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How to Care for the Pickle Plant Succulent

The striking pickle plant is a cool succulent that makes a great addition to any plant lover’s collection. Learn about it here!

All about the striking pickle plant succulent

Hi all! Today I am sharing an article about a cute plant I acquired for the first time in 2020. Whenever I get a new plant, I like to read everything I can about it to make sure I know what I’m getting myself into. I’d seen this plant at a local nursery before, but it was bigger and more expensive. So I didn’t get it. But when I saw a beautiful cutting on Etsy? Sign me up!

What is this plant? It’s a pickle plant succulent! Aka kleinia stapeliiformis. Not to be confused with an actual pickle plant…which I suppose is really just a cucumber plant. 🙂 This plant doesn’t grow anything you can eat. Instead, it just has adorable markings on it that look like little pickles or cucumbers.

Kleinia Stapeliiformis Pickle Plant Succulent Care

Pickle plant succulent care overview

  • The pickle plant (kleinia stapeliiformis) is a striking succulent native to South Africa known for its thick stems with distinctive pickle-like markings​​.
  • Prefers bright light or full sun for at least 4 hours a day.
  • Drought-tolerant; let the soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Thrives in well-draining sandy succulent soil; if using regular potting soil, adding sand or perlite is beneficial​​.
  • Grows straight up to about 1 foot tall; sprouts new growth from rhizomes under the soil​​.
  • Propagate through cuttings, allowing the cut end to callous over before planting in well-draining soil and providing plenty of light​.
Kleinia Stapeliiformis Pickle Plant

What is a kleinia stapeliiformis pickle plant?

The pickle plant hails from the rugged landscapes of South Africa, where it thrives in arid conditions. This succulent’s native environment, characterized by hot, dry days and cool nights, has shaped its resilience and unique care needs.

Knowing where your plant comes from and the natural environment it thrives in can help immensely when cultivating a care routine. I grow my pickle plant in conditions that emulate their natural habitat as best as I can, and it’s a recipe for success.

I don’t think you’ll hear this plant called anything else other than a pickle plant succulent—unless you hear it called by its actual name, kleinia stapeliiformis. You might also hear it called senecio stapeliaeformis, and here’s why.

The pickle plant is part of the asteraceae plant family and is native to South Africa. Under this family, it is part of the senecioneae tribe. Kleinia is a genus that falls under the tribe of senecioneae. Also under the same tribe? The senecio genus! In case that wasn’t totally obvious by the tribe name. 

That makes kleinia and senecio plants closely related, hence the confusion. Just know that you might see the pickle plant marketed or sold as both kleinia stapeliaeformis and senecio stapeliaeformis, but kleinia is the correct genus.

This plant is also often confused with the candlestick or candle plant (senecio articulatus), which also has thick, upright succulent stems. However, the markings on the stems are much less pronounced, and the growth on the stems has more of candlestick look. I recently saw one of these as a nursery, which is crazy because I never see them! I snapped a pic.

candlestick or candle plant (senecio articulatus)

Pickle plant succulent growth

Whatever you call it, this gorgeous, unique succulent reminds me a lot of cylindrical snake plants, both in the shape and texture of the stems, as well as the way the plant grows. The pickle plant has thick stems that grow straight up.

These stems are what have the pickle markings on them. The stems grow tiny leaves, but the leaves aren’t the show stoppers for this plant—it’s all about the pickle markings. 

I mentioned that this plant reminds me of the cylindrical snake plant. One of the reasons is that it grows through rhizomes under the soil. The white tube-like root structures grow horizontally underground and then sprout new growth up. This is precisely how the pickle plant succulent grows as well.

Pickle Plant markings

How big do pickle plants get?

I found conflicting information on how tall pickle plant succulents can grow, but it’s safe to say that they grow about 1 foot tall. They don’t really grow out, generally staying about 1 inch thick.

These plants grow out by sprouting new growth from rhizomes under the soil’s surface. Pickle plant succulents do flower, producing red or bright orange flowers in spring or summer. 

They can be grown outdoors year round if you live somewhere where it never drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t live in one of those places, so I have to bring almost all of my succulents indoors for the winter.

pickle plant rhizome structure
Pickle plant succulent growth structure showing how the babies grow from the main plant

How much light does a pickle plant need?

Like a lot of other succulents, pickle plants enjoy bright light—even full sun. They tolerate up to partial shade or indirect light, but they won’t grow as quickly or generally be as healthy looking. About 4 hours of direct sunlight per day is best, and it can tolerate even more! I’ve got mine outside for the summer.

How often do you water a pickle plant?

Pickle plant succulents are also very drought tolerant. They will dry out quickly and shrivel without water, though, especially if they get a lot of direct sun or heat. Let the soil dry out between waterings. That could mean watering once a week indoors, even in the summer. And every other day outdoors depending on your climate. 

Kleinia Stapeliiformis Pickle Plant

Pickle plant succulent care and soil needs

A good well-draining sandy succulent soil will work wonders for your pickle plant. If you’re using a regular potting soil, you’ll want to add some sand or perlite. (Check out my DIY succulent soil recipe here.) Or you can just buy a premade cactus/succulent mix from the nursery.

If you plant your pickle in soil that is too dense, it will suffocate the plant’s roots and lead to rot. I made this mistake way back in my early days of caring for plants. Garden soil is much different from houseplant soil, much less soil cultivate for succulents!

Kleinia Stapeliiformis Pickle Plant

How do you propagate pickle succulents?

The best way to propagate a kleinia stapeliiformis pickle plant is through cuttings. This is a lot like the process to propagate snake plants. First take a cutting off of a plant stem. Then let the cut end dry out and callous over.

This is necessary because if you don’t let the cut end dry out, the cutting may rot from all of extra water the stem retains. Since the stems are kind of thick, it might take a few weeks for the stem cutting to heal completely. 

After the cutting hardens over on the end, you can plant it in a well-draining succulent soil. Pop it in a bright windowsill to ensure it gets plenty of light. After a few days, you can give it a bit of water and then start using a spray bottle to lightly mist the soil surface. Make sure not to overwater or else the plant will rot.

little pickle plant in an upcycled candle holder

Troubleshooting common pickle plant issues

As a seasoned plant caretaker, I’ve seen my fair share of issues that can arise with succulent care. Here are two common problems and solutions you might encounter when caring for your pickle plant.

  1. Pests: Pickle plants may be troubled by pests like mealybugs, which hide in the nooks of the stems. My go-to remedy is dabbing the visible bugs with a rubbing-alcohol-soaked Q-tip to remove them. Then I spray the plant weekly using a homemade spray of about 1 teaspoon of neem oil, a few drops of mild dish soap, and a quart or so of water.
  2. Overwatering: A common misstep with succulents, signs include yellowing leaves, mushy stems, or leaves that fall off easily. To rescue an overwatered pickle, let the soil dry out completely before watering again. If the plant is severely affected, repot into dry, fresh, well-draining soil, and trim away any rot.
Kleinia Stapeliiformis Pickle Plant

In conclusion…

In closing, the pickle plant offers a slice of South Africa’s diverse flora and is a testament to the resilience of succulents. By mimicking its native care requirements, you can help to ensure its vitality in your collection. Happy planting!

For more, check out my tips for how to fix succulent stretching and some of the best succulent plants for beginners!

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Here is a link to the Dropbox folder with the guide!

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Pin my pickle plant succulent care tips!

pinnable graphic with pictures of pickle plants and text overlay about how to care for a pickle plant succulent

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