The panda plant, otherwise known as the Kalanchoe tomentosa if you want to be scientific, is a low-maintenance houseplant that is often grown by beginners. They are also renowned for their felt-like, or velvety texture.
These succulent plants originate from Madagascar, and tend to grow in rocky terrain there.
If you’d like to grow one of these easily maintained little houseplants then this guide is the perfect place for you, as we’ll be covering everything you need to know about this genus.
Some of Its Main Characteristics
Let’s begin our guide with a little bit of general information about this plant, so you can get to know some of its more notable characteristics.
Types of Panda Plant
As with most plant families, this genus does have quite a few varieties to choose from. Here are a few of the popular ones that you should take note of…
- Chocolate Soldier: This variety is known as the ‘classic’ version of the panda plant and is the one that most people envision with they think of it. It will typically have narrow leaves featuring a pale color, trimmed with chocolate brown edges.
- Rubra: Instead of a brown color, the type of Kalanchoe tomentosa actually has a reddish hue which is more striking along the edges of the leaves.
- Nigra: This variety is almost identical to the Chocolate Soldier except that its leaf edges are a much darker color, almost black.
How Big Does It Get?
In its natural environment the Kalachoe tomentosa could grow to be several feet (or about one meter), but indoors the size will stay relative to its container.
So an indoor panda plant will typically reach a height of about 1 to 2 feet (31 to 61 centimeters) and an approximate width of 2 feet (61 centimeters).
How Fast Does It Grow?
This genus is fairly slow-growing compared to other succulents and will likely take a few years to reach its mature size.
You should see about 0.4 to 0.8 inches (1 to 2 centimeters) of growth per week from your panda plant. But of course you can expect some variation in that estimate based off of the variety you’ve chosen, it’s environment, care, and etc.
How Long Does It Live?
If you’re looking for a houseplant that will live for a long time then you might have more luck looking at something like the Maidenhair Fern because you find it with this genus.
Sadly the average Kalachoe tomentosa will probably only live about 6 to 7 years, and the maximum is about 10 years.
Information On Toxicity
For those that have children and pets in their household and need to be careful about what they could potentially ingest, here is some information on the toxicity of this genus.
Is It Toxic to Cats and Dogs?
Sadly, the panda plant is toxic to cats and dogs regardless of which part of the plant they ingest. And it can cause a variety of health issues for them that would require swift treatment from a vet.
So if you have cats or dogs, then it’s best to keep this particular succulent out of their reach.
Is It Poisonous to Humans?
The Kalachoe tomentosa, and in fact all plants from the Kalachoe family, are toxic to humans. Symptoms after ingestion may include drooling, dilated pupils, nausea, vomiting, tremors, and even heart issues.
For a non-toxic plant option you could think about growing a Nerve plant.
This part of the guide will contain everything you need to know to actually take care of your panda plant and make sure it thrives in its new environment.
How Often to Water It
As is the case with most succulents, this genus doesn’t need much water to survive. In fact, a lot of the reason why this plant is so great for beginners is because it can live without water for a long time and still survive, which is ideal for those who aren’t in the habit of watering plants.
However, when you do wish to water this houseplant you should only do so once the soil is dry to the touch, then soak the soil and let it dry out completely before watering it again.
The soil will probably dry out about once a week in the summer, but you’ll need to water it even less than that during the winter months.
How to Make Sure It’s Properly Drained
You should follow the same drainage steps with this genus as you would with most succulents…
Choose a pot with large drainage holes, don’t let water sit at the bottom of the pot, and don’t water the plant if the soil is still moist.
If you follow these steps then you should avoid waterlogging and potential health issues.
How to Prune It
Firstly it’s worth mentioning that you don’t have to prune or trim a Kalanchoe tomentosa unless you want to. It will still be perfectly healthy even if you let it grow and assume it’s natural shape.
But if you do wish to trim and prune it so that it keeps a neat, bush type shape then keep in mind that you’ll have to do so often and keep up with it.
Simply trim the stem down to the desired height and prune off longer, unsightly leaves with some plant-cutting scissors.
How to Repot It
You should expect to repot your panda plant once every two years or so, but luckily it’s an easy process to do if you know how to go about it. So here is a quick guide to repotting this genus.
- Choose the new pot you want to use, make sure it is big enough with adequate drainage.
- Fill the new pot to the halfway mark with whatever potting soil you choose.
- Gently pluck your Kalanchoe tomentosa from its current pot and transfer it to its new one, set it down where the crown of the plant is just below the top of the new pot.
- Add enough potting soil around the roots of the plant to cover it up, making sure to get the levels up the crown of the plant, and lightly pack the soil in by pressing with your fingers.
- Immediately water the plant by evenly soaking the soil, and then place it where desired.
The Environment It Needs
Perhaps the most important part of taking care of any genus is to provide it with the proper environment for health and growth, so we will now discuss the perfect environment for the panda plant!
The Kalanchoe tomentosa needs to be placed where it can receive times bright sunlight, but also times of both direct and indirect shade.
Generally speaking it will need at least 6 hours of bright sunlight per day.
Best Soil to Use
The best type of soil for this genus is one that promotes adequate drainage, so most people use a cacti and succulent potting mixture.
If you do end up making your own potting mixture, then adding some sand and perlite can help with drainage.
As a rule, panda plants do not need to be fertilized at all since they’re desert plants. But you can fertilize it in order to boost it with some extra nutrients if you wish, just make sure the plant is well established before you do, maybe even waiting until maturity.
Only fertilize your plant during the growing season that consists of spring and summer, and repeat the process on a monthly basis.
For your fertilizer try to choose a balanced houseplant food and dilute it to half strength before use.
The best pot for a Kalanchoe tomentosa is one with a large drainage hole at the bottom, and one that is sizable enough to be about 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 centimeters) larger than the plant itself.
Its potting needs are similar to that of the Hoya genus.
Optimal Temperature Range
Although this genus can tolerate temperatures that are slightly higher or slightly lower than their ideal range, it is best to keep them in a place where their optimal temperature requirements will be met.
The ideal temperature range for the panda plant is anywhere from 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 23 degrees Celsius).
An indoor humidity level will probably work just fine for this succulent, although you should make sure that the humidity level doesn’t fluctuate too much as this could affect the plant negatively.
Technically speaking, a humidity level of about 40% should work out well.
Indoors or Outdoors
For the most part, the Kalanchoe tomentosa is grown indoors as a houseplant.
But if you live between the hardiness zones of 9b to 11 and the temperature range where you live matches this plant’s ideal temperatures then it can be grown outdoors as well.
It’s extremely rare for a panda plant to flower indoors, so it’s most likely that you will never see a bloom from this particular houseplant. If you’d like a plant that blooms indoors then you should check out the Canna Lily.
But if by some chance this genus does bloom then you will see some small, fuzzy, bell-shaped flowers pop up in the spring or summer.
How to Grow It
Every plant’s journey begins with actually planting it though, so let’s briefly look at how to initially grow this genus.
Before we begin, you should note that most people use stem cuttings instead of leaf cuttings because it takes less time for the plant to take root this way, but leaf cuttings can be used in this process if you prefer.
Propagation for Stem Cuttings
- Choose a stem cutting that has a cut right above the stem node, preferably one that is about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long and includes about two leaves.
- Let the cutting dry for 1 to 3 days.
- Plant the cutting and wait for roots to form while keeping it adequately watered.
- After root formation, begin caring for it as you normally would.
Propagation for Leaf Cuttings
- Choose a clean and healthy leaf cutting that has no part left behind on the stem.
- Let the cutting dry and callous for about 2 days.
- Place the leaf cutting over your chosen potting mixture and put the pot in a place with indirect sunlight.
- Keep it moisturized, and wait for roots to form.
- When roots form, begin typical panda plant care routines.
How to Revive a Sick One
This section is going to list some common ailments that plague this succulent so that if it gets sick, you’ll know how to treat it.
If your Kalanchoe tomentosa’s leaves are looking leggy then the reason is probably a lack of sunlight, to fix this you simply need to move your plant to a brighter location.
As is the case for most plants, including the Prickly Pear Cactus, root rot is a potential issue. Yellow and mushy leaves as well as black spots on the leaves or stems could be an indicator that your panda plant has developed root rot.
If this is the case then you’ll likely need to trim off any damaged parts of the plant, including damaged roots, and replant your succulent. Watch your watering habits, and make sure not to overwater it again.
Additionally, make sure that you are following this houseplant’s draining guidelines.
Leaves That Are Drooping
If your panda plant’s leaves are drooping then there’s a good chance that it is underwatered. Even though this genus can survive for a while without new moisture, every plant needs to be watered to live.
If you suspect this is the problem, then swiftly water it and see if the drooping leaves improve.
Leaves That Are Falling Off
Most commonly, leaves falling off a Kalanchoe tomentosa simply means that the plant is nearing the end of its life and there’s nothing you can do.
But the leaves could also be falling off due to overwatering, so check the soil for excess moisture and the plant for signs of root rot to asses whether or not this is the issue.
Finalizing This Guide
To conclude, the panda plant is the perfect succulent for beginners to grow as it is a very forgiving plant that isn’t too picky about its environment. But advanced gardeners and houseplant owners could enjoy this genus as well due to its pleasing appearance.
Although its lifespan isn’t the longest of any plant, as long as you take proper care of it it’s unlikely to form many health issues and illnesses that might take hold are easy to get rid of.
This is a great houseplant to add to your collection!