Senecio crassissimus (Vertical Leaf Senecio)

Senecio crassissimus (Vertical Leaf Senecio)

Scientific Name

Senecio crassissimus Humbert

Common Names

Lavender Steps, Propeller Plant, Vertical Leaf, Vertical Leaf Senecio

Scientific Classification

Family: Asteraceae
Subfamily: Asteroideae
Tribe: Senecioneae
Subtribe: Senecioninae
Genus: Senecio


Senecio crassissimus is a succulent subshrub with erect, thick, purple stems that hold silver-grey leaves with vivid purple margins facing outwards. It grows up to 24 inches (60 cm) tall and up to 18 inches (45 cm) wide. Leaves are stiff, flattened, obovate waxy, and up to 2 inches (5 cm) long. In winter, up to 2 feet (60 cm) tall inflorescences rise from the stem tips and bear an open, branched head of bright yellow, daisy-like flowers.


USDA hardiness zones 10a to 11b: from 30 °F (−1.1 °C) to 50 °F (+10 °C).

How to Grow and Care

Established Senecios are extremely drought tolerant. They need some water during the summer but do not leave the soil wet for prolonged periods. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings in winter, when they are somewhat dormant. Since they are growing in sandy soil, nutrients will need to be replenished. Fertilize annually, but lightly. Too much fertilizer will cause a lot of leggy growth.

Taller varieties can get floppy. You can prune them back to where the stem is firm in very early spring. You can even root the cuttings.

Plants can be divided or repotted in early spring. If you are growing them in containers, they enjoy spending the summer outdoors. Wait until there is no danger of frost and move them back indoors in the fall.

Senecio can be grown from either seed or cuttings. Seeds prefer warm temperatures and constant moisture to germinate. Using cuttings is an easier and faster method of propagation. Cut during the growing season, from early spring to fall—root in sandy soil, in containers.

Learn more at How to Grow and Care for Senecio.


Senecio crassissimus is native to Madagascar.


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Senecio crassissimus/Vertical leaf senecio

How do I propagate these guys? I know you can cut off the top and do it that way, but I need further instruction.

I posted this question some time ago, got a promise of a response but have yet to get one.

Can anyone walk mr through the process?

The one on your right shoud root by cuttin the top about four or five inches from the top, remove the bottom leaves, let it callus a few days, then stick it into cactus mix that is moist not wet, and mist every day . They are like the ghost plants. You can even root the leaves by letting them callus and putting them into the soil around your larger cuttings.

I dont know if the plant on the left side has anything that can be cut, maybe a differrent shot of it could show what type of growth is on it, most succulents need callusing and then put into soil, some leaves you can just place on top o the soil and mist till you see ariel roots, then put it into the soil. Humidity will give you those areial roots pretty quick.

I appreciate the information. Funny you brought up misting. I brought back a dried out, and I mean REALLY dried out, Croton by misting it heavily, daily. The recovery and transformation was miraculous.

After I make the cut, will I see new growth where I cut? Is there an optimal time of year when I should propagate this?

Here is a closer shot at the top of the left hand portion of this plant. As you can see, lots of new growth. Let me know what you think about this side.

Thank you so much for answering this post!

The best time to root succulents is Spring.

Is that assuming they are outdoors or can I recreate their Springtime? Clearly I don't know much about planting seasons. Embarrassing. I grew up in the Southern most point of Texas where there really aren't seasonal variations. It goes from very hot and humid to less hot and rainy. So, I apologize for my ignorance. I've been reading, and I'm working on it as there are actual seasons where I live now!

So, should I wait, or can I go ahead and do it now?

If you can provide the same conditions it needs now, there's nothing to say hey won't root, but most plants have in their memory banks the seasons and know when to go dormant is what I believe . If you can just get them the humidity and temps they need, it should root enough to sustain it thru winter where you can place them n dappled shade in spring o get hem going. I'd give it a try, terrarium style would be good. I did that around the newly hatched baby box turtles, all the succulents lived and I sprayed them all with water and at intervals I used a weak solution of mg.. My problem is that they needed a lot of light so they got leggy. With a flour cent light you can root all winter, plus your moisture. It just depends on how far you want to go and invest in ths, and the room you would need, just an empty table, lights and a spray bottle..

Good luck, we have all been there, so don't hesitate to ask.

My best friend raises Sulcata turtles.

Got the room all set. It already serves as a makeshift greenhouse. Thanks for the advice. And patience. Don't worry. I'm a quick study!

Oh man, those are big turtles, I just recode five Sulcatas, we fed them for three years and all they do is eat and get bigger, I think we rehomed 8 boxies, five Sulcatas and three water turtles. I have a small rescue going here.
Lots of work, but so worth it. I don't think I'm going to take in anymore.. Mine just laid eggs and ill be on the lookout for the babies. Lol, thy sure are cute newborns.

You'll be a pro in no time and will be able to help new folks growing cacti..

I spent much of my youth on South Padre Island. It is prime nesting for the very endangered Kemp Ridley. Eggs are gathered, hatched and raised to release. I am closely associated with one of the govts. Top turtle guys in Texas. If you ever need info, let me know. I'm well connected. I don't know much, but my people do! I sound important huh? No. My sister is a marine biologist.

Senecio crassissimus (Vertical Leaf Senecio) - garden

Origin and Habitat: Senecio crassissimus is endemic to Madagascar.
Habitat and ecology: This species thrives in rocky, sun-sweltering environment along with a staggering number of succulent species such as: Pachypodium densiflorum, Euphorbia milii, Euphorbia xylophylloides, Aloe acutissima, etc. It has adapted to its harsh environment by changing the direction of its succulent leaf surfaces so that there is no flat surface directly facing the sun. When the sun is in its most intense position, directly overhead, the plant has just a leaf edge facing the sun. This prevents moisture from evaporating. Because the plant's leaf edges point up and down, rather than the conventional flat surface with edges from side to side, it forms a propeller appearance.

Description: Senecio crassissimus, colloquially known as "Vertical leaf senecio" or "Propeller plant" is an evergreen leaf-succulent subshrub 45-80 cm tall by 40 cm wide with vertical ranks of silver-grey laterally positioned purple rimmed flattened fleshy leaves. Thick erect, stems produce bright yellow daisy like flowers at the tips in mid-summer to autumn. The large leaves looking as if turned on edge are the most distinctive feature.
Stems: Erect, succulent, thick greyish-green to purple, with leaf scars below.
Leaves: Laterally compressed, mostly obovate, but variable in profile, size and colour, 5-10 cm long and 3 cm wide, 2-5 mm thick, waxy silver-grey or bluish with vivid purple margins, facing outwards, veined and tapered to short stalks below. Apex stiff mucronate. The propeller plant has an ability to trap moisture with its foliage, because sometimes this is the only means by which these plants are able to maintain it. The moisture often comes only in the forms of mist, fog or vapour. If you look carefully at the propeller plant, you will see that it has a grey look to its leaf surface however this is not its true colour. The grey surface can be wiped away, leaving a light green colour exposed beneath. The grey is not dust, but a collection of millions of tiny scale-like surfaces designed to trap moisture.
Inflorescences: Inflorescence-stalk terminal, 30-60(-100) cm long, with scale-like bracts, branched towards the top into a loose corymb to bear 30 or more daisy-like heads .
Capitula (flowers heads): ± 6 mm in diameter. Phyllaries about 10. Ray florets 5 or rarely 6, yellow. Disc florets yellow.
Blooming season: Mid-summer to autumn or winter.
Chromosome number: 2n = 20.

Bibliography: Major references and further lectures
1) Forest & Kim Starr “Senecio crassissimus (Vertical leaf senecio)”. Plants of Hawaii. . Web. 27 Sep. 2014.
2) Wikipedia contributors. "Senecio crassissimus." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 Mar. 2009. Web. 10 Oct. 2014.
3) Werner Rauh “Succulent and xerophytic plants of Madagascar” Volume 1 Strawberry Press, 1995
4) Urs Eggli “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons” Springer Science & Business Media, 2002
5) Gordon D. Rowley “Flowering succulents” Living Colour Publications, 1959
6) Gordon D. Rowley “Succulent Compositae: A Grower's Guide to the Succulent Species of Senecio und Otbonna” Strawberry Press, 1994
7) Hermann Jacobsen “A Handbook of Succulent Plants: Ficus to Zygophyllum” Blandford Press, 1960
8) Werner Rauh “The Wonderful World of Succulents: Cultivation and Description of Selected Succulent Plants Other Than Cacti” Smithsonian Institution Press, 1984
9) San Marcos Growers contributors “Senecio crassissimus- Vertical Leaf Senecio”. San Marcos Growers . Web. 27 Sep. 2014.
10) Christoper Brickell (Editor-in-chief) "RHS A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants" Third edition. Dorling Kindersley, London 2003
11) Mary Wright “Propeller plant thrives in the rockiest, sun-sweltering environment” The Edmonton Journal February 20, 2006

Habit at Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii (USA). March 07, 2011. Photo by: Forest Starr & Kim Starr

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Cultivation and Propagation: Senecio crassissimus is an interesting and unique plant with the unusual colour combination of purple and grey on leaves that appear to be turned on their edge. It is a most rewarding plant that grows in full sun and has no problems with extreme heat or cold down 0° Celsius. Senecio crassissimus may be best combined in a large container with other succulent types.
Soil: It requires a very free draining soil used for cacti and other succulents, mildly acidic to mildly alkaline but is very tolerant of poor soils.
Fertilization: Fertilizer is seldom a necessity for these plants as the soil is rocky and desolate in their natural habitat.
Watering: It needs moderate water during from spring to autumn, keep rather dry in winter or the plants may rot at the base. The plant will tolerate being dried out much more than other types of succulents. The converse is also true, the plant will suffer greatly from over watering.
Exposition: They seem to do well in full sun to part shade such as at the base of open trees, but thrives better in hot sunny positions and will tolerate coastal conditions, but prefers light shade in the summer.
Frost Tolerance: It is cultivated in open air in the tropical and warm Mediterranean climate, with temperatures which it is good to keep over the 5°C, best 10-12°C, but can withstand light frost for short periods if very dry (hardy down to -0º C, even if with damage to the foliage) in these situations it will better resist if sheltered by the winter rains, seen that the humidity and low temperatures render it more sensitive to rottenness, however, watch it carefully as frost will kill the plant. Plants in containers however, suffered major leaf loss. USDA Zone (9b-)10 to11(-12).
Wind and salt tolerance: Tolerates wind and second line salt wind.
Maintenance: The flower stems need to be removed to keep a tidy appearance. These species do tend to get sort of leggy, which is particularly a problem if grown as a potted plant, and trimming back is often necessary.
Propagation: It is easy to propagate by cuttings in late spring to summer, just take a cutting of the plant let it dry for 1 or 2 weeks and stuff it in the ground (preferably dry, loose, extremely well draining soil).

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