Senecio leucostachys (White Groundsel) - An evergreen sprawling sub-shrub that grows as a dense mound 3 to 4 feet tall by 5 to 8 feet wide with stems and finely divided 3-inch-long leaves covered with soft silver-gray hairs that when wet turn a flat gray. In summer appear small creamy-white ray-less disk flowers but it is the foliage that is most attractive, so trimming the tips to remove the flowers when in bloom makes the plant look better and keeps it tighter and with repeated pinching is the best way to keep the plant looking its best. It attracts butterflies when in bloom and is resistant to deer predation.
Plant in full to part day sun (a bit greener in shade) in a well-drained soil and irrigate occasionally to very little. Hardy to around 15-20° F but is also used as an annual in colder climates. A very attractive dry growing shrub with fine textured silver white foliage.
Senecio leucostachys was first described by the British botanist John Gilbert Baker in Flora Brasiliensis in 1884, but it actually hails from Argentina where it grows at elevations between 2,300 and 6,200 feet in Villavicenzia Mountains above Mendoza and in Northern Patagonia. It was first introduced into England in 1886 as a greenhouse or half-hardy plant from Uruguay with the note that it was "An undershrub with white tomentose pinnatisect leaves". (Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information: List of Published Names of Plants Introduced to Cultivation: 1876 to 1896 published by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew 1900). The name for the genus comes from the Latin word 'senex' meaning "old" or "old man" in reference to its downy head of seeds and the specific epithet means is a combination of the Latin words 'leuco' meaning white and 'stachys' meaning "spike" in reference to the plant having a white-flowering stalked inflorescence.
Senecio leucostachys is sometimes listed under the name Senecio viravira (or S. vira-vira) or S. cineraria 'Candissimus' and is one of the many plants often commonly called "Dusty Miller". We previously grew this plant from 1992 through 1997 but discontinued only because, like so many great plants, it never looked that great in a nursery container. We were reminded that it is a stunning plant in the garden when in the spring of 2017 we visited famed landscape architect Isabelle Greene in her personal garden and saw her fantastic specimen that is shown in our second image and we knew we must grow this plant again!
Information about Senecio leucostachys displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.