Growing Senecio Barbertonicus Plants: Caring For Lemon Bean Bush

Senecio Barbertonicus [sen-ek-ee-o, bar-ber-TON-ee-kus] is an evergreen shrub from the family Asteraceae, commonly referred to as the aster, sunflower or daisy family

This Senecio plant is native to Southern Africa where it predominantly grows in bushveld (a sub-tropical woodland eco-region) and rocky grasslands, ranging from Mozambique and Swaziland to eastern parts of South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

Senecio barbertonicus in bloom
Image: Olaf Leillinger [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

While the plant naturally grows at higher altitudes, between 110’ feet to 5,500’ feet, it is now being widely cultivated in a variety of regions, mainly because of its drought resistance and winter blooming.

Senecio Barbertonicus belongs to this class of succulents and commonly known as Barbertonicus succulent bush senecio.

Some other common names of this Asteraceae species are:

  • Barberton senecio
  • Lemon bean bush
  • Finger-leaved senecio
  • Barberton groundsel
  • Barberton coltsfoot

Senecio Barbertonicus Care

Size & Growth

Typically growing up to 6’ feet tall and wide, lemon bean bush features a fleshy trunk densely packed with light green, finger-like, fleshy leaves. 

The leaves are about 2” – 4” inches long, lie parallel to the stem, and point upwards. 

The stems are soft and green when the plant is young, but get woody and brown as the plant reaches maturity.  

Flowering and Fragrance

In winters, when most other plants either get dormant or die, lemon bean bush produces clusters of tufted terminal flower heads in abundance. 

The flowers have a beautiful golden-yellow color, tubular shape, and a sweet fragrance.

They are about 3” inches long and produce seeds with a thick tuft of grey bristles. 

The plant is called senecio with reference to the seed hairs – senecio comes from the Latin word senex, which means old man.

Light & Temperature

Barberton groundsel enjoys full sun, but cannot tolerate frost. 

So, if you are growing the plant in a pot, place it outside in the summer and indoors in the fall.

An ideal location for growing Senecio plants is one where it gets at least 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day.

The plant can survive temperature as low as 25° degrees Fahrenheit (-4° C). 

The plant is hardy to USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b.

Watering and Feeding

As mentioned above, one of the reasons for the widespread cultivation of Senecio barbertonicus is its drought tolerance. 

While it prefers some water in summers, it can survive for long periods without water, once it is established. 

However, it cannot survive excessive watering.

From spring to autumn, provide moderate amounts of water; the soil should be moist, but not wet. 

In winters, however, reduce the frequency of watering and let the soil dry out between waterings.

An important tip, given by experts, is to water the plant in the morning between 8 am and 10 am and water directly to soil; do not water the leaves.

Since lemon bean bush grows in sandy soil, it needs to be fed with fertilizer to ensure it doesn’t lack essential nutrients. 

Fertilize annually, but lightly because too much fertilizer will produce a significant amount of leggy growth.

Soil & Transplanting

The plant can easily grow in a wide range of soil pH. 

While slightly acidic to slightly alkaline pH range is best for barberton groundsel, it can tolerate poor soils. 

However, the soil has to be light and well-draining.

Early spring is the best time for repotting.

Grooming and Maintenance

Taller varieties of the evergreen succulent Senecio barbertonicus are likely to get floppy. 

To keep them in good shape, experts recommend pruning the plant in early spring.  

Use the light green cuttings for propagation.

Other Popular Senecio Varieties

How To Propagate Lemon Bean Bush

Finger-leaved senecio is easily propagated by softwood cuttings, leaf cuttings, and plant divisions.

Propagation from softwood cutting is performed anytime from late spring to summer. 

Let the cuttings dry out for one to two weeks before planting them.

To grow a plant from leaf, pluck a leaf from the main stem and let it dry for one day. 

Now place it on the surface of light and well-drained growing medium – an ideal growing medium is a mixture of soil, compost, and sand. 

Place the pot in partial shade. 

The leaf will start forming roots within a few days. 

Wait until the roots develop, new growth emerges and a rosette forms at the base and then plant. 

Water the new plant frequently until it gets established.

Early spring is the best time to divide the plant.

Lemon Bean Bush Pest or Diseases

Lemon bean plant isn’t prone to pests, but it can occasionally get affected by mealybugs and scales. 

Overwatering, particularly in winters, can cause root rot.

The flowers of barberton senecio are highly attractive to butterflies, painted lady butterflies in particular.  

Since the plant blooms in winters, when there isn’t much food available, a lot of insects are also attracted to its deep yellow flowers.

Senecio Barbertonicus Uses

Since the plant attracts butterflies, it is an ideal choice for butterfly gardens. 

Its ability to survive drought also makes it a great option for rock gardens.

Barberton coltsfoot is also a good addition in borders, boundaries, and wild gardens.