How to Grow and Care for a Flapjack Succulent

A Striking, Fast-Growing, Drought-Resistant Species

flapjack succulent

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

The flapjack succulent (Kalanchoe luciae) is also known as a 'paddle plant' because of the paddle or clam-like shape of its leaves that form in rosette clusters. It's a striking house plant that doesn't require a lot of maintenance. In the right conditions, this drought-resistant plant can also be grown outside. It will only suit warm regions, but it's one that can do well in states like Florida.

Flapjacks can grow quickly in wide clusters and work well for xeriscape landscapes or rock gardens in regions prone to droughts. Once mature, these plants can produce yellow-shaded flowers in the spring, and the wide, thick, fleshy leaves can take on a striking red tinge around the edges in winter. This is why it's sometimes also referred to as the 'red pancake'. Be aware that all parts of kalanchoe succulents are toxic to both humans and pets.

Common Name Flapjack succulent, paddle plant, red pancakes, dessert cabbage
Botanical Name Kalanchoe luciae
Family Crassulaceae
Plant Type Evergreen succulent
Mature Size 1-2 ft. tall, 2-3 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full, partial
Soil Type Loamy, sandy, well-drained
Soil pH Acidic, neutral, alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color White with a tinge of yellow
Hardiness Zones 9-11 (USDA)
Native Area South Africa
Toxicity Toxic to people, toxic to pets
closeup of flapjack succulent

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

top of flapjack succulent

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

flapjack succulents as a ground cover

Seven75 / Getty Images

vibrant leaves of the flapjack succulent

MichelR45 / Getty Images

Flapjack Succulent Care

This plant is relatively easy to care for when you provide it with the proper conditions and care. Providing your flapjack succulent gets plenty of natural light and warmth, it isn't overwatered, and it's planted or potted in soil with good drainage, you can expect rapid and healthy growth.

Light

As you would expect from a succulent native to South Africa and the surrounding areas, the flapjack likes a lot of sun, but it also does fine in a partial sun position. In the hot, sunny summer months, know that you may need to offer your flapjack a little protection against intense direct sunlight to keep the leaves from having leaf scorch damage.

The plant's green leaves can develop the red tips it's known for if your flapjack is given enough light during the cooler winter months.

Soil

Like most succulents, flapjack succulents prefer well-drained soil. A sandy or loamy variety that doesn't retain too much moisture will help ensure they thrive. Most garden centers and nurseries carry cactus or succulent potting soil mixes. Select a clay pot with good drainage if you are growing your plant indoors.

Water

As you would expect with a succulent, flapjacks are drought-tolerant, and great care should be taken not to overwater. The soil should be allowed to fully dry out before rewatering when the weather is hot. During the winter, they will need minimal watering or none at all. It is best to water in the morning to give the plant's roots time to absorb the water and the leaves to dry before the sun sets.

Temperature and Humidity

Paddle plants, like most succulents, thrive in dry, hot regions. They aren't cold-hardy, which is why they're most often kept as house plants. Flapjack succulents are not suited to very humid climates since their natural environments are dry, arid landscapes. If winter temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, keeping them as an indoor plant or bringing them inside over winter is recommended.

Fertilizer

Your flapjack succulent will appreciate being fed a balanced and diluted fertilizer during its growth period over the spring and summer. Once every couple of months should be more than enough. Over-fertilizing, just like over-watering, can result in root rot or the formation of powdery mildew on these succulents.

Types of Flapjack Succulents

There are a few varieties of flapjack succulents including:

  • 'Red-fruited flapjack' originates in the US and grows in a triangular shape with red color on the tips of green leaves.
  • 'Yellow-fruited flapjack' is found in Madagascar with green-yellowish leaves and orange or yellow flowers that appear fruit-like.
  • 'Blue-fruited flapjack' is also found in Madagascar with green leaves that have blue-tinged tips and white or pale blue flowers.

Kalanchoe Luciae vs. Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora

The term "Flapjack or Paddle Plant" is often also used to refer to the less common species Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. Luciae is much more widely available, but it can often be mislabelled as thyrsiflora. The two plant types are very similar in terms of their appearance and growing requirements. The easiest way to spot the difference is when the mature plants grow long stem flowers in late winter. The luciae usually produces white flowers with a yellow tint around their second year, whereas the thyrsiflora heavily-scented flowers are a deeper yellow shade. Thyrsiflora also tends to have a white chalk-like film on their broader and shorter leaves.

Pruning

The flapjack succulent requires very little pruning. Deadhead the flowers once they're spent, and take off any dead leaves or stalks. If you notice the plant is getting leggy, trim it back with pruning shears to keep it compact and rounded.

Propagating Flapjack Succulents

As with all kalanchoe succulents, you should wear gloves when handling them as your skin can become irritated from the sap from the leaves. It is best to propagate after the plant has stopped flowering during the late spring or early summer. Although these plants are monocarpic (they only flower once), they're easy to propagate from cuttings. Here's how:

  1. Select a healthy stem and using pruning shears or scissors, cut about a 2-3 inch piece that has a few leaves on it.
  2. Strip off the bottom leaves from the cutting, leaving at least two to three leaves on it.
  3. Let the cutting dry out and form a callus. This should take anywhere from one to three days.
  4. Plant the cutting in a container with pre-moistened potting soil by poking it in the soil just up to the first leaf from the bottom.
  5. Enclose the entire pot with a plastic bag to create a greenhouse effect.
  6. Place the pot in indirect light and moisten the soil when you see it is starting to get dry.
  7. Once it starts showing new growth—approximately 15 to 20 days—you can care for it as you would a full-grown plant.

Flapjack succulents can also be started from an individual leaf being laid on the soil. Mature and healthy specimens are fast-growing and readily produce new offsets that can be taken off the plant and potted.

Potting and Repotting a Flapjack Succulent

Repot your flapjack succulent during the late summer or fall after the blooming period for this plant has passed. Use a pot with drainage holes (preferably a clay one, as it will help absorb any excess moisture), that has been prepped with cactus or succulent potting soil, and carefully plant the succulent. Make sure to only go up to a slightly larger-sized container, as these plants do better when they're crowded.

Overwintering

Bring your flapjack succulent in during the colder months. These plants like to be in dry, hot weather. It's best to keep them inside to prevent any damage to them if you live where the temperature drops down below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Common Pests and Diseases

While paddle plants do not have many common pests or diseases, they are susceptible to a few of them. Spider mites, whiteflies, and mealybugs enjoy sucking the juices from the leaves of this plant but can be taken care of by using neem oil or an insecticide spray. Fungi, such as powdery mildew or botrytis blight, are diseases that infect these plants and are usually caused by overwatering or too humid conditions with not enough air circulating. An insecticide can eliminate these fungal diseases. 

FAQ
  • How long do flapjack succulents live?

    A flapjack kalanchoe succulent will last up to seven years when properly cared for and maintained.

  • What plants pair well with flapjack succulents or paddle plants?

    The best companion plants for flapjacks or kalanchoe plants are other types of succulents. An assortment of succulents makes a beautiful arrangement in a container bed or dish garden.

  • Do flapjack succulents attract pollinators?

    Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators are attracted to the flowers on flapjack succulents.

Article Sources
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  1. Kalanchoe. ScienceDirect.