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Senecio herreianus, string of watermelons, photographed at Tula Plants & Design. Senecio herreianus, string of watermelons, photographed at Tula Plants & Design.

Senecio herreianus

Botanical Name — Senecio herreianus
Common Name — String of Watermelons, String of Tears
Plant Family — Asteraceae

Background

Senecio herreianus is a cascading succulent with long trails of oval leaves. The stripped variegation as well as the red blush some leaves take on has given it the nickname ‘string of watermelons.’ Native to southern Namibia and northwestern South Africa, this plant can be found trailing across arid sandy ground and dangling off of coastal cliffsides. In late winter or early spring, expect flourishing plants to blossom with elongated pink and white flower clusters.

Growth Requirements

Sun
  • Senecio herreianus love two to three hours of direct sunlight. Provide southern exposure as much as possible. However, when it’s hot, these plants prefer partial shade at peak hours. The diffused light of a screen door or sheer curtain will be perfect.
  • Leaf drop may be a sign that this plant is not getting enough sunlight.

Temperature/ Humidity
  • Senecio radicans are sub-tropical plants, meaning they thrive in temperatures between 65 to 80 ºF. They should always be kept above 55 ºF.

Water
  • Water once the soil dries out to 2 inches below the surface. Make sure to drench the soil thoroughly until water is dripping from the bottom of the plant.
  • In the winter, when these plants are not actively growing, ease up on watering. Reduce the frequency of watering to about half of what you would provide in the summer.
  • Overwatering could lead to leaf drop or root rot. Always err on the side of underwatering.

Soil/Roots
  • Give Senecio herreianus a light, gritty arid plant soil. A typical cactus potting soil will work. You can increase aeration and drainage by amending with sand, pumice, or perlite up to 50%.

Flowering
  • Flowers are small and elongated. Expect the tiny white and pink blooms to blossom in late winter or early spring.

Fertilization
  • These plants do not require fertilizer, though it can be added to give container grown plants a boost or to supplement poor soil. Apply a water-soluble, balanced fertilizer monthly, diluted at half strength.
  • Do not fertilize in the winter.

Propagation
  • These plants can be easily propagated by stem or leaf cuttings.

Health

Diseases
  • Scale, mealybugs, and aphids are not common but may occur. Remove pests with a cotton ball or q-tip soaked in rubbing alcohol, or treat the plant with diluted neem oil. Prune away unhealthy leaves or stems.
  • Root rot may occur if this plant is overwatered.

Maintenance (pruning, legginess, repotting)
  • This plant grows and blooms best when somewhat rootbound. Repot every two or three years, moving it to a pot just 2 inches wider.

Toxicity
  • These plants are toxic if ingested by animals and humans.