Dusty Miller - The Senecio Cineraria

Unlike many other plants (even those within its own species), Senecio cineraria is best known for its leaves, rather than its flowers, which are often removed by horticulturists so that they do not detract from the beauty of the silver-grey leaves.

Did you know? The dusty miller, formally known as the Senecio cineraria, is part of the daisy family (or the Asteraceae family).

The Senecio cineraria has exquisite silver leaves that are soft and fuzzy to the touch. Some leaves are rounded while others have a spikier tip. Because of its uniquely iridescent colour, it makes for an exquisite addition to a well populated garden that has plenty of colourful flowers of other species.

It grows to a maximum height of about two metres, with a similar (if a little wider) horizontal spread. Yellow flowers usually only form in the second summer of its life span, if at all.

Flowering time

Although rarely seen, the flowers of the Senecio cineraria appear in the summer months. In South Africa, this is around December to March. However, it is the leaves of this pretty plant that generally attracts gardeners. They will, therefore, often remove the flowers intentionally.

Use in the garden

The Senecio cineraria is gorgeous in the garden, with its silvery leaves glistening in the light. Some have been known to crush the leaves and use the juice to treat cataracts. However, this plant is fairly toxic and should never be ingested or used internally in any way, including application to the eyes.

Natural distribution

The Senecio cineraria is resistant to drought and does well in the areas of the country that are hot in the summer and cool in the winter.

Growing Senecio cineraria (Dusty Miller) in your garden

Although poisonous, the Senecio cineraria is popular amongst gardeners.

It does well as the edging to a flowerbed, in containers and in window boxes. It prefers full to partial sun and complements other brightly-coloured flowers with its muted, elegant silver-grey foliage. It needs well-drained soil, and flourishes with winter rains.

Propagation

To propagate Senecio cineraria, cuttings from the semi-hard stem tips can be replanted during the summer months. In addition, seed can be sprinkled on the ground (not covered by the soil) and watered regularly, but within reason.

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