Native to South Africa, Senecio haworthii [sen-ek-ee-o, hay-WOR-thee-eye] is a perennial dwarf shrub belonging to the Asteraceae family.
The cylindrical cacti-like succulent leaves look striking against other green succulents as fine white hairs cover the surfaces of the leaves like its cousin Senecio cineraria the (Dusty Miller plant).
Even though the plant is not as commonly found as some other succulent species, it’s a favorite for many people.
Adrian Hardy Haworth was the first one to describe it in his Miscellanea naturalia in 1803.
He used the name Cacalia tomentosa for the plant and wrote he was introduced to the plant 8 years before from his friend Benjamin Robertson.
You may hear it called by its common names including:
- Woolly Senecio
- Cocoon Plant
Senecio Haworthii Care
Size & Growth
The Cocoon plant is characterized by its remarkable cocoon-like cylindrical white hairs or felted leaves.
The shrub is a dwarf perennial but can grow up to 1′ foot tall.
As for width, it can have a spread around 2′ feet wide.
In their native habitat, these plants grow at an altitude a little more than ½ a mile high.
Under the right conditions, Senecio haworthii is easy to grow.
When propagated via cutting, the plant takes only a few weeks to root properly.
Flowering and Fragrance
The Senecio haworthii plant is known mostly for its succulent leaves.
It gets the name Cocoon plant because the leaves look like moth cocoons.
Compared to its foliage, the flowers produced by Senecio haworthii are nothing striking.
The terminal inflorescence it produces consists of short bright yellow flowers.
The flowers bloom anywhere between winter and summer.
Multiple tiny flowers grow in clusters at the end of a slender unbranched stem 3″ – 4″ inches in length.
Light & Temperature
Senecio haworthii plants grow well and thrive in USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11b.
This means the optimal temperature for healthy foliage lies between 25° – 50° degrees Fahrenheit (-4° C – 10° C).
Since they prefer warmer temperatures, it needs to be brought inside during the winter season, especially when temperatures drop below 30° degrees Fahrenheit (-1° C).
Similar to other succulent species, Cocoon plants can grow in full sun to partial shade.
Plant it in a location where it can get at least 6 hours of full sun a day.
For indoors, place it in a room getting plenty of sunlight.
A location near a south-facing window (in Northern Hemisphere) will work perfectly.
Watering and Feeding
For a succulent, the Woolly Senecio has very average watering needs.
The soak and dry method work best as the plant is prone to damage from overwatering.
It can lead to root rot or over-long and leggy stems.
So be careful with your plant and let the soil dry completely before watering it again.
Cut back on watering during the plant’s dormant period in winter months.
As for feeding the plant, use a succulent fertilizer once a year.
But make sure you do it lightly since frequent and heavy feeds can cause leggy growth.
Established plants are extremely drought tolerant.
Soil & Transplanting
In its natural habitat in South Africa, Senecio haworthii grows in gravelly or stony soil.
Even though it can survive in a variety of soils, the best option is a sandy loam potting mix.
Make sure the soil is well-drained and doesn’t remain damp for prolonged periods since this will harm the bare roots. Plant in a pot with a drainage hole.
As for pH, something in the 6.0-7.0 neutral range is preferable.
If you’re growing your plant in a container, transplanting is recommended in early spring.
Grooming and Maintenance
Senecio plants are low maintenance. They can, however, get a little floppy, especially the tall varieties.
Prune them during early spring. Cut back to where the stem is firm. Save the stem cuttings for rooting and producing more house plants.
Make sure not to overwater the roots as it can cause root rot.
You don’t have to worry about maintenance too much.
You may like this Senecio – Senecio Stapeliiformis (Pickle Plant)
How to Propagate Cocoon plant
Senecio haworthii is grown from seeds or cuttings.
If you grow your Cocoon plant from seeds, make sure you plant it in well-draining sandy soil.
Place them in a warm location and maintain constant moisture for germination.
Stem cuttings are easier and faster to grow.
Divide the plant during early spring and plant in sandy soil.
It will take a few weeks for the plant to root.
The plant does well outside, especially in the summer.
Wait until the last frost has passed to plant them outside and make sure to move them back in when fall begins.
Senecio Pest or Disease Problems
Only a few pests and diseases bother Senecio haworthii plants.
Consult your local nursery or garden center for treatment options and choose the least toxic one.
Suggested Uses For Senecio Cocoon Plants
These plants are mostly used as ornamental houseplants for their unique felt-like leaves.
The white-felted stems and leaves make a beautiful contrast among echeverias, small crassulas, and other succulents.
In South African culture these African plant leaves were used for tinder to start fires.