Pickle Plant Care Tips: Growing The Senecio Stapeliiformis

Senecio Stapeliiformis [Sen-ek-ee-o, Sta-pel-ee-ih-FORM-iss], also known as Kleinia stapeliiformis, is an attractive succulent plant perennial which has distinctive pencil-shaped stems with soft spines and purple-green patterns. 

This flowering succulent species has reclining to erect stems, which branch out from its rhizome stem base.

Flowering Pickle Plant - Senecio StapeliiformisPin
Stapeliiformis pickle plant

Question: What is a pickle plant (Senecio Stapeliiformis), and is it rare?

This succulent plant belongs to the family of Asteraceae and is native to South Africa, and it is not considered rare.

You may also hear it called by its common names, including:

  • Inchworm Plant
  • Pickle Plant Succulent
  • Pickle cactus
  • Trailing Jade
  • Spider Plant
  • Candle Plant
  • Candle Stick
  • Stapelia Stemmed Senecio – more on Stapelia cactus

NOTE: Delosperma echinatum (the botanical name) is also known as the pickle plant. However, it is a completely different plant genus and species with a different look.

Pickle Plant  Succulent Quick Care Guide

  • Botanical Name: Senecio stapeliiformis
  • Common Name(s): Pickle Plant, Trailing Pickle, Stapelia Cone Bush
  • Synonyms: Kleinia stapeliiformis, Notonia stapeliiformis
  • Family & Origin: Asteraceae family; native to South Africa
  • Growability: Easy to grow for beginners and experienced gardeners alike
  • Grow Zone: USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11
  • Size: Grows up to 12”-18” inches (30-45 cm) in height and 12” inches (30 cm) in spread
  • Flowering: Blooms in summer with small, daisy-like yellow flowers
  • Light: Requires full sun to light shade; prefers bright, indirect sunlight indoors
  • Humidity: Moderate humidity is ideal; tolerate lower humidity levels
  • Temperature: Thrives in temperatures between 50-80°F (10-27°C)
  • Soil: Well-draining soil mixes, such as cactus or succulent mix, can be amended with coarse sand or pumice
  • Water: Water sparingly, allowing the soil to dry between waterings; avoid overwatering to prevent root rot
  • Fertilizer: Apply a balanced, liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength every 4-6 weeks during the growing season
  • Propagation: Easily propagated through stem cuttings, allowing the cut end to callous before planting in soil
  • Uses: Ideal for container gardens, hanging baskets, or as a ground cover in suitable climates; can be grown indoors as a houseplant

Senecio Stapeliiformis Care and Growing Conditions

Size and Growth

The pencil-like stems with purple-green color are highly succulent, soft, brittle, cylindrical, and jointed.

Question: How big do pickle cactus will get? 

Pickle cactus, also known as Senecio stapeliiformis, can grow up to 12″ inches tall and 6″ inches wide. Each stem grows 10” inches tall and roughly 1” inch wide.

They have four to six grooves, or angles, with scale leaves sprouting along the ribs.

The leaves are typically dark green and also have an unusual pinkish tinge.

Moreover, underground shoots appear with purple arrowhead markings and silvery green striations underneath each node.

Pickle plant with cylindrical, succulent leaves, unique appearancePin

Flowering and Fragrance

Senecio Stapeliiformis grow hawkweed-like, large flowers that are often orange or red. However, some varieties feature tiny white to yellow flowers from spring. 

Light and Temperature

Question: Do pickle plants like sun or shade?

For optimal growth, the pickle plant should be placed under full sun to partial shade. They can tolerate direct sunlight but may need protection during the hottest part of the day.

Give this plant at least three to four hours of direct sunlight daily; place it on a balcony or in a garden when the temperature increases to 50° degrees Fahrenheit (10° C) or more.

Moreover, this plant can tolerate indirect light or partial shade. However, it won’t grow as healthy looking too quickly.

The pickle plant prefers warmth throughout the year. It can tolerate cold temperatures up to 50° – 59° degrees Fahrenheit (10° – 15° C).

Frost hardy to 23° degrees Fahrenheit (-5° C).

USDA hardiness zone 9 – 11.

Related: String Of Pearls Plant (Senecio rowleyanus)

Watering and Feeding

Once the pickle plant has become well established, it is highly drought-tolerant.

It still needs water, especially in the summer season.

However, you need to ensure its soil doesn’t stay wet for an extended period. Overwatering can lead to root rot, and you don’t want that.

In between watering, it is recommended to let the soil dry out during winter.

Question: How do you water a pickle plant? 

Water the pickle plant at the base of the plant, avoiding getting water on the leaves. It is best to water the plant deeply but infrequently.

These plants grow in sandy soil, which means nutrients must be replenished.

It is best to fertilize it lightly, as an extra amount of fertilizer annually can result in leggy growth.

Feed this plant from spring to fall with cacti and succulent liquid, standard, or organic fertilizer after every four to eight weeks.

Freshly-repotted or newly-bought Senecio Kleinia Stapeliiformis doesn’t require feed for a year.

Soil and Transplanting

Senecio Stapeliiformis thrives in rich, well-draining soil or well-draining sandy succulent soil. However, if you are using regular potting soil, you can amend it with some perlite or sand to improve it.

Moreover, this plant is also not too fussy about the pH of the soil. They can thrive in a neutral range of pH.

However, ensuring the soil is well-draining and more towards the sandy side is essential.

If the soil is left damp for a prolonged period, the pickle plant will start rotting.

The ideal mix for this plant is a mixture of pumice, bird sand, and potting soil, or any usual mixes used for succulents and cacti are fine for this plant too.

It will also grow in pure pumice.

If grown in containers or pots, ensure it has adequate drainage holes on the bottom. This way, the excess water will get out and not drown the roots.

Grooming and Maintenance

The taller the pencil-like stems grow, they tend to start getting floppy, which is a problem if they are in a potted plant.

These should be pruned back towards the firmer side of the stem during early spring.

If there is a need for repotting, it is best to do it during late spring.

In containers, these plants prefer to enjoy their summers outside but make sure to transfer them indoors during fall.

During the spring and summer seasons, Senecio Stapeliiformis requires more watering to bloom and grow.

You would have to remove the flower stems to maintain their tidy appearance.

It is best to trim and remove older stems so there is room for new ones to grow.

Related: Cocoon plant (Senecio haworthii)

How To Propagate Inchworm Plant

Senecio Stapeliiformis is propagated with cuttings or seeds. They require continuous moisture and warmer temperatures for the seeds to germinate.

Propagation through cuttings is the easiest way and faster method.

It is best to cut during the spring and fall seasons which are the growing season for this plant.

It is best to cover the pickle plant in frost-free zones and grow as container plants.

Keep in mind if you are propagating this plant through cuttings, you can’t just snip off the cutting and put it in water or soil to begin the rooting process.

The cuttings of succulents can store water in their bare roots, leaves, and stem, which makes them vulnerable to rot by bacteria and fungi entering the cut surfaces.

This is the reason why you shouldn’t place the cuttings in the soil directly.

  • First, it is essential to ensure the cut surface has been healed completely.
  • This can take a few days or a few months, as per the cutting size.
  • Once the cut part forms a callus, plant it.
  • Make sure it stays in a bright and warm spot.
  • Mist the soil surface lightly after every few days.

Pickle Plant Pest or Disease Problems

This plant is mostly pest-free, but you might occasionally find attacked little white bugs on succulents (mealybugs) and plants scale.

Suggested Pickle Plant Uses

Senecio Stapeliiformis is often used as potted houseplants or placed indoors to add beauty to any nook.

The pickle plant also makes a great ground cover and is considered non-toxic and safe for pets.

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