If you have ever shopped for succulents, you have likely seen a chocolate soldier plant. Chocolate soldiers 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 slow-growing Kalanchoe tomentosa is characterized by blue-green fuzzy leaves that are rimmed with dark red or chocolate brown. Chocolate soldier plants come in many sizes, from small to nearly 2.5-feet tall.
Luckily, slow-growing chocolate soldier succulents are not prone to any serious pests or diseases. Watch out for common houseplant pests and diseases such as mealybugs, scale, leaf spot, and spider mites. These small, hardy succulents will thrive year-round planted in pots inside your home.
|Botanical Name||Kalanchoe tomentosa|
|Common Name||Chocolate soldier plant, panda plant, pussy ears, velvet leaf kalanchoe, plush plant, teddy bear cactus, cocoon plant|
|Mature Size||2.5 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Bright, filtered light|
|Hardiness Zones||9a-11b (USDA)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to humans and animals|
Chocolate Soldier Care
Chocolate soldier plants 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 plants appreciate bright, indirect light. Kalanchoe tomentosa does not do well in direct sun and is susceptible to leaf burn. If you notice that your chocolate soldier plant is getting leggy, move it to a brighter location.
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.
As with most succulents, chocolate soldier plants require dry, well-draining soil. A cactus or succulent soil mix is sufficient for chocolate soldier plants; it 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.
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.
Chocolate soldier plants don't usually become large and unwieldy enough to need major amounts of pruning, other than trimming away dead growth and unwanted volunteers. If yours needs more than this, find a professional to help you with the job.
Propagating Chocolate Soldier
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.
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.
Place the separated leaf on a tray filled with potting soil, in a location that receives bright, indirect light. Within two to three 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 chocolate soldier in succulent potting mix. Do not water until roots have begun to form, in approximately two to three weeks.
Potting and Repotting Chocolate Soldier
Since chocolate soldier plants are relatively slow-growing, they need only to 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 like the chocolate soldier plant do well in terracotta pots, as they help absorb excess water from the soil.