If you’re a sucker for flowering succulents, you’ve more than likely come across it at one point or another: the genus Kalanchoe.
There are roughly 125 varieties of this flowering succulent out there. Originally found in Africa, many species are now staples in the houseplant hobby that can easily be found in any plant shop or garden center.
The variety of Kalanchoes out there is pretty staggering, with some species barely even resembling each other! If you’re a flower enthusiast, you’ll love the cheerful Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana, whereas lovers of fuzzy succulents will adore Kalanchoe Tomentosa (the ‘panda plant’). Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora (‘flapjack plant’) is appreciated for its unusual foliage, and the wacky-looking Kalanchoe Beharensis can grow many meters tall!
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Probably the most popular Kalanchoe species out there is Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana. This variety is also known as ‘florists Kalanchoe’ or ‘flaming Katy,’ and it’s not hard to see why houseplant growers love it so much.
Not only is it easy to care for and a perfect choice for small windowsills due to its size, but it also produces the most amazing tiny flowers.
Selective cultivation has resulted in a wide array of different Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana flower colors and shapes: they can range from white to an almost neon pink or orange, with anything from flat petals to luscious rosettes.
If you’d like to grow a Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana in your own home and have it rebloom again and again, all you’ll need is a sunny spot and a well-draining pot filled with light, succulent soil.
Water when the soil has dried and fertilize with a diluted houseplant fertilizer during the growing season when the plant is actively producing new leaves and flowers.
Soil Requirements:Well-draining, light soil.
Light Requirements:Needs plenty of light. Place it on your sunniest windowsill.
Water Requirements:Allow the top of the soil to dry out in the growing season & dry out completely in winter.
Temperature Requirements:Room temperature or between 40 °F to 85 °F.
Toxicity:Toxic to humans and pets.
If you’d like to grow your Kalanchoe plants outdoors, keep in mind that this genus originates from tropical Africa and Madagascar, and it doesn’t respond very well to low temperatures. For example, Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana will quickly perish if things get below 40 °F. It’s hardy in USDA zones 10 through 11 only, and this also applies to many of its cousins.
Does this mean you shouldn’t ever place your Kalanchoe plants outdoors?
No! Like other succulent species, they do love the outdoor life just as long as temperatures are favorable.
If you’re in an area that gets frost during winter, place your Kalanchoe plants outside during summertime, when there is no risk of cold, and take them back in before autumn gets too chilly. They’ll appreciate the sun and thank you with abundant blooms and leaf growth.
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Kalanchoes are great for growing indoors due to their golden combination of decorative looks and undemanding nature.
Their growth requirements are similar to those of other succulents, so if you’ve got some experience with growing these, you should have no trouble adding a few Kalanchoes to your collection. Keep reading to find out how to care for Kalanchoe!
1. Kalanchoe Care: Light Requirements
Your Kalanchoe will need plenty of light, especially if you’re growing something like a Blossfeldiana and would like it to bloom abundantly. Pick your sunniest windowsill to grow your Kalanchoe collection and consider moving the plants outside for the summer months, as discussed above.
If you feel you can’t provide the necessary light for these succulents to thrive, don’t worry. Artificial lighting works for them as well, and some extra Watts of LED grow lights can make all the difference.
2. Kalanchoe Care: Water Requirements
Some Kalanchoe species require a bit more water than you might be used to as a succulent grower, but that still doesn’t mean they’re anywhere near as thirsty or desperate for humidity as your average tropical houseplant.
We can’t give you an exact watering schedule since it depends on many factors (light, pot size, soil consistency, temperature), but you’ll figure it out quickly enough by keeping an eye on the plant’s soil and leaves.
If you can stick your finger in the soil and don’t feel moisture or if the pot feels light when you lift it, it’s time to give the Kalanchoe in question a good soak.
If the plant’s leaves seem wrinkly, you’ve waited a bit too long, though don’t try to fix this issue by increasing your waterings.
Just water a few days earlier the next time. If leaves are appearing yellow and squishy, you’re overdoing it and should let the soil dry a bit more next time.
Tip: keep in mind that like any plant, Kalanchoes will not need as much water outside the growing months (summer). Adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
3. Kalanchoe Care: Temperature Requirements
As mentioned in the section on outdoor Kalanchoe plant care, temps below 40 °F are a big no-no for these succulents.
Even the range above that can be a bit risky, so if you grow your Kalanchoes outside, try keeping 50 °F in mind as the cut-off for moving them back to the comfort of your living room.
Room temperature is excellent for Kalanchoes, although they also take higher temperatures up to about 85 °F with no issue. Just another reason why these succulents are so ideal for growing indoors!
4. Kalanchoe Care: Soil and Planting
When you say ‘succulent,’ the first word that should pop into your head should be ‘drainage.’ Almost all succulent species are sensitive to overwatering and can easily succumb to root rot. This is no different for Kalanchoes and something to keep in mind when you choose their pot and soil.
First off, never use a planter without drainage holes for your Kalanchoe. Excess water needs to be able to drain freely, so it doesn’t drown the plant’s roots.
Additionally, you should be using a light and airy soil that easily transports water down to the drainage hole and doesn’t hold moisture excessively. A store-bought succulent soil should work well, although you can also easily mix your own by mixing a good fistful of perlite into your Kalanchoe’s potting soil.
5. Kalanchoe Care: How to Make it Flower Again
Kalanchoe species that are appreciated for their flowers, notably Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana, are often sold during the holiday season to brighten up your home.
What many flower enthusiasts don’t realize is that there is no reason to toss a florist’s Kalanchoe after its first blooms finally wilt (which can take a while!). You can make a Kalanchoe rebloom again and again and enjoy flowers for years to come without having to buy a new plant.
So how do you get your Kalanchoe to produce new blooms?
The reason these succulents are sold alongside holiday favorites like Christmas cactus and Poinsettias is that they produce flowers during the (late) winter months.
Blooming is triggered by day length. Once days shorten and nights lengthen, your Kalanchoe will feel the urge to start pushing out its beautiful inflorescence.
The above usually means the plant will start producing buds naturally around or after the holiday period. Still, if it’s having a bit of trouble, you can easily help it along by forcing a few weeks of dormancy.
It’ll need 10 hours of bright daylight every day and then complete darkness for the remaining 14 hours. That means complete darkness: most growers find they get the best results if they place the plant in a closed cabinet during nighttime. Don’t water, or at least reduce watering to an absolute minimum.
As soon as buds begin to form, move the Kalanchoe back to its usual brighter location and start watering regularly again.
Tip: Kalanchoes will respond positively to spent inflorescences being removed, which is referred to as ‘deadheading.’ All you have to do is cut off the entire flower cluster down to where the main stem and first set of actual leaves begin. So get those (disinfected) scissors out and start snipping!
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Although it’s not necessary to prune your Kalanchoe to keep it healthy, it does play a big part in keeping it looking desirable. We’ve already discussed deadheading, an essential part of Kalanchoe pruning for those who enjoy flowers.
In addition to deadheading Kalanchoe, you can prune it to promote more bushy growth. This plant can start looking a bit leggy at times, especially after wintertime, when there is less light. To get it back to looking its best, snip off any stems that have become a bit too long when spring rolls around (and propagate them if you want more Kalanchoes – instructions below!).
Each stem that has been cut back will usually produce more than one new head, making for a more attractive and bushier plant.
If you’ve been growing succulents for a while, you’ll know how easy it is to propagate them, and luckily this is no different for the genus Kalanchoe.
The quickest way to multiply your Kalanchoe plant is to use a stem with a few leaves from an existing plant (which you’ll have left after pruning).
Place this stem in some well-draining soil after giving it a day or two for the wound to callous over, and it should start rooting before you know it.
You can also propagate Kalanchoes from leaves, although this is a slower process since an entirely new plant has to form and grow.
You can even use the seeds that form after your Kalanchoe’s flowers are spent to grow new plants, but this is quite a hassle. Usually, something only real enthusiasts or professional growers get into.
Tip: If you feel like you need more info on how to propagate your Kalanchoe plant, you can check my previous article on how to propagate succulents, as the same techniques apply to this genus as well.
Luckily for us, succulent enthusiasts, Kalanchoe is quite resistant to diseases and pests. However, as with all plants, there are some issues to watch out for. This especially applies if you grow your Kalanchoe outdoors during the summer months since bugs will have easy access to it. An infestation should be wiped out before the plant is brought back inside to prevent it from spreading to your other indoor greenery.
- Aphids are a common problem in Kalanchoes, and these pesky insects can be challenging to exterminate. The best way to do so appears to be to bother them until they go away: spray them with a strong stream of water whenever you see a cluster, for example.
- The mere sight of a mealybug is enough to make most succulent growers pull their hair out in frustration. These cotton-like bugs seem to appear out of nowhere, and although you can remove them using a paintbrush dipped in alcohol, it’s tough to get rid of an infestation entirely.
- Powdery mildew is a common plant disease associated with high humidity and low airflow. It shows itself as a powdery or webby substance on and between the leaves of the plant and can severely stunt leaf- and flower growth. Treat it with a fungicide and make sure you lower the humidity around the plant.
- Rot is a widespread problem in succulents, including Kalanchoes. As we’ve discussed earlier, they are susceptible to root rot and need excellent drainage. If your Kalanchoe appears to be turning mushy and brown from the bottom up, you’ll have to sacrifice part of the plant. Behead it well above the rotten bit and start over by re-rooting the cutting.
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Although Kalanchoe is classed as a risky plant that does contain toxins, it will rarely do severe harm to pets and children.
A large amount has to be ingested to cause the heart issues associated with the toxin the plant contains, whereas a few leaves rarely do more than cause stomach issues.
All that being said, keep this succulent out of anyone’s reach. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and an upset stomach is still not pleasant!
Although Kalanchoes are easy succulents to care for, incidents can always happen. We’ll list a few of the most common issues with this genus below to help you troubleshoot.
- Leaves wilting, yellowing, or falling off. Leaf issues can have many causes ranging from under- to overwatering, excessive sun exposure, and disease. If your Kalanchoe’s leaves appear to be suffering, refer to the article on succulent leaves falling off for more information.
- Lower leaves are dropping/stretched growth. Clear signs of a lack of light! Slowly acclimate your Kalanchoe to a lighter location.
- Unusual leaf growth, color, substances, and spots. Your Kalanchoe is under attack by a pest or disease. Check it extensively to spot pests, and if they are present, treat with warm soapy water. If the leaves feature black spots or mildew, you’ll have to treat with a fungicide and adjust your watering schedule.
If you’re a bit insecure when it comes to growing (succulent) houseplants or just in need of something easy but decorative, the genus Kalanchoe is for you.
There are so many Kalanchoe types out there that there’s a Kalanchoe for everyone, and you’ll love collecting all the funky varieties!