The Kalanchoe is an extremely popular houseplant as it produces amazing blooms, is easy to care for and there are plenty of variations to choose from.
If you want to know how to care for this stunning houseplant properly then this article is perfect for you. We’ll discuss its key characteristics, optimal care requirements as well as how to revive the plant.
Just like the Christmas cactus, the Kalanchoe is also a succulent. It belongs to the Crassulaceae family and comes in an array of colors and varieties. Although there are many different types of Kalanchoe, most of them are native to Madagascar and various tropical regions in Africa.
You can find this houseplant in a variety of shades such as red, pink, yellow, and white. The best part is that this succulent is super easy to care for and it produces long-lasting blooms throughout the year.
First, let’s explore a few of the Kalanchoe varieties.
There are plenty of different variations of Kalanchoe, however, we’re only going to discuss the most popular varieties below.
- Kalanchoe thyrsiflora: Nicknamed ‘geelplakkie’ in its native country; South Africa, this plant’s leaves are a gray-green color with stunning red margins.
- Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi: Also called lavender scallops and gray sedums, this variation has blue-green leaves with cream variegations. If this plant is placed under direct sunlight, its edges will turn a red-pink color.
- Kalanchoe marnieriana: It is commonly known as Marnier’s Kalanchoe and is native to northeast Madagascar. Its leaves are a paddle shape with striking red tips.
- Kalanchoe marmorata: This variation’s leaves are dull green with tiny splotches of purple. You may also know this plant as the spotted Kalanchoe.
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana: This houseplant is by far one of the most popular Kalanchoe, and it has dark green scallop-shaped leaves. You may know it by its other nicknames; flaming Katy, Christmas kalanchoe, florist Kalanchoe, and Madagascar widow’s thrill.
- Kalanchoe tomentosa: This is also known as the chocolate soldier and panda plant. Its leaves have a fuzzy appearance and are a pale green color with chocolatey-brown edges.
- Kalanchoe daigremontiana: It is also referred to as the ‘Mother of thousands’ due to the tiny baby plants that grow along the edge of its emerald green leaves.
- Kalanchoe luciae: This variation is also known as the flapjack and paddle plant. It has smooth leaves that gradually turn from a green color at the base of the leaf into a red color at the top of the leaf.
Fun Fact: There are roughly 120 different Kalanchoe species.
How Big Does It Get?
The average Kalanchoe reaches a height of 8 to 12 inches (20.3 – 30.5cm) and a width of 8 to 12 inches (20.3 – 30.5cm).
Although, you can get a variety that is as small as 6 inches (15.2cm) tall.
How Fast Does It Grow?
The rate of growth is dependent on the exact type of Kalanchoe, however, they typically grow just under 4 inches (10cm) a year. They roughly take 2 to 5 years until they reach their mature height.
How Long Does It Live?
It has a fairly average lifespan of 6 to 7 years when grown indoors.
Is It Poisonous to Pets?
The Kalanchoe is toxic to cats and dogs, however, it is not toxic to people. The houseplant contains cardiac toxins such as bufadienolides which can cause severe symptoms if left untreated.
Here’s a list of symptoms if your pet ingests the plant:
- Abnormal heartbeat
- Weakness and fatigue
- Gastrointestinal irritation and upset
Now we can dive straight into all of the care requirements for a blossoming Kalanchoe.
How Often to Water It
As the Kalanchoe is a succulent it stores water well, therefore, it is slightly drought tolerant. Typically, you should water it every 1 to 2 weeks during the spring and summertime depending on the weather. During the winter you can water your houseplant every 2 to 3 weeks.
This succulent is sensitive to being overwatered and can develop root rot easily when left to sit in soggy conditions. Always touch the top of the soil to feel whether or not it’s dry if you are unsure about watering it.
Just like the ponytail palm, the Kalanchoe also requires excellent drainage. The best way to ensure this is by planting it in a container with at least 3 to 5 drainage holes.
Always empty the saucer and make sure that all of the water has time to drain out. The best type of pot to promote efficient drainage is a terracotta one as it readily absorbs water and dries out the soil faster.
How to Prune It
The Kalanchoe may require some light pruning from time to time. It is only necessary to trim back dead flowers, unhealthy foliage, or if you want to maintain a smaller houseplant.
Pruning off dead flowers is a great way to encourage blooms. Make sure to cut it right back to the base of the plant.
You can also trim off any leggy growth or leaves by taking a clean pair of pruners and cutting them back to the base of the plant as well.
After you have cut back the unhealthy foliage, you may need to water your plant less frequently as initially, it doesn’t require as much water.
Ideally, you should repot this houseplant every year as it doesn’t do well when it is root-bound. Only transplant it after it has blossomed to encourage new growth.
Follow the simple steps below:
- Slide the plant out of its pot and brush off any soil clinging to the roots.
- Fill a new pot with some fresh soil and place the plant in the container. Add more soil to cover the roots.
- Water it thoroughly and place it back in its original home.
It prefers full sun during the spring and summertime but it can withstand partial shade during the winter and autumn months. The plant should not be exposed to direct sunshine for longer than 2 hours a day or you risk scorching its leaves.
Find a bright, sunny windowsill so that the Kalanchoe can soak in all the necessary sunshine required to bloom.
This succulent loves acidic soil as long as it is well-draining too. The Kalanchoe requires good drainage to prevent root rot from occurring much like the gardenia does.
The best type of soil is either a succulent potting mix or a generic cacti potting mixture. You can also throw in some vermiculite or sharp sand to enhance the drainage.
Try out these two excellent recipes below:
- 1 part potting soil + 1 part cacti mix
- 2 parts perlite + 3 parts peat moss
When it comes to feeding this succulent you can use a 20-8-20 water-soluble fertilizer. The Kalanchoe does not need heavy feeding so it is best to dilute the fertilizer to half its strength to prevent a fertilizer overdose.
During the spring and summertime, it is best to fertilize the plant every 2 weeks, whereas in winter and autumn you can avoid feeding the plant.
Pot Size and Type
The pot’s diameter should be no more than 2 inches (5cm) wider than the root ball’s width, just like with the cat palm.
Ideally, one should make use of the terracotta pot as it will protect the plant’s roots from becoming waterlogged.
The ideal temperature range for this plant is between 55 to 80°F (12.8 – 26.7°C). The Kalanchoe will not survive in temperatures below 45°F (7.2°C).
When it comes to humidity this houseplant isn’t fussy at all. It can tolerate the average household’s humidity levels.
If you are concerned that the air is too dry then simply spritz the plant with lukewarm water once a week.
Outdoors vs. Indoors
You can grow a prosperous Kalanchoe outdoors in USDA hardiness zones of 10 through 12. It is vital that you only grow this plant outdoors if you live in a warm region as it is extremely sensitive to the cold.
When growing it outside you will need to protect it from direct sunshine and it may require more water during summer.
When and How Does It Bloom?
The Kalanchoe can bloom all year round and these starry-shaped flowers are either yellow, red, orange, pink, or white. They bloom in a bouquet of clusters and add that pop of color needed in any home.
How to Get It to Bloom
To encourage blooming make sure that the houseplant receives plenty of sunshine. Ideally, it should soak in all that sunlight for 6 to 8 hours a day. Using a fertilizer with potassium is also a great way to encourage your plant to flower.
How to Grow It
There are plenty of ways to grow your own Kalanchoe. You can propagate its offsets, stem cuttings, and leaflets. You can even grow one from a seed.
The number one rule when it comes to growing this houseplant is that you cannot propagate it while it is blooming. It is also ideal to try to grow the plant during the spring and summertime so that it receives more sunshine as it adjusts to its new home.
You can propagate your Kalanchoe in either soil or water. No matter what method you choose, when cutting the stem, leaf, or offset, always use a sterilized blade to prevent the spread of bacteria.
You can propagate the plant’s stem cutting, pup, or leaf in soil, but always make sure that the potting mixture is well-draining and light.
Offsets are also commonly known as shoots, pups, and suckers. These are produced by the mother plant, and it can be rather beneficial to remove them as this directs more energy to the mother plant.
Follow the steps below:
- Remove the houseplant out of its container by loosening the soil.
- Gently dust off any excess soil clinging to the roots and look for a mature pup.
- Use a sharp blade and slice this pup away from the mother plant. It is best to try to leave as many roots intact to allow for easier propagation.
- Find a warm room and place the offset in a shady area for 2 or 3 days so that it can callus over.
- Take out a new container and fill it with soil. Then plant the offset in the center of the pot and cover the roots.
- Water the plant and maintain a moist potting mixture.
- Position it in a sunny area and in 3 to 4 weeks you can care for it as you would a mature Kalanchoe.
From Stem Cuttings
- Use a clean pair of scissors to cut a 5 inch (12.7cm) long stem. Remove any leaves from the bottom 2 inches (5cm) of the stem. You may want to let this cut area callus over to prevent root rot from occurring.
- Prepare a pot by filling it with some soil and then plant the bottom 2 inches (5cm) of the stem.
- Mist the cutting regularly and place it in indirect sunshine.
- You can care for it as you would an adult houseplant once the cutting has rooted.
- Pluck off a few healthy leaves and place them in a warm area for 2 or 3 days. This will allow the cut area to callus over.
- Prepare a pot of well-draining soil and place the leaves cut ends in the soil.
- Mist the soil to maintain a moist environment.
- You may notice new growth in 1 or 2 months, and once the leaflets are large enough you can transplant them to their very own container.
When propagating the stem cuttings in water make sure to always use a clean glass jar. You may also need to change the water every few days to prevent any diseases or algae build-up.
- Cut a 4 inch (10cm) long stem with a clean blade. Place it in a warm, shady area for 2 to 3 days to allow the cut area to callus over.
- Prepare a glass jar with distilled water and place the stem in the water. It’s best that no leaves are submerged under the water, so remove any leaves attached to the bottom of the stem.
- Keep an eye out for any new root growth and once a substantial amount of new growth has sprouted, you will then repot the stem in some moist soil.
- You can then care for the cutting as you would a mature plant.
Growing a Kalanchoe from seed is not a reliable method, however, it is always worth trying out. Follow the step-by-step guide below, and make sure to try this method during early spring.
- Take out a shallow tray and spread a nutrient-rich potting mixture evenly across it.
- Make sure to moisten the soil before sprinkling the seeds.
- Once you have scattered the seeds across the soil, you can lock in the moisture and heat by placing a plastic bag over it.
- Position the tray in indirect, bright sunlight to allow the seeds to germinate.
- After 2 months you can remove the plastic bag and transplant the seedlings when necessary.
How to Revive It
The Kalanchoe rarely runs into issues, however, there are a few things that can go wrong. We’re here to guide you through any problems and most importantly tell you how to restore your houseplant back to health.
Why Are the Leaves Turning Yellow?
If you notice that your plant’s leaves are beginning to yellow then it is probably lacking in some nutrients. The plant may also be overwatered, you can tell by feeling if the soil is soggy or not.
The Kalanchoe is very susceptible to becoming zinc deficient. When this occurs, you may also notice that the leaves are wilting and curling. All you have to do is simply use a fertilizer with zinc in it, and feed the houseplant regularly.
If the soil is soggy then cease watering it immediately and wait for the potting mixture to dry out.
What to Do after Flowering
It is completely normal for the plant’s flowers to begin dying off. When you notice this, it is best to trim back the blooms to maintain a healthy appearance.
Black Spots on the Leaves
Black spots on the leaves are an indication of fungal disease. Its leaves are damaged and may even begin to fall off, which is known as defoliation.
There are two main culprits for this; too much water or low temperatures. Both of these are simple to remedy. You will either wait for the soil to dry before watering it again or you need to find a warmer room for the plant.
Wrapping It Up
With all of the amazing varieties out there, the Kalanchoe is a perfect houseplant. Not only can you create a decent collection by gathering the various types but this houseplant is easy to care for too.
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to caring for it is that this plant needs ample sunshine and a relatively dry environment.