Senecio ficoides (Large Kleinia) - Large succulent with stout 3 to 5 foot long stems that arch upwards and snake along the ground bearing 3 to 6 inch long narrow blue-green leaves that are flat on the upper surface and round keeled below and end in a soft yet sharp looking tip.
Plant in full sun to light shade in a well-drained soil where it requires very little irrigation. Has proven hardy to 25° F and likely will go a bit lower.
This is the largest of the gray succulent leaf senecios that include Senecio cylindricus, Senecio mandraliscae and Senecio serpens but this a bigger plant than these others and the leaves are flatter, a bit like Senecio crassisimus but narrower and more well-spaced along the stem.
Senecio ficoides grows naturally around the Northern Cape, Namaqualand, Alexander Bay in in the extreme north-west of South Africa. It is also commonly called Flat-leaved Senecio, Silver Senecio and Big Blue chalk sticks. The name for the genus comes from the Latin word 'senex' meaning "old" or "old man" in reference to its downy head of seeds and the specific epithet is from the pre-Linnean name for plants in the genus Mesembryanthemum, which this plant superficially resembles. Recent treatment of this plant in the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew databases has the current name of this plant as Curio ficoides (L.) P.V. Heath but in the most current written reference we have available, The Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Dicotyledons edited by Urs Eggli (2002), the contributor for this section, Gordon Rowley, lists Senecio ficoides (Linné) Schulz-Bipontinus as the correct name Since this plant has long been in the California nursery trade as Senecio ficoides, we continue to use this name until such time as the newer names become better recognized. The genus name Curio means "to lean" in reference to several related species with a leaning or decumbent habit.
We have grown this plant since 2010 and previously listed it as Senecio aizoides. This is one of the parents of Senecio 'Jolly Gray'. Both of these plants came to us from the garden of John Bleck and we also grow a patented selection of this species that is more upright and taller called Senecio ficoides 'Mount Everest' and a seedling selection from 'Mount Everest' that we call Senecio ficoides 'Tall Towers'.
Information about Senecio ficoides displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.