In my opinion, the kalanchoe plant is one of the best houseplants for beginners. It’s beautiful, hardy, and easy to care for, making it an excellent choice for gardening novices. Here are our tips for helping your kalanchoe plant live its best life.
The kalanchoe plant can be grown outdoors in zone 8, 9, and 10 USDA growing zones, however, this article will focus on growing and caring for the kalanchoe as a houseplant.
Kalanchoe Plant Basics
The kalanchoe plant (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is a flowering succulent native to tropical Africa, including Madagascar. They are also called the panda plant, the widow’s thrill, the flaming katy, and the Christmas kalanchoe.
The Kalanchoe’s long-lasting blossoms come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, red, magenta, white, and orange. They also have thick, shiny, dark green leaves that are beautiful in their own right. On average, the kalanchoe plant grows to be about 12 in (30 cm) when grown in a pot. The kalanchoe is a slower growing plant, and can take between 2 and 5 years to reach its full size.
Fun fact: the kalanchoe has the honor of being one of the first plants sent into space! In 1979, a kalanchoe plant was sent into space on resupply mission to the Soviet Salyut 1 space station.
Caring for Your Kalanchoe Plant
The kalanchoe plant is extremely easy to care for, making it a great choice for new plant parents. Here are some tips for keeping your plant happy and healthy:
|Sunlight||Bright, indirect sunlight|
|Water||Only when soil is completely dry|
|Soil||Well-draining, acidic soil|
|Toxicity||Highly toxic to pets|
Light and Temperature
If you want your kalanchoe plant to flower, you’ll need to make sure it gets lots of natural sunlight. However, it’s important to be careful when placing your kalanchoe on a window sill or in very direct sunlight. If the light is too direct, it can burn the leaves . Bright, indirect sunlight is your best bet.
As far as temperature goes, the kalanchoe plant likes to be warm. Temperatures between 60-80o F/15-27o C are idea for kalanchoes. Humidity is not a huge concern for your kalanchoe plant; it can do well in just about any setting.
Soil and Moisture
The kalanchoe plant needs a soil that drains well. I generally use a specialty cactus/succulent soil with kalanchoes, but it can also do well in a 60/40 mix of peat moss and perlite.
When it comes to watering your kalanchoe plant, less is more. The kalanchoe needs watered only when the soil is completely dry, which usually comes out to be once every 3-4 weeks. Watering too often can cause root rot. If you’re having a hard time determining if your kalanchoe is ready for watering, a moisture gage can be a great tool to help out.
Regular fertilizer should be part of the routine for your kalanchoe plant. Fertilizing once a month during the growing season (spring and summer) with a fertilizer that contains potassium will keep those gorgeous blooms coming. I use this fertilizer on most of my succulents, including my kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe Plant Propagation
Like many succulents, kalanchoe plants are very easy to propagate. To propagate your kalanchoe plant, take a stem cutting that is about 4 inches long, and set the cutting aside for a couple of days, so the spot where you made the cut can develop a callous.
Once your stem cutting has calloused, plant it in succulent-friendly soil. Put a plastic sandwich bag over the top of your plant to keep moisture inside, and then place in bright, indirect sunlight. Your plant will root in 2 to 3 weeks, after which time you can remove the plastic bag and care for it as you would any other kalanchoe plant.
Kalanchoe Plant Toxicity
The kalanchoe plant is extremely toxic to dogs, cats, and other pets. A chemical in the leaves called bufadienolide can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart palpitations in animals. It’s important to keep your kalanchoe plants far from your pets, and contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog or cat has ingested any part of your kalanchoe plant.
Kalanchoe Pests, Fungus, and Other Issues
Kalanchoe plants are not particularly prone to pests. They are sometimes known to attract aphids, vine weevils, and mealybugs, but I have personally never had to deal with these insects on my kalanchoe.
Varieties of Kalanchoe Plant
While the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is the most common and widely known variety of kalanchoe, there are many other varieties as well, including:
- Kalanchoe katapifa ‘Tarantula: this variety of kalanchoe produces clusters of small pink flowers.
- Kalanchoe daigremontiana: also known as the mother of thousands plant, this variety produces tiny plantlets along the edge of its leaves.
- Kalanchoe manginii: also known as beach bells, this variety of kalanchoe has salmon-colored, bell-shaped flowers.
- Kalanchoe porphyrocalyx: this variety is originally from Madagascar and has bell-shaped magenta and yellow flowers.
- Kalanchoe marmorata: also known the penwiper plant, this gorgeous variety of kalanchoe has dark spots on the leaves, similar to blotches of ink.
If you’re looking for a plant that is both gorgeous and extremely easy to care for, the kalanchoe plant is a great choice. Give it minimal water and lots of light, and you’ll be able to enjoy its beautiful blooms and rich dark leaves all year long.