Senecio Vitalis (Mermaid Tail Succulent)

Senecio Vitalis Featured Image

This succulent is for you if you have a thing for mermaids or other mythical creatures. Having it in the house might also be a great way to complement your ocean-themed decor.

A Mermaid Tail is unusual in many ways; you will never lose your wonder for nature with it around.

Crested Senecio Vitalis is the scientific name of this beautiful succulent. Euphorbia Lactea is also known by the common name, Mermaid Tail. Both plants share most of their morphological attributes except for their’ leaves,’ and similar husbandry protocols work for them.

We shall discuss the leaves more when we get to the ‘physical attributes’ section.

The succulent is a native of the Cape Province in South Africa. It mainly grows during winter while remaining dormant in Summer.

Physical Attributes

This succulent is greenish-blue; it has a cactus-like texture an appearance that gives it its other common name, ‘the coral cactus.’

The plant generally grows upwards towards the light like any other plant, but it has some mutations with an outward growth pattern.

The mermaid tail rises to a maximum of two feet from the ground, after which it spreads out horizontally for up to five feet.

The process through which this plant flattens in this manner is known as ‘fascination.’ A Senecio Vitalis or Euphorbia Lactes that has gone through fascination is beautiful, rare, and widely sought-after.

There are some physical differences between the two species. The most prominent is that the mermaid tail succulent has thin, blue grass-shaped leaves all over its surface, while Euphorbia Lactea has dragon bones on the flat surface. There could also be a slight variance in pigmentation between different individual plants.

It would be best if you kept Euphorbia Lactea out of reach of children and pets because the dragon bone can prick them – it is somewhat stiff and sharp.

Some of the smaller mermaid tails grow one foot high and three feet wide. You can choose a larger plant or the smaller one depending on your space’s size or otherwise meet your preferences for décor. Whatever the size, this succulent is always spectacular.


This plant is harmless to humans but could be toxic to cats and dogs. Its milky sap is mildly irritating to humans, and you should always wear protective gloves when working with the plant. Keep the sap away from your eyes as it will likely cause more severe damage. Position the plant accordingly in the house to keep it away from pests.

Senecio Vitalis Care

Mermaid tail has a well-earned reputation for ease of husbandry. The following are some of its specific maintenance protocols to follow to keep it healthy and beautiful.

Sunlight and Temperature 

This plant can grow and thrive in direct sunlight or partial shade. It is tolerant to high temperatures, and therefore, the scorching summer afternoon sun isn’t much of a problem for it.

Make sure you take it to the window or some other sunny spot if you have it in the house as it needs sunlight to be healthy. Allow it to bathe in the sun for up to six hours.

The mermaid tail is generally cold and hardy. It loves the cold season because it grows most during winter. However, temperatures under zero degrees Celsius can stress it.

This means that you will need to get them sheltered during frigid winters – those below 300 Fahrenheit or -1.10 Celsius. So, make sure to plant the mermaids in containers if these cold winters are a regular occurrence in your zone.

Soil and Watering 

The mermaid tail is like its look-alike- the cactus in drought resistance. It can stay for a long time without water in its natural environment, but since you have domesticated it, make sure you water it regularly.

You should ensure the soil is entirely drained from the previous watering before adding more water. This is because, like many succulents, Senecio’s roots and stem are vulnerable to fungal infection and rot if they remain in waterlogged soil.

Treated water is generally unhealthy for succulents, including the mermaid tail succulent. It is always better to harvest rainwater and use it on the plants. It is the safest option.

You should plant the succulent on easy-to-drain soil to avoid rotting – it should be gritty and sandy. If you plant it in a container, ensure the pot is perforated to allow the water to flow through.

Also, ensure there is no saucer under the pot where you have planted the mermaid’s tail, as the saucer would retain water causing the roots to rot.

Mermaid tails are exceptionally disease resistant; therefore, you don’t need a disease management regime. Mealybugs may attack it occasionally, but you can control them by spraying them with pure pressurized water, which blows the bugs away. Also, you can spray them with organic neem pesticides.


The plant is naturally appealing. It doesn’t take much grooming to make it look nice. Some people shape it by cutting off leaves from the surface while retaining some at the extreme upper part of the succulent. This type of grooming accentuates the mermaid tail shape. It also exposes the plant’s body’s cactus-like appearance, further enhancing the plant’s exotic appearance.


Potting this plant requires a well-draining substrate. You can buy a cactus mix or mix loamy soil with sand. Fill the pot up to a third of the pot. Choosing the pot is essential; the pot should have suitable drainage holes at the bottom. A breathable pot is vital since it allows water to pass through easily through evaporation. The pot should be three inches wider than the plant’s base.

An unglazed terracotta pot is the best, as it is breathable. However, it should have drainage holes at the bottom to allow excess water flow.


If you are growing the plant in a pot, repot it occasionally. Repotting is mainly necessitated by the plant outgrowing its pot. It is necessary; thus, you must repot the plant every two years. It may also be necessary to repot the plant if your pottage loses its porosity, putting your plant in danger of waterlogging and root rot. The best time to repot is at the beginning of spring since that is the season of the plant’s growth, and it will get established faster.

Ensure the substrate is dry before repotting, and get another bigger pot. The new pot where you will plant the repotted plant should be four inches wider than the previous one. Move a flat blunt piece of metal or solid wooden spatula between the pottage ad the old pot (from where you remove the plant). Using the spatula or metal bar this way loosens the root. After removing the roots, you should turn the pot upside down, carefully getting the substrate in your hand and protecting the plant.

Gently remove the soil while taking care of the roots not to injure them. You can carefully trim the leaves to make sure they easily fit in the new pot. Proceed to replant the plant in the new pot, and ensure it has sufficient drainage holes. The next step is to water the plant appropriately and keep it in a cool place away from direct sunlight until it is established in the new pot. You can move the plant to its permanent position after the roots are well established.


The mermaid plant is succulent, and succulents are accustomed to challenging conditions and deficient soil nutrients. So, as much as you occasionally give the plant some extra food, it doesn’t need much fertilizing.

If, however, you notice a change in the plant’s leaves that is not occasioned by any disease or overwatering, it may be that your plant is malnourished. Yellowing leaves indicate that one could nourish the plant; malnourishment is usually due to poor quality substrate used in the first place, or maybe the plant has been in the same pot for too long, depleting the nutrients.

It uses a water-soluble, nitrogen-based fertilizer such as calcium or ammonium nitrates, and its growth months during spring and summer. Dilute the water-soluble fertilizer with water to half strength and apply it every few weeks. Be careful not to allow an accumulation of chemical salts that can damage the plant in the soil.

Pests and Diseases

Like other euphorbias, this plant is susceptible to mealybugs, spider mites, and scale insects. Prevention is the best pest control method for your succulents. If you can get the pests to stay away from your plant, your plants will be healthier and work easier. You can keep pests and diseases from the plant by keeping it healthy, pruning, and drying. Also, you can keep the plant safe from pests by applying neem oil. Neem oil is a systemic pesticide that makes the succulent unpalatable to pests.

You can also use organic pesticides such as hot pepper and garlic spray and biological controls such as introducing predators that eat the pests. Other simple ways of getting rid of these pests include rubbing the infected areas with cotton swabs dipped in alcohol. The alcohol should have at least 70% concentration. Spraying the infested plant with water, liquid soap, or pesticide soap also helps.

Root rot is the most common disease, and prevention by using well-draining soil and watering as per recommendations.


Both Senecio Vitalis and Euphorbia Lactes propagate through cuttings of the leaves. Through the following process.

– Sterilize a knife and cut off a leave.

– Leave it for some time – usually a day or two – to allow the wound to callus.

– Replant on sandy or other well-draining soil. The soil should be fresh.

– Avoid watering the cutting for the first few days. This will help it acclimatize to the new environment. Water every three days after this until the plant starts to establish roots. Once the roots appear, reduce watering to once weekly.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of planting the cutting in well-draining soil. Soil drainage is often the difference between the survival and death of these succulents.

We observed earlier that the mermaid tail forms out of a mutation. There is no guarantee that it will crest to get the mermaid tail appearance even when you obtain the cutting for propagation from a mutated plant. This is why succulent is rare.

Senecio Vitalis FAQs

How tall does a typical mermaid plant grow?

A mature Senecio Vitalis grows to a maximum height of 30-60 centimeters.

Is Senecio vitalis toxic?

Yes, the plant has a level of toxicity to pets and humans due to the sap it produces, which is typical of all euphorbia plants.

How difficult is Senecio Vitalis to take manage?

This plant’s farming is relatively easy. Watering is vital because too much water can cause the roots to rot. The type of pot and substrate you use is a critical determinant of whether the plant will be healthy.

Which pests affect the mermaid plant the most?

Mealybugs, scale insects, aphids, and spider mites.

In conclusion 

This plant is beautiful and unique. It is easy to maintain, but propagating it is a game of chance. Some people look for the ones already crested in their natural habitat and pot them. Either way, buying one is the best way to be sure you will have a Crested Senecio Vitalis or Euphorbia Lactes.

Succulent City chief editor


Richard | Editor-in-chief at Succulent City

Hey everyone! I’m Richard. Welcome to my blog, which is all about succulents, cacti, and a bit about air plants. Ten years back, in 2013, I began my journey with succulents. It started as a simple hobby, crafting and selling charming succulent-themed pins and decorations. But as time passed, my fascination with these remarkable plants grew, and I gained extensive knowledge about them. Therefore, Succulent City is the blog as you see it is now. Enjoy your visit and happly planting!

One thought on “Senecio Vitalis (Mermaid Tail Succulent)

  1. Great article but would of liked to have seen more photos of the mermaid tail instead of photos of other succulents

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