Succulents

Blue Chalksticks Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Senecio Serpens”

Guide to Blue Chalk Sticks - Everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for “Senecio Serpens” Succulents
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Blue Chalksticks is an evergreen alien-looking succulent native to South Africa, meaning it is drought-tolerant and appreciates sun and warmth. With its powdery blue foliage, Senecio Serpens will jazz up your garden and become the focal point in any dull corner of your house. Because it creates a good contrast against other plants in the garden, it makes the perfect ground cover.

Blue Chalksticks is commonly used in landscaping projects in warm climates. If you live in a cooler region, place it in a stylish container that you can take out during summer. When exposed to a lot of direct sunlight, the tips of its leaves turn purple. Pair it with other silver, blue, or purple plants to create an exotic garden that looks as it is from another planet.

Senecio Serpens is easy to grow and maintain, making it the ideal project for a beginner gardener. Its foliage has a dusted, powdery coating of epicuticular wax (farina), ergo the name Chalksticks. With its shag rug appearance, this succulent would look amazing in a rock garden, mixed succulent container arrangement, or as a border plant. Keep reading to find out more about how to care for this adorable dusty succulent.

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About Blue Chalksticks

  • Blue Chalksticks is also referred to as Senecio Blue Chalksticks, Senecio Repens, Curio Repens, or as Blue Finger. In the U.K. you might hear people calling it Klienia.
  • The name Senecio comes from the word ‘senex’ meaning ‘old’ in Latin, in reference to its downy head. The word ‘repens’ means ‘creeping’.
  • Senecio Serpens grows best in USDA zones 9b to 11b. If you live outside of these areas, you’ll need to plant it in a container that you can take indoors during winter.
  • Some gardeners use Blue Chalksticks as an annual, allowing it to die each winter and replanting the following year. In areas without frost, it can cover a substantial area rather quickly. Depending on the location in the landscape and the microclimate, this plant might surprise you and return on its own.
  • Blue Chalksticks is not considered toxic to cats and dogs and does not appear on the website of ASPCA. However, this list does not include all succulent plants. If your pet ingests any parts of the plant and shows any signs of distress, go to the Veterinarian immediately.
Senecio Serpens
Senecio Serpens

Blue Chalksticks Features: An Overview

  • Blue Chalksticks is an interesting succulent that grows from spring to fall and is dormant in summer. Moreover, in summer and early fall, it produces beautiful white blooms. Its flowers grow in corymbs and are drought, fire, deer, and rabbit resistant.
  • With proper care, Blue Finger can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) tall and spread up to 2 or 3 feet (60-90 cm) wide. The stems root at the nodes as they touch the ground, thus forming a dense mat.
  • Its leaves are fleshy, finger-like about 1,5 inches (4 cm) long and 0,3 (7 mm) inches in diameter. They have a blunt tip with a brown mucro and a narrow window with 10-20 obscure striations. The leaves appear pale blue, but if you rub off the chalk you will notice it’s blue-green underneath.
  • Senecio Serpens is similar to its cousin Senecio Mandraliscae. Because they share similar names, they can be easily confused. While the serpens species is a delicate groundcover, the mandraliscae grows higher and more vigorously.

Growing Blue Chalksticks

Blue Chalksticks is a low-maintenance plant that doesn’t need a lot of care and attention from you. However, it does have some simple, yet crucial needs. One of the most important is the location. Senecio Serpens does best in full sun and heat. It should be planted in an area that has between 6 to 8 hours of full sun. However, it can tolerate partial shade (like at the base of a tree) in an outdoor setting as long as they still get some sun.

In cooler climates, you must be watchful about unexpected freezes. Check your local weather predictions and cover the plants in advance.  If temperatures constantly drop below freezing during winter, you must bring the warmth-loving Chalksticks inside. Place it in front of a south-facing window where it can get ample sunlight. If you cannot provide it with enough light, consider supplementing with grow lights for about 16 hours a day. Make sure to place the lights close to the plant, about 6 to 12 inches (12 to 30 cm) above the foliage.

When it comes to pruning, this slow-growing succulent is not very demanding. Because they’re low-growing plants, Senecio Serpens don’t generally require pruning. However, if the plant becomes excessively tall or too leggy, you can pinch them back a little. This will encourage Chalksticks to branch out and become bushier. Make sure you use sterile clippers and cut off unwanted stems at the base. Keep the area dry for a few days and then water like you normally do. Prune younger parts of the plant to prevent scarring.

Blue Chalksticks Senecio Serpens, From Amazon

Watering Blue Chalksticks

Like for most succulents, you can use the ‘soak and dry’ method, leaning towards the extra ‘dry’ for Blue Chalksticks. Soak the soil completely and then wait for it to dry out completely before watering again. Make sure you water until the water comes out of the drainage holes. With this method, you will be watering about every 21-30 days or 14-21 days for indoor succulents. Use this timeline as a starting point and make sure to adjust it to your plant’s needs. There is no universal watering schedule that can apply to every succulent in every climate.

It is important not to let your Chalksticks sit in wet soil for more than 2-3 days. Since most succulents are prone to root rot, try to wait for the soil to be totally dry or for the leaves to show early signs of underwatering. When overwatered, the plant will look mushy, discolored and you will notice dropping leaves. This means it needs its roots cleaned and repotting in dry, new soil. Do not water it again for a few days.

New plants need more frequent watering, about once a week during the first summer and spring. Indoor new plants can be watered once a week or whenever you notice the soil is completely dry. Always empty the drip tray after a few minutes. Avoid watering the leaves, especially for indoor plants.

Blue Chalksticks
Blue Chalksticks

Planting Blue Chalksticks

Blue Chalksticks need a well-draining and well-aerated soil such as a cactus and succulent mix. Alternatively, you can make your own by adding perlite or coarse sand to potting soil at a 1:1 ratio. If you are planting directly into the garden, you can add these components also to provide the best drainage for your new Senecio Serpens.

Choose a pot that is big enough to allow the roots to grow, but not too big so that the water takes a long time to evaporate. Pots made of ceramic are great for succulents, but avoid glazed pottery that is not breathable. A ceramic pot promotes evaporation and allows the soil to completely dry. Make sure the pot has enough drainage holes, if not you can drill some yourself. If the Senecio Serpens becomes rootbound, repot in early spring in a slightly larger container.

Blue Chalksticks require fertilizer at least once per year. You can add more during the growing season to give the plant an extra boost. Choose a liquid fertilizer diluted to half-strength that is low in nitrogen. There is no need for fertilizer if your succulent is planted outdoors.

Propagating Blue Chalksticks

If you love your Blue Chalksticks so much and you want to have more, you will be happy to know that it is quite easy to propagate this plant. There are three methods of propagation you can use: clumps, cuttings, and seeds.

Because it grows in clumps of small plants, you can easily divide it. Remove the succulent from the soil or container and gently pull apart the clumps. Be careful not to damage its fragile roots. Replant the clumps in their own pots and choose a well-draining soil mix as mentioned above.

Another easy way to propagate Senecio Serpens is by stem and leaf cuttings. During the growing season, use a sterilized knife or clippers to remove a leaf from the stem of the mother plant. Dip the cutting into rooting powder and set it in a shaded area for a few days until it has dried out and formed calluses. Once the cutting is ready, place them upright in moist soil and keep it moist until the plant has rooted.

Growing Blue Chalksticks from seeds takes longer, but it is a great method if there aren’t any other available. Sprinkle the seeds directly onto a tray of well-draining potting mix. Place the tray into a warm, well-ventilated location with plenty of indirect sunlight. If you cannot provide it with enough light, use growing lights or a seed warmer. Water the soil whenever it feels dry to the touch, and keep it moist until the seeds germinate. It can take several weeks for the seeds to grow.

Blue Chalksticks
Blue Chalksticks

In Conclusion

Are you looking for a low-maintenance succulent to add to your plant collection? Then look no further than alien-looking Blue Chalksticks, a charming evergreen plant with a chalky blue appearance. Like most succulents, Senecio Serpens loves sunlight and warmth. Many gardeners use it as a ground cover or as the focal point in a rock garden. Pair it with other blue, silver, or purple plants to create an exotic garden.

Caring for Blue Chalksticks plants is easy, as long as you keep in mind a few simple aspects. The most important thing is not to overwater your succulent and provide it with plenty of sunlight for at least 6 hours per day. Make sure you plant it in well-draining soil and apply fertilizer once during the growing season. Propagating this plant is easy and can be done through three different methods.

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Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact miruna@gardenbeast.com

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