Chocolate Soldier Plant Profile

These fuzzy succulents are easy to grow and hard to kill

A chocolate soldier plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa), also referred to as a panda plant, on a brown background.

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If you have ever shopped for succulents before you have likely seen a chocolate soldier plant. Chocolate soldier plants are extremely popular houseplants because they are so easy to care for. They are sold at most nurseries, garden centers, and plant shops and are easily identifiable because they are fuzzy succulents! Chocolate soldier plants are characterized by blue-green fuzzy leaves that are rimmed with dark red or chocolate brown. 

Learn how to grow this popular, hard-to-kill succulent indoors.

Botanical Name Kalanchoe tomentonsa
Common Name Chocolate soldier plant, panda plant, pussy ears, velvet leaf kalanchoe, plush plant, whitel ady, teddyb ear cactus, cocoon plant.
Plant Type Succulent
Mature Size 2.6 feet tall
Sun Exposure Bright, filtered light.
Soil Type Well-draining
Soil pH 6.1 - 7.8
Bloom Time Summer
Flower Color Red
Native Area Madagascar
Chocolate soldier plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) from Madagascar.
 Kelvin Sterling Scott / Getty Images

How to Grow Chocolate Soldier Succulents

Chocolate soldier plants (Kalanchoe tomentosa) are vertical-growing succulents in the Crassulaceae family that are native to Madagascar. They are easy succulents to care for, and they require less sunlight than most other succulent species. Consequently, chocolate soldier plants thrive indoors as houseplants, although they hardly ever bloom when grown indoors. 

Chocolate soldier succulents go by many common names including panda plant, pussy ears, velvetleaf kalanchoe, plush plant, white lady, teddy bear cactus, and cocoon plant.

Light

Chocolate soldier plants appreciate bright, indirect light. Unlike other sun-loving succulent species, Kalanchoe tomentonsa does not do well in direct sun and is susceptible to leaf burn.

While chocolate soldier succulents don’t require direct sunlight they still need an adequate amount of indirect light to thrive. If you notice that your chocolate soldier plant is getting leggy, move it to a brighter location.

Water

Chocolate soldier plants can be characterized as having low water needs. Allow the soil to dry out thoroughly between waterings, especially in the winter months when the plant is dormant. Chocolate soldier plants may require more frequent watering in the hot summer months. 

Soil

As with most succulents, chocolate soldier plants require dry, well-draining soil. A cactus or succulent soil mix is sufficient for chocolate soldier plants - and can be purchased at most garden centers and nurseries.

Temperature and Humidity

No need to worry about humidity when it comes to chocolate soldier plants - they enjoy dry conditions! The average household humidity is perfect for these succulents. 

However, chocolate soldier succulents are not as heat-tolerant as other succulent species. They may suffer in extreme heat, especially if they are grown outside in the summer months. Keep this in mind when choosing a location for your chocolate soldier plant.

In addition, keep in mind that chocolate soldier succulents are also not cold hardy. If you do bring your chocolate soldier succulent outdoors for the summer, ensure you remember to bring it back inside at the first sign of frost. 

Fertilizing

Regular fertilizing is not necessary for chocolate soldier plants. However, fertilizing once at the beginning of the growing season (spring months) can help to encourage strong growth. A cactus or succulent fertilizer is best.

Potting and Repotting

Chocolate soldier plants are relatively slow-growing and should only be repotted as necessary - generally once every couple of years. If you are going to re-pot your chocolate soldier plant, doing so during the active growing season is best as it will be able to tolerate disturbances more readily.

Chocolate soldier plants are not picky about their potting containers and can do well when potted in nearly any planter. However, keep in mind that a pot with a drainage hole will help to prevent overwatering. Furthermore, succulents (including the chocolate soldier plant) do well in terracotta pots as terracotta helps absorb excess water from the soil. 

Toxicity 

As listed by the ASPCA, chocolate soldier plants are toxic to both cats and dogs. If ingested, chocolate soldier succulent may result in vomiting and diarrhea, as well as an abnormal heart rhythm - but this is rare.

Propagating Chocolate Soldier Succulents

Chocolate soldier plants propagate readily, although fuzzy-leafed succulents are notoriously harder to propagate than regular succulents so some trial and error may be required. They can be propagated by separation of their leaves and by separation of their offshoots.

To propagate a chocolate soldier plants by leaf separation, choose a healthy leaf on the succulent to use. Gently remove the fuzzy leaf by twisting it slowly clockwise and counterclockwise until it ‘pops’ off of the stem. Ensure that it is a clean separation - meaning no part of the leaf is left on the stem. The leaves must be cleanly separated to propagate successfully.

Once the leaf has been separated from the main stem of the plant, place it on a tray filled with potting soil and place it in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Within 2-3 weeks you should notice small roots growing from the end of the separated leaf. Begin gently watering the new roots every couple of days.

Eventually, a small rosette will grow at the end of the leaf. Leave the parent leaf attached to the new plant until it falls off by itself - it is providing the new plant with energy and nutrients!

Healthy and mature chocolate soldier plants also readily grow offshoots, which can be separated and grown as new plants. Allow the offshoot to grow for a couple of months until it has grown its own roots and is strong enough to survive independently. Then, take a pair of sharp scissors or pruning shears and make a clean cut to separate the offshoot. Let the cut stem of the offshoot callous over for a day and then plant the new succulent in cactus soil. Do not water until roots have begun to form - approximately 2-3 weeks. 

Common Pests/Diseases

Luckily, chocolate soldier succulents are not prone to any serious pests or diseases. However, watch out for common houseplant pests and diseases such as mealybugs, scale, leaf spot, and spider mites