Everything about Mother of Thousands

1 Sep 2022

Mother of thousands originates from Madagascar and is an absolute show-stopper; you will be head over heels the minute you lay your eyes on it.

It’s simple to care for, forgiving, to say the least, and even easier to propagate.

Enjoy using this guide to maintain this unique and pretty succulent.

Key Features

The scientific name for this plant is Kalanchoe daigremontiana. Like the jade plant, this species belongs to the Crassulaceae or Stonecrop family and is in the Kalanchoe genus.

These unusual succulents are green with purple blotches underneath and get their name from many baby plantlets lining their leaves’ edges.

They are also commonly and affectionately known as an alligator plant, a devil’s backbone, and a Mexican hat, all of which make sense when you see the plant for the first time.

Fun Fact: these houseplants are revered for a long list of benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties, benefits for the skin, an excellent source of oxygen in the home, a vital source of anti-oxidants, and anti-microbial, anti-anxiety properties, and it is also said to fight depression.

Hybrids of Mother of Thousands

While the main species of mother of thousands is kalanchoe daigremontiana, there are a few beautiful hybrids, as opposed to varieties, to take note of. Here are a few of the most popular ones:

  • Chandelier plant (K. delagoensis): has similar coloring to the main species, but the shape is different because the leaves are longer and narrower. This hybrid sprouts fewer babies than the main species.
  • Hybrid mother of thousands (K. x houghtonii): possesses the same colors and patterns as the Kalanchoe daigremontiana but has much more extended, narrower leaves with plantlets on the sides but not tips.
  • Big momma kalanchoe (K. laetivirens): the most outstanding feature of this lovely hybrid is the cluster of bell-shaped flowers that it sprouts; it doesn’t have the same purple markings underneath its leaves.
  • Pink mother of thousands (k. x houghtonii): also known as pink butterflies, this rare and chlorophyll-free plant pet will sprout gorgeous hot pink plant babies.

How Big Do They Get?

When grown indoors, the Mexican hat tree, as a biennial erect, reaches upwards of about 3 feet (91.4cm) and spreads out about 1.6 feet (48.7cm).

Their distinctive leaves grow 6 inches (152mm) long and 3 inches (76.2mm) wide.

Fun Fact: in certain areas, these plants are considered invasive species. Therefore, it is suggested to keep them indoors instead of planting them in your garden, yard, etc.

How Fast Do They Grow?

Alligator plants grow around 2.5 inches (6.3cm) annually, taking roughly 2-5 years to mature in an optimum environment. The ultimate height can take up to 15 years to achieve; so long as the houseplant is repotted every few years, this height is achievable.

How Long Do They Live?

A Mother of thousands will live for around 15 years indoors. Maturity should be reached somewhere about 2-5 years.

Toxicity Information

Are They Toxic to Cats and Dogs?

Mother of thousands are poisonous and should be kept away from cats and dogs. They contain a toxic compound that is potentially fatal when ingested in large quantities. Eating part of it has been known to cause the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite

If you suspect your pet has eaten some of a mother of thousands houseplant, please contact your vet. Other popular poisonous succulents to pets are the panda plant and aloe vera.

Interesting fact: There have been reports of mother of thousands being responsible for the death of animals as large as cattle.

Are They Poisonous to Humans?

Yes, the plant is poisonous as it contains cardiac glycoside daigremontianum and is potentially fatal if eaten in large quantities.

Mother of Thousands Plant Care

When learning to care for your mother of thousands, you will realize this plant is quite resistant and uncomplicated.

Here we work through the most critical parts of this plant’s care.

Interesting fact: It is believed by some that the mother of a thousands can kill cancer cells through oxidation. The houseplant contains various flavonoids, organic acids, and glycosides, all known to fight cancer.

How Often to Water It

Water your Mexican hat once every 2 weeks, as it will enjoy gradual hydration. As a Madagascan native where tropical and sub-tropical climates occur, it is drought-tolerant, although it thrives with a little more hydration than your average succulent.

You will know the houseplant needs more water when the top few inches of soil are dry. Overwatering, as with a string of pearls, will lead to potential problems and cause the leaves to droop. Reduce watering in the cold seasons.

Drainage Guidelines

Your mother of thousands will do well in a standard cactus soil mix as it needs good drainage. If you use a traditional potting mix, add some sand to improve the drainage quality.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana requires a layer of stones or gravel at the bottom of the pot.

Fun fact: Other common names include: life plant, floppers, and miracle leaf.


Mother of thousands does not require pruning, other than removing the odd old leaf or stalk.

Should your houseplant grow too tall for your liking, the stems can be pruned back by about half their height.

These stems can then be popped into the soil and rooted if you are in the market for houseplants that don’t require a lot of pruning, check out the spider and snake plant as other great options.

When and How to Repot It

To reach their entire lifespan, mother of thousands require repotting only every 3-4 years. They are vulnerable to ‘transplant shock,’ so only repot if you feel it is essential.

The other reason you may need to replant is if the fallen baby plants have begun to take root and need to be uprooted and planted in their own pot.

Follow these steps when repotting:

  1. Hydrate your succulent for 24 hours before removing it from the existing pot. This will help to avoid the roots going into shock.
  2. Choose a pot the next size up from the one it’s currently in, preferably clay.
  3. Layer the pot with drainage stones and fill it with standard cactus soil, if possible.
  4. Pot your mother of thousands in the same position as before.

Top Tip: If the pot lives in a darker spot of your home, introduce some extra perlite and drainage grit to help with the potential of overwatering.

Indoor Habitat and Conditions

This fleshy succulent species will happily grow indoors, given the correct type of lighting and watering.

Light Requirements

Locate your houseplant in an area with some shade in the indirect sun. The first prize for this plant is a filtered light spot with flashes of morning and afternoon sun to replicate its original Madagascan habitat. This houseplant will not do well with hours of direct sunlight, leading to scorched leaves. Four hours a day of the sun is ideal.

Top tip: If you struggle to provide enough light for your plant, consider a grow light to assist you.

Best Soil

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is happiest in well-draining and sandy soil medium, cactus or succulent mix being ideal. They appreciate the addition of perlite into a standard potting soil mix.

pH 7 is perfect for the plant’s development, but acid, neutral, and alkaline is suitable.  An ideal recipe would be :

  • Succulent or cactus mix
  • Perlite
  • Pumice
  • Vermiculite


Feeding your Kalanchoe daigremontiana with fertilizer is unnecessary, but this succulent will benefit from a cactus, succulent feed, or a general houseplant fertilizer.

The Madagascan soil from which the alligator plant originates is nutrient-leaching soil, so the plant is naturally used to low levels of nutritional input.

Pot Size and Type

The best choice for your mother of thousands is a terracotta or unglazed clay pot that allows it to breathe and is 2 inches (5cm) wider than the plant.  Ensure the pot has suitable drainage holes, and consider that your succulent will drop little plantlets into the soil beneath the mother leaf.

The Mexican hat will eventually grow to fit the size of the pot – it’s essential to choose a pot that is big enough without the plant looking tiny inside it.

Temperature Range

Mothers of thousands enjoy an environment of 54°F to 90°F (12°C-32°C). Your plant won’t thrive in temperatures below 40°F (4°C).

Humidity Level

Medium to low humidity is the optimal setting, with 35-45% as a comfortable range for them.

Top Tip: Keep the plants clear of heating ducts, open fires, and chilly drafts near air conditioning units.

Can They Live Outside?

Mother of thousands will happily live outside in the warmer months, preferably out of the direct sun. This plant thrives in hardiness zones of 9-11 USDA. Bring your plant indoors as soon as the temperature drops; remember not to set it near a heater after it’s been outside, as this will dry the leaves out.

Top Tip: If you plan to move them outside, it’s advised to keep them in pots and not try to plant the babies into beds or the ground, as these plants can spread and take over.

Do They Bloom?

It is rare for Mexican hats to flower indoors. They will sometimes gift flowers to indoor gardeners, but it’s certainly not often. If this does happen, it will be due to perfect light and temperature conditions.

How to Grow It

Mother of thousands is an exciting plant to grow; the methods to do this successfully are detailed below.

Dividing and Cutting

Mother of thousands can be separated by division or through cutting the stems.

How to Divide the Pups

The mother of thousands produces tiny plantlets that line its edges and form little roots while still attached to the leaf. They are excellent and rapid reproducers.

As the season turns cooler, the little plantlets will either fall off naturally, or you can pull them off gently using tweezers or your fingers, so long as you use a light touch. You will know when the plantlets are ready to be removed as they will detach quite easily.

How to Cut the Stems

This method can be applied to a mature plant.

  1. Select a stem 3 inches (8cm) in height, which is part of the new growth on the mature plant.
  2. Sanitize a pair of sharp shears or scissors and cut at the base of the 3-inch stem.

Mother of Thousands Propagation

The many roads to propagating these beautiful pet plants are outlined below.

Propagation in Water

Alligator plants are susceptible to overwatering and should not be propagated in water.

Propagation in Soil

This is the preferred propagation method.

Propagation from Pups

Here are the simple steps to take when propagating them via pups:

  1. Lay the plantlets on the surface of potting medium. Choose a soil mix that will drain well.
  2. Make sure the base of the little roots is in contact with the soil.
  3. Lightly mist the soil and plantlets and create a little greenhouse effect by covering the area with a plastic sheet or bag for around 15-17 days.
  4. Choose a spot that offers the plantlets filtered bright light.
  5. After 8 weeks, they should have rooted fully.
Propagation from Stem Cuttings

Here are the moderately easy steps to take when propagating Kalanchoe daigremontiana via stem cutting:

  1. Dip the clean end of the stem cutting into a rooting product to speed up the process.
  2. Plant the stem cutting into cactus or succulent soil mix.
  3. Provide a warm location for the plants to take root, with bright light. The temperature should be around 66°F (20°C) for the cuttings to shoot.
  4. The soil should be kept moist but ensure the top section dries between watering.
  5. Around 12 weeks, you should see new nodes start to appear; this is how you will know the propagation is successful.


Below are the steps to planting your new alligator babies.

Planting the Rooted Pups and Stem Cuttings

Transplant your rooted plantlets or stem cuttings into their new pot home with well-draining soil mixed with perlite and wood chips. The ultimate soil is succulent or cactus soil mix to provide the best drainage conditions.

Mother of thousands is usually planted by propagation and not using seeds.

How to Revive It

While we know these African natives to be hardy and drought-resistant, mother of thousands can experience issues along the way. Here are some fundamental problems you may face along the way with them and a few suggestions on how to revive them.

Why Are the Leaves Turning Yellow?

Reason 1: Letting your plant spend too much time in harsh direct sunlight or heat may result in the yellowing of the leaves. Move your mother of thousands into an area with filtered light, still a bright spot, just not too hot.

Reason 2: watering too often and with too much water can weaken or rot the root system or even lead to root rot. This will eventually lead to plant death, so ensure you allow it to dry out before rewatering, and after that, offer gradual hydration.

Why Are the Leaves Drooping?

It might require more light if the leaves begin to wilt. Mexican hat houseplants thrive in filtered sunlight, so you might want to adjust their location or position.

Why Is the Stem Growing and Stretching Upwards?

This indicates that the plant is “seeking “ out the sun and isn’t getting enough sunlight. Move your plant closer to a window or brighter spot.

Why Are the Leaves Curling Up or Drying?

Should you notice that your Kalanchoe daigremontiana’s leaves are curling up or looking dry, it is likely due to dehydration. While the mother of thousands is easy to care for, it does require a reasonably regular watering routine.

Wrapping It Up

The magical mother of thousands is an interesting and exciting addition to one’s houseplant collection. While drought resistant and hardy, it requires access to decent sunlight and gradual, consistent hydration without upsetting its sensitive root system.

Enjoy the rewards of the houseplant’s little plantlets as you go forth and multiply!

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