Fascinating contrasts meet on a Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’. Long, round, pointed, evergreen leaves thrive on succulent, thick-fleshed shoots. This massive appearance is cushioned by a delicate stature with a height of 20 cm. After the yellow cup flower has withered, filigree, white crowns of hair are enthroned on the fruiting plant, which gave the groundsel its name. This exotic beauty is coupled with a high level of toxicity that applies equally to humans and animals. The following care instructions show you how to cultivate this extreme plant on your windowsill at home.
Table of Contents
- Plant family: daisy family (Asteraceae)
- Genus: Ragweed (Senecio)
- Name of the hybrid: Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’
- Native to South Africa
- Succulent and evergreen
- Strictly upright habit with a growth height of up to 20 cm
- Yellow daisy flowers from May to June
- Temperature minimum 5-10 degrees Celsius
A sunny location on the south-facing window sill offers all the prerequisites for maintaining the compact habit of a Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’. In semi-shade there is a risk that the succulent shoots will go in search of more light and get lost in the process. The plant does not attach particular importance to high humidity. On the other hand, it is an advantage if good air exchange is ensured in warm locations. The houseplant can be oversummered on the sunny balcony when there is no longer any fear of night frosts from mid-May.
watering and fertilizing
As a succulent plant, the hybrid learned from its parent plants how to store water. This is what the wild species feed on in the wild during long periods of drought. Thus, the magnificent cultivar ‘Himalaya’ copes much better with short-term drought than with standing water. Therefore, water the exotic houseplant moderately. This specification is implemented in detail as follows:
- Water groundsel only when the top 2 cm of the substrate is dry
- Put water on the ground until the first drops run into the saucer
- Remove standing water from the coaster after 10 minutes
Since the plant prefers a slightly acidic substrate, we recommend using soft water. Collected rainwater is best suited for Senecio species. A sensible alternative is decalcified tap water. The irrigation water should have been stale for at least a few days so that the lime content has reduced. Resourceful hobby gardeners hang a cotton bag filled with 1 liter of peat in a 10 liter watering can. After 2-3 days the peat has absorbed most of the lime.
In the tightly limited substrate volume of a flower pot, the nutrient reserves of fresh soil are used up within 6 to 8 weeks after planting. Fertilize a Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’ every 4 weeks from March to September with a liquid cactus fertilizer. Alternatively, fill up the nutrient reserves with a long-term fertilizer in the form of sticks. These are pressed into the substrate in March and June and gradually release the active ingredients to the roots.
While groundsel served as an ornament on the summer balcony during the warm season, falling temperatures signal the end of the outdoor season for the South African beauty. By October at the latest, move the plant to its winter quarters. This is how the care program is designed during the winter:
- The location is light and airy
- Temperatures between 10 and 12 degrees Celsius are ideal
- Give soft water in small sips if the soil has dried out
- Do not fertilize from October to February
The higher the temperatures during the winter, the brighter the location should be. Otherwise, the Senecio longingly stretches its succulent shoots in the hope of sunshine. Consequently, this form of hibernation is also recommended for senile herbs that are cultivated in living spaces all year round.
The leisurely growth of a Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’ only requires a change to a larger flower pot every few years. When the first root strands grow out of the opening in the ground, you can no longer avoid repotting. The best time for this care measure is spring, when the winter break in growth is nearing the end. Choose the new pot only 2-3 cm larger in diameter. Otherwise, the ragweed will first eagerly root through the container, so that the growth of the above-ground shoots comes to a complete standstill. Here’s how the action goes smoothly:
- Place a shard of pottery over the water drain as drainage with the bulge facing up
- Fill in a layer of cactus soil or a mix of potting soil, sand and pumice gravel
- Repot the groundsel, place in the middle of the substrate and surround with soil
- Leave a pouring edge of 1 cm free so that nothing spills over later
Press the filled substrate firmly with a small stick so that no air pockets form here. Then water the plant a little with soft water. The succulent spends the first week after this moving stress in the partially shaded location to regenerate.
Propagation by cuttings
The offspring of a Senecio barbertonicus runs smoothly with the help of cuttings. This propagation is possible throughout the growing season. To do this, cut off head cuttings with a length of 10 cm and place them in a glass with soft water. The cuts on the mother plant are dusted with pure charcoal ash or rock flour so that the shoots do not bleed. At the semi-shady, warm window seat you can now follow live how a new root system develops at the interface. It is advisable to renew the water every 1 to 2 days to prevent the formation of rot. Experienced hobby gardeners also add a small piece of charcoal to the water.
When the root strands have reached a length of 2 cm, the cuttings can be planted in the recommended substrate for adult ragweed.
For aphids, the succulent groundsel houseplant is a favorite food. Just in time for the start of the season, the pests settle on the needle-like leaves to puncture the tissue and suck out the sap. As if that wasn’t enough, there are legions of ants in their wake, especially outdoors. These are after the honeydew, which the lice excrete as a waste product. So keep an eye on your Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’ to counteract the first signs of an infestation with this home remedy:
- Mix 1 tablespoon of liquid curd soap and 1 dash of spirit in 1 liter of soft water
- Pour the solution into a hand sprayer
- Spray on all parts of the plant every 2-3 days until no more lice can be found
Do not apply the remedy when the plant is under direct sunlight. The early morning hours are ideal for use.
Due to the high poison content, groundsel is usually spared from diseases. Only the fungal infection mildew can lead to health problems on the balcony during warm, humid days. In this case, environmentally conscious hobby gardeners always keep a small supply of fresh milk ready. Instead of treating the infected Senecio with a chemical fungicide, the plant is easily cured with this home remedy:
- Mix fresh milk and soft water in a ratio of 1:9
- Apply at intervals of 2-3 days with the spray bottle
- Do not use the product in direct sunlight
Please note that only fresh milk is suitable for this purpose. In UHT milk, the active ingredients were killed off during the extreme heating. Moreover, this home remedy only has the desired effect in the early stages of infestation. Check the plant, which spends the summer outdoors, daily for the typical mealy-white patina on the shoots and leaves.
Similar groundsel houseplants
There are more than 1,200 species within the multifaceted plant genus, of which the following specimens make similar demands on care, such as Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’:
Very similar in habit to the ‘Himalaya’ hybrid, this stemless groundsel species has silver-white, fleshy shoots that can grow up to 30 cm tall. Several tubular leaves grow from the individual stems, which bend slightly as they progress. In older plants, the silvery coating gradually peels off. The plants make up for this with a silvery-white bloom that rises above the foliage and shoots on long stalks in summer.
If you don’t like the needle-like leaves and would like to cultivate a slightly larger groundsel as a houseplant, Senecio articulatus is a good choice. Waxy limbs with non-succulent leaves thrive on the short, thick-fleshed stems. A well-established plant will present a dainty, yellow-white flower in fall.
The outstanding attribute of this ragweed beauty are the medium-green stems and leaves, which shine in pure white thanks to their dense hairs. With a growth height of 20 to 45 cm, this species is also ideal for indoor plants. However, the Senecio haworthii is site-loyal and reacts to a sudden change by dropping leaves.
Senecio herreianus If you
are looking for a hanging groundsel, you will find it in this charming species. The filigree shoots are lavishly covered with succulent, medium-green leaves. Older plants surprise with an orange blossom in summer.
As a trivial name, creative gardeners gave this groundsel species the apt name ‘peas on a string’. Along the creeping or hanging shoots, countless spherical leaves and delicate green thrive. Since the tendrils can reach a length of up to 100 cm, this plant enables the realization of imaginative design ideas.
With the groundsel Senecio barbertonicus ‘Himalaya’, you cultivate an exotic houseplant, beyond established conventions. Due to its high poison content, the plant is not suitable for cultivation in a family household with small children and pets.