PRO TIP: Consider bottom watering to avoid trapped water between the compact leaves of your Senecio. Too much moisture in the top portion of the pot can sometimes lead to rot.
Senecio (some recently reclassified as Curio) are a large genus of flowering plants that range greatly in shape, growth habit, and color. Their diversity ranges from European perennials like the common daisy to hardy upright and trailing succulents. This care guide reflects the growing conditions and routine maintenance for the cascading succulent varieties within the Senecio family, such as the String of Pearls (Senecio rowleyanus or Curio rowleyanus), String of Dolphins (Senecio or Curio ‘Hippogriff’), and the String of Fish Hooks (Senecio or Curio radicans). As ground-covers in their native environment of Southwest Africa, these succulents are acclimated to a high light environment and long periods of drought. Place your Senecio where it will receive either very high indirect light, or full sun exposure. When placed in medium or low light conditions their health will decline.
If you’re unsure about your lighting conditions, please consult our guide for how to measure light in your space.
Senecio ‘Hippogriff' aka the String of Dolphins, exhibit leaves that have a ridge and split which resemble small dolphins jumping down the vines.
PRO TIP: When in doubt, let it drought! Senecio are very susceptible to root rot, so it’s best not to overwater.
Always be sure to assess your plant’s watering needs upon receiving it. Before giving your plant a drink, it is best to check the moisture level in the soil first. Senecio prefer to sit in dry soil and don’t require much attention, although when the foliage begins to prune and wrinkle it is usually time to water. At the height of the growing season they’ll only need water at most once a week to every other week, and in the winter that interval can drop to as little as once a month. If you’re moderately attentive, they’ll even give you visual cues when they need water. As succulents store their water in their leaves, you can watch for their leaves beginning to look a little deflated, pruny, or soft — signs that they could use a drink to replenish their supply. Hydrate the soil thoroughly, but only when the soil has dried mostly throughout the pot. Succulents that sit in soil which is too moist will continue to absorb water into their leaves until they overload, causing their leaves to burst. Overwatered succulents can look similar under-watered succulents. The main difference is that the foliage will slough off the plant and be slimy to the touch, as opposed to dry. As always, test the soil with your finger to confirm your diagnosis.
The watering needs of your Senecio can vary depending on the unique environment they are growing in and depending on the needs of the exact species. Consider aerating the soil of your plant before the initial watering to help the soil breath and allow for moisture to be released. For regular upkeep, take the opportunity to inspect your Senecio regularly to keep an eye out for pests. Using fertilizer spring through fall will enhance your plant’s foliage and promote new growth. Rotate your plant periodically to ensure even growth on all sides.
Remember each plant is a unique living thing and may have varying needs, especially in their individual locations. Pay attention to the condition of your Senecio and its watering needs and you will have a long and happy relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell if my Senecio is being overwatered?
- Common symptoms of overwatering can be leaf loss, leaves that burst or pop, mold on the soil, and browning foliage at the top/base of the plant. If you see any of these symptoms, check the soil to see if it is moist. To help the soil dry out aerate and hold off on watering until the soil dries completely, then resume an appropriate watering routine or repot the plant if you suspect severe rot.
How can I tell if my Senecio is being underwatered?
- Common symptoms of underwatering are similar to overwatering: pruning or deflating foliage, and leaf loss. If you see any of these symptoms feel the soil of your plant to assess if it is dry, and therefore matches the diagnosis. Increase water to rehydrate, while being cautious not to over water.
How do I propagate my Senecio?
- Like most succulent plants, Senecio are very easy to propagate and multiply. The plant can be divided (roots and foliage) when repotting to split the plant in two or more pots. Alternatively a new plant can begin with just one strand, or portion of strand by laying it over the soil surface. Ensure the plant is touching the soil and water as usual. Within weeks the plant will begin to root and grow.
How often should I fertilize my Senecio?
- In general, houseplants will thrive when they are fertilized spring through fall. Fertilize once or twice a month with an organic houseplant fertilizer, following the package instructions for dilution and administration.
How often does my plant need to be repotted?
- Repotting every 12-18 months is ideal to change out the soil and increase the pot size slightly to promote growth. However succulents do not mind being pot bound and with added nutrients (fertilizer) can remain in the same pot for a few years.
Standard Planter Instructions
All of our Standard Planters include a removable drainage plug to give our customers the option of drainage. While no drainage is sometimes preferred for its aesthetic simplicity, we don't recommend this option for beginners as watering mistakes can be hard to rectify.
Whether you choose to use drainage or not, we always recommend using a layer of drainage (such as our Aeration Stones) at the base of the planter. A drainage layer allows the plant's roots access to oxygen in the pockets between the drainage medium, and a lack of drainage can cause anaerobic damage to your plant.
If you decide to utilize the drainage hole for your pot, make sure to include a Plant Saucer beneath your pot to collect excess water. For most plants in standard planters, we recommend watering about once a week. Water the soil mass until water begins pooling in your Plant Saucer.
With no drainage hole, you will need to be more precise in your watering. While we would love to give you a specific measurement of water to provide for your plant, the reality is that a plant's water requirements vary wildly depending on factors such as light exposure and the overall health of the plant. You will need to learn to tell when the plant is thirsty based on how its foliage looks. Droopy foliage is usually the first sign: when your plant looks a little slumped over that's usually a visual indicator that it's thirsty.
The best solution for checking your plant's moisture level, drainage hole of not, is to use a Soil Probe to determine the moisture content of the soil at the bottom of the planter.
Self Watering Planter Instructions
The Self-Watering Planters require a deep and thorough watering of the topsoil after they are first planted. This is important because the roots of the plants first need to grow into the reservoir in order to drink from it. Water your plant from the top for two to four weeks before using the reservoir. During the dormant seasons, or for plants that have slower growing habits, consider top watering for longer.
TEST: After the initial top water period, fill the bottom water reservoir. If the water in the reservoir is absorbed into the planter, it means the plant is ready for regular reservoir servicing. If not, be sure to continue top watering for a few more weeks until the plant has started drinking from the reservoir.
RESERVOIR SERVICING: Once the reservoir empties on its own, do not refill the reservoir right away. Similar to how humans need a breath of air between gulps of water, most plants require a drying out period. Allow for the reservoir to empty all the way between watering. All plants are different in their needs so the amount of time the reservoir sits empty will need to be determined, but know that for most plants this period is between 1-3 days.
From here on out, you should rarely topwater the plant while using the reservoir system. Watering from below allows the plant to drink at its own pace, and can help combat certain issues like fungus gnats by allowing the top layer of soil to dry out more. Please note that if your plant's soil dries out too much, it can impair the wicking ability of the Aeration Stones in your planter. If your soil becomes too dry, we recommend giving it a thorough watering.
For more information on our Self Watering Planters include planting instructions, visit our blog post on How to Use Our Self-Watering Pots.
Aeration Stones promote healthy root growth by creating air pockets in the soil and absorbing excess water in the basin of your planter. These porous clay stones are a natural, efficient and invaluable material to set your plant up for success. We always suggest using these when working with a planter without drainage holes.
ARS Stainless Steel Pruners
Salts and moisture from potting soil wreaks havoc on cheaper metals. Stainless steel is one of the most durable metals available on a consumer scale, and these heavy duty pruners are built to take a beating. Great for pruning jobs large and small.
Neem Oil is an all purpose insecticide, miticide, and fungicide used for organic gardening. It's systemic, which means the plant will absorb the neem oil into its circulatory system and poison pests from within. Be careful not to overuse, as this can weaken plants and cause discoloration.
Plants do poorly without air to the roots. Overwatering causes the air to be pushed out of the soil, compacting the soil around the waterlogged roots of the plant. Using the Soil Probe aerates the soil as it checks for moisture.
Watering cans come in all shapes and sizes, and the perfect one for your home is the one you're happiest living with. Look for long spouts and a container volume that's appropriate for your plant collection.
Fox Farm Ocean Forest contains all the features we look for when aiming to ensure the long term health of a plant: excellent water retention, breathability, texture, and is made from organic materials.
10-4-3 fertilizer is a great, gentle choice for indoor foliage. Simply mix this in to your watering can using the supplied directions every other week. Ensure that your plant is receiving a good amount of light, otherwise it won't have the energy to process the nutrients and burnt tips may occur on the foliage.