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.
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.
The Senecio Barbertonicus succulent bush belongs to the class of succulents commonly known as the 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, the lemon bean succulent 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 of Senecio barbertonicus 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).
This succulent bush 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 summer, this succulent bush 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 succulent 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 bush 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.
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.