to thrive.
As stated above, finding a window or corner that gets somewhere around 6 hours per day would be a great spot for it.
If it gets a little more or less, you should be fine. Just shoot for as close to 6 hours as possible.
What Temperature Should My Narrow-leaf Chalksticks Succulent Be In?
It is suggested to keep the Senecio Vitalis at temperatures above 40 °F (4 °C). This succulent is not cold or frost-hardy, so keep the plant away from temperatures below 30°F (-1°C). If you live in an area where temperatures go below 30°F (-1°C), bring in the plant if you grow it outside.
In these lower temperatures, this plant can die or have severe damage in just a few hours as it begins to freeze.
If you have these types of conditions for much of the year, then it might be a good idea for you to have this as an indoor plant only.
How To Propagate Senecio Vitalis?
Senecio Vitalis can be propagated through stem cuttings.
To propagate from stem cuttings, you must first put on nitrile-dipped gloves because the plant can be toxic. Use a sterilized cutting tool, such as a knife or scissors, and cut at the end near the bottom stem, leaving enough for your main plant to be able to grow back a new stem from what you left.
Let your freshly cut succulent piece callous over the next week or two before planting the cut end into well-drained soil just like the ones we covered above in their respective sections.
Water your succulent as you would with the ‘dry and soak’ method and the roots should come in within a couple of weeks to a month.
If it looks like it’s dying after a month and there are no roots forming, then remove it, scoop out the soil around where it was planted, replace that soil, and redo the propagation over again.
It happens sometimes that they just don’t take it. You did everything right and it just didn’t work out.
Such is life. Just do it again and it should work out just fine.
Are Narrow-leaf Chalksticks Succulent Poisonous To Pets And Humans?
Plants of the Senecio genus are considered more toxic than others. They are poisonous to both pets and humans if ingested. A toxic dose would be 15mg per kg. For humans, it can lead to losing body weight and contracting severe liver disease. For pets, it can result in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and possibly death.
This is not a plant that you want to keep in areas where children play and pets roam. It somewhat resembles thick grass, so animals might tend to eat it.
Why Is My Senecio Vitalis Drooping?
It is common for the Senecio Vitalis to droop because of the plant’s height and thin structure combination. Even though it’s healthy, it can sometimes just droop over due to its weight being distributed over its height.
But if you notice that your plant is looking brown and drooping, it means that it is not getting enough water.
Even though these succulents thrive off of neglect, they shouldn’t be neglected completely. Water your succulent as often as it dries up by using the ‘dry and soak’ method that we have discussed a few times above to help guide you.
If the plant is yellowing towards its tips or its base near the roots, then that is an indicator that your plant is getting too much water.
In that case, check to see if you have standing water at the bottom.
What Are The Most Common Senecio Vitalis Pests?
The most common pests for Senecio Vitalis are mealybugs and aphids.
Aphids can be detected by examining your succulent for curling, wrinkling, or yellow leaves that are not due to over or under-watering.
These bugs also love to hide, so look under leaves or around stems. To get rid of aphids, you can spray soapy water on the leaves, use natural or organic sprays and oils, or employ predatory bugs like ladybugs so that they can kill the pests themselves.
Do be careful when deploying the predator bugs. They will eat up all the pests and then look for more.
If there is no more food supply, like all creatures big and small, their first commandment is to survive. So, they will turn to eat whatever they can to do just that.
Mealybugs can be detected on leaves that have a fluffy white substance. Their eggs are orange-pink, and they leave behind a black mold as a sign of their sucking the sap right out of your succulent.
You can get rid of them by spraying 50 percent rubbing alcohol mixed with water on the leaves, using insecticidal soaps and neem oil, and applying rubbing alcohol to the cut ends when pruning the leaves and stems.
Are Blue Chalk Fingers Succulents Seasonal?
The Senecio Vitalis is seasonal and blooms in the middle to end of winter, which as you may know, is completely backward for every other succulent that we have ever written about to this date.
We did turn to the scientific literature to determine why this one plant does this and there are no answers in the texts.
So, one might surmise that it does so to take advantage of an open window where there is little to no competition and so that the plant has no competitor plants to have to contend with.
This may or may not turn out to be the reason one should be found. However, it does sound plausible.
This succulent grows small whitish-yellow flowers on top of the leaves and foliage when it blooms.