Kleinia is the genus name for approximately 40 different species of succulent perennials. As part of the Asteraceae family, plants in the genus Kleinia can be found across Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Most species grow upright and have succulent leaves. Many species have brightly-colored thistle-like flowers at the top of the stem.
Interestingly, plants that are now in the genus Kleinia were originally part of another genus, Senecio. When scientists discovered small differences between the flowers of the plants in the two genera, they separated them. Although some scientists disagree with the separation, most agree that it is botanically correct.
Plants in the genus Kleinia grow well in warm climates. In fact, if the temperature falls below 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius), the plants must be moved inside a house or greenhouse. In areas where the temperatures are consistently warm, the plants can grow in a desert garden.
If the plants are kept outside, Kleinia grow best in rich soil that is in full sun. In addition, the soil must drain well. If they are grown inside, the soil should consist of leaf mold, loam, and coarse sand. In addition, indoor or greenhouse plants should receive full light and moderate water. Many species of plants in this genus are susceptible to scale insects. If they become infected, a pesticide may need to be applied.
Many species of Kleinia are used to add color to desert landscaping. In addition, they are considered a good genus to plant in fire prone zones because they will not easily catch on fire and may even stop a fire from spreading. For example, K. mandraliscae, also known by its common name, Blue Finger, is a good choice for areas that are susceptible to fire. Originating in South Africa, it prefers full sunlight and moderate water. It can grow to 18 inches (about 45.7 cm) tall, has bright orange-yellow blooms and blue-green succulent leaves.
Another popular species is K. stapeliiformis. It grows can grow 12 inches (about 20.5 cm) tall and typically has angled, tube-like stems. The stems are gray-green colored but have purple staining. As the plant matures, thorns form. Each stem can grow a single orange-red flower that is similar to a thistle.
K. fulgens, also called the Scarlet klenia, has succulent gray leaves and red or orange-red thistle-like flowers. In the hot sun, the leaves develop a purple underside. This purple color can spread so that the leaf takes on a purplish hue. Although most people use plant it in their desert gardens, it is commonly eaten by animals in its native land of South Africa as well.