|Official Plant Name||Kalanchoe|
|Common Name(s)||Flaming Katy / Panda Plant|
|Native Area||Madagascar and Tropical Africa|
|Foliage||Varied succulent leaves|
|Flowers||Some cultivars bear vibrant flowers in many colours|
|When To Sow||Year-Round|
|Flowering Months||April, May, June, July, August, September|
Plenty of Light / Out of Direct Sunlight
0.1 – 0.5M
0.1 – 0.5M
April – September
Free Draining Medium
Growing Kalanchoe succulents can be a great choice for houseplant lovers, since they require little expertise.
You don’t need to be the most green-fingered of people to give it a go. There are some excellent varieties to choose from. And they are all relatively simple to propagate and grow.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to Kalanchoe plants, and share some popular varieties that you might like to consider. We’ll explain how easy it is to propagate new plants from Kalanchoe to increase your houseplant collection. And we’ll let you know where to put your plants and what care they will require.
What are Kalanchoe Plants?
Kalanchoe are beautiful houseplants to enhance the interiors of your home.
In order to understand how to care for any houseplant, it can be useful to delve a little into their native environment and the conditions in which they naturally thrive.
Kalanchoe plants are a genus in the Crassulaceae family. There are around 125 different species within this genus, most of which are shrubs or herbaceous perennials. They are tropical succulent flowering plants that are mostly native to Madagascar and large regions of tropical Africa.
A number of different plants within the Kalanchoe genus are commonly cultivated as houseplants, or used in succulent or rock gardens in warmer climes. They are popular for their drought-tolerance and ability to survive in low-water conditions.
Before you decide to grow Kalanchoe plants, one important thing to note is that some species contain bufadienolide cardiac glycosides. These can cause cardiac poisoning for grazing animals and are toxic to pets.
But they are still popular houseplants because of their attractive and interesting flowers and foliage, and because they are pretty easy to care for and grow.
Some Popular Kalanchoe Varieties
If you are interested in growing Kalanchoe, you might be wondering which species and variety to choose. Here are some of the popular options that you might like to consider:
This is the Kalanchoe plant most commonly grown as a houseplant. It is sometimes called ‘Flaming Katy’, or ‘Panda Plant’. This species has large flower heads that come in a range of hues. Naturally, these Kalanchoe will bloom in the spring, though they can be forced to flower at any time throughout the year.
The pretty purple, pendant flowers on this type of Kalanchoe give it its popular name ‘Pearl Bells’. This is another attractive variety that looks rather delicate with its bell flowers and slender leaves.
This varietal also has bell-shaped flowers, though somewhat larger ones. It also has fleshy leaves. While most Kalanchoe are relatively unfussy when it comes to humidity levels, this one need moist air to flower successfully.
Kalanchoe pinnata has fleshy green leaves and forms tiny plantlets around the edges of the parent plant.
The best thing about this variety are its large, lush and velvety leaves that shimmer a soft silvery green.
One of the reasons that succulents like Kalanchoe are so popular to grow is that, once you have one, it is incredibly easy to propagate your plant and increase your houseplant stock.
If you know someone who has a Kalanchoe plant that you admire, you might even be able to ‘steal’ a little stem segment to propagate a new plant from it for yourself.
All you have to do is take a stem segment from a mature plant, let it ‘cure’ or dry out for a few days, then place it into a pot with a suitable growing medium. Hold off watering and it should root within around 4 weeks or so. With some varieties, you can simply remove and plant the plantlets that form around the parent plant.
Where To Grow Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe can be grown outdoors in USDA planting zones 10-12. Since the UK lies within planting zones 6-9, this means that it is not usually possible, except in the most dramatically mild of gardens, to grow these plants outdoors.
These plants need plenty of sunlight and warmth. So it is best to position them in a room which is light and bright. But it is best to avoid placing them on south-facing window sills or in direct sunlight. When in direct sunlight, the leaves can scorch, and the plant may not bloom.
As a succulent, kalanchoe needs a growing medium that does not contain too much moisture. It is also important to choose a pot or container that will wick excess water away more easily. A clay pot filled with 50% potting soil and 50% grit will be suitable. Make sure there is good drainage at the base of the pot.
In terms of the size of the container, what is required will depend on the size of the specimen. But mature single plants are usually grown in pots around 17-18 cm in diameter. Alternatively, two or three plants can be clustered together and grown in one pot of around 21-22 inches in diameter. Do not choose a pot overly large for your plant, as this could make problems with waterlogging and excess moisture more likely.
The good news is that when it comes to temperature and humidity, Kalanchoe plants are not too fussy. As long as the temperature fluctuations within the room in which it is placed are not too extreme, these plants will thrive at a range of temperatures between around 12 and 27 degrees C.
Caring For Kalanchoe Succulents
Kalanchoe, like many other succulents, are plants that you can ‘kill with kindness’. The biggest mistake you can make is watering them too much. These are plants that can, to a certain extent, thrive on neglect. So if you are someone who is not that good about remembering to water your house plants, this could be a good choice for you.
These plants should only been watered well every few weeks or so over most of the year. And even less over the winter months. Between waterings, you should let the plant dry out entirely. To check to see whether you need to water, stick your finger into the growing medium. If there is any moisture there at all, hold off a few more days before watering.
To prevent problems such as root rot, watering too little is always better than watering too much. Remember, like other succulents, Kalanchoe stores water in its leaves to see it through a drought.
The only other care that will be required for best results is fertilisation. You should only ever use an organic plant feed. And never overdo fertilisation – especially when it comes to nitrogen. Like other flowering plants, a fertilizer that is rich in potassium will help boost blooms. Apply a fertilizer with balanced NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) a couple of times over the growing season.
How To Get Kalanchoe to Bloom
Some people have issues when trying to get their Kalanchoe to bloom again once the initial flowers have faded. Kalanchoes are photoperiodic. In other words, they bloom in reaction to periods of light exposure, and require at least 12-14 hours of total darkness to bloom again. It may be that they have not received the requisite amount of darkness. Make sure they get 12-14 hours or darkness every night for a couple of months over the winter and they should bloom again the following spring.
If you want to ‘force’ your kalanchoe – ie – get it to bloom for a specific time such as Christmas, for example, you need to ‘trick’ the plant into thinking that it has come through winter and into spring. Minimise watering and make sure the plant has 14 hours of darkness and 10 hours of light each day for a minimum of 6 weeks before the desired bloom time (to send it into dormancy). As soon as you see flower buds, you should move the plant back to a brighter spot and start watering as usual.
Remove the spent flowers to make sure the plant does not put energy into sustaining spent blooms, and to encourage new buds to form. In the right conditions, and usually without much effort on your part, having Kalanchoe plants in your home should allow you to enjoy bright blooms for up to 6 months of the year.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.