Kalanchoe is a genus that includes more than 100 species of plants native to Madagascar. Kalanchoe plants are known for their succulent, oval-shaped, often scallop-edged green leaves. Some varieties develop red leaves or leaf edges with sufficient sunlight. The most common houseplant species is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, which blooms with clusters of tiny, colorful flowers in shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, and white.
Kalanchoe is a popular, easy-to-grow houseplant because it's drought tolerant and easy to grow. In tropical and subtropical climates, it can be grown outdoors as a perennial. In colder climates, it's typically grown as an indoor plant. Note that all parts of the plant are toxic to cats and dogs.
|Common Name||Kalanchoe, flaming Katy, Christmas kalanchoe|
|Botanical Name||Kalanchoe blossfeldiana|
|Plant Type||Perennial, succulent|
|Mature Size||6–18 in. tall and wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil type||Sandy, well-drained|
|Soil pH||Acidic (5.8 to 6.3)|
|Bloom Time||Varies; requires 6 weeks of 14-hour nights|
|Flower Color||Yellow, red, orange, pink, white|
|Hardiness Zones||10–12, USDA|
|Native Area||Africa (Madagascar)|
|Toxicity||Toxic to pets, considered non-toxic to humans|
Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Kalanchoe
Caring for kalanchoe is easy with a few basic tips and the right conditions. Here are the main growing requirements for kalanchoe.
- Plant kalanchoe in sandy, well-drained potting medium like cactus mix or succulent soil.
- Put this plant in a warm place with full sun or bright, indirect light.
- Allow kalanchoe plants to dry out completely between waterings.
- Fertilize indoor kalanchoes once per month during spring and summer.
Kalanchoe plants grown indoors do best with bright, indirect light. Plant outdoor kalanchoes in full sun, ideally with some afternoon shade to protect the plant, to part sun. Leggy stems are a sign that the plant isn't getting enough light.
Outdoors, a kalanchoe plant grows best in well-drained, sandy soil. Indoor plants should be potted in a blend that doesn't retain too much moisture, like a 50 percent potting soil and 50 percent cactus mix, or 60 percent peat moss and 40 percent perlite. To ensure proper drainage and avoid an overly moist environment, you can plant your kalanchoe in a clay pot, which can help wick excess water from the soil.
If you have a habit of occasionally forgetting to water your plants, a kalanchoe can be the perfect pick for you. This hearty plant does well with minimal water, requiring a complete saturation only every few weeks or so (and even less often during the winter months). Let the soil dry out completely in between waterings to help prevent root rot. Because the kalanchoe is a succulent, its leaves are actually capable of storing water; even if you're a few days late watering, the plant will be just fine.
Temperature and Humidity
Your household environment is important to the kalanchoe, though it's not as picky as other indoor houseplants. Generally, it will thrive at temperatures ranging from 55 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so, with the exception of protecting it from frost, you don't have to do much to create the proper indoor environment. Kalanchoe plants are not fussy about air moisture levels.
As outdoor garden plants, kalanchoe is not a good choice outside of zones 10 to 12, as they don't thrive at temperatures below 55 degrees and will instantly die if touched by frost.
Like most flowering plants, kalanchoe benefits from fertilizer, though they are less hungry than many plants. Garden plants require little more than a single light feeding in the spring. Indoor plants should be fed with a well-balanced fertilizer blend once a month during the spring and summer months, but not during the winter. If flowering is sparse, switch to a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus.
Kalanchoes are generally slow-growing, on average taking between two and five years to reach mature size. One of the most common kalanchoes, 'Flaming Katy', reaches around 12 inches tall at maturity. Paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora) can grow to more than two feet tall at maturity, while cathedral bells (Kalanchoe pinnata) and velvet-leaf kalanchoe (Kalanchoe beharensis) can grow up to five or six feet tall in cultivation.
Outdoor plants tend to grow more quickly because they're in brighter conditions. In colder climates, you can acclimate indoor kalanchoe plants to the outdoors once night temperatures are above 60 degrees to get them some extra sun. Bring them back inside when temperatures begin to dip in late summer or early fall.
Types of Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe blossfeidiana is available in several unnamed varieties featuring different shades of yellow, red, orange, pink, and white. Planted outdoors, they normally flower in the spring, but indoor plants can be coaxed into blooming nearly year-round. There are also several related species that can make good garden plants and houseplants:
- K. manginii: This species features fleshy leaves and bears large, bell-like pendant flowers. Moist air is an essential component of its prolonged flowering. Sometimes known as chandelier plant, this species is hardy in USDA zones 9 to 11.
- Kalanchoe daigremontiana: Commonly known as mother of thousands for the tiny plantlets that grow along the edges of its leaves, this kalanchoe is hardy in zones 9 to 11.
- K. porphyrocalyx: Also known as pearl bells, this species consists of slender, rectangular leaves and purple pendant flowers. It is hardy in zones 11 and 12.
- Kalanchoe delagoensis: This kalanchoe is known as chandelier plant for the way its tubular orange flowers hang down from the top of its stems. It's hardy in zones 10 and 11.
- K. beharensis: This kalanchoe species, sometimes called velvet-leaf kalanchoe, is hardy in zones 9 to 11. It's prized for its large, fuzzy leaves that are pale silvery green.
- Kalanchoe luciae: A common houseplant, this kalanchoe earned the name flapjack plant for its flat, rounded leaves, which can develop red edges in winter. It's hardy in zones 9 to 11.
- K. pinnata: This kalanchoe species, also called cathedral bells, has fleshy green leaves and bears tiny plantlets along its margins. It's hardy in zones 10 and 11.
- Kalanchoe tomentosa: Known as chocolate soldier or panda plant, this kalanchoe has thick, fuzzy leaves with a blue tinge and brown spots around their edges. It's hardy in zones 9 to 11.
Pinching back the stems of a kalanchoe plant will help maintain its shape and promote more robust blooming.
Kalanchoe is very simple to propagate, and doing so is actually beneficial to the plant's health. As a mature kalanchoe grows, it produces offsets that can be taxing on the mother plant. Instead of allowing them to leech nutrients from the mature plant, you can propagate the offsets (or take stem cuttings) at almost any time. Here's how:
- Cut a segment of stem several inches long from a mature plant using a sharp clean knife or clippers. If using an offset, remove it at the joint where it connects to the parent plant.
- Allow the cutting to dry out for a few days, or until the end appears to have healed shut and calloused over.
- Dip the calloused ends of the cutting in a rooting hormone once healed.
- Plant the cutting in soil comprised of the same mixture used to grow the mother plant.
- Let the newly planted cutting sit in bright indirect light, but do not water; the stem should take root within a month, at which point you can care for it as you would a mature kalanchoe plant.
How to Grow Kalanchoe From Seed
These slow-growing plants are usually grown from cuttings, which produces faster results, but they are relatively easy to grow from seeds. Sow seeds on the surface of a porous potting mix in early spring; do not cover the seeds, as they need light to germinate. Put the container in a plastic bag to increase humidity until they germinate, which takes about 10 days. After about two months, you can transplant the seedlings into individual pots or plant them outdoors.
Potting and Repotting Kalanchoe
Unlike plants that prefer to be pot-bound, kalanchoe plants actually thrive best if repotted rather frequently, which encourages good drainage. For best results, repot your kalanchoe annually in fall after the plant has bloomed. Doing so will encourage new growth and increase the plant's fullness. Go up one container size each time you repot.
Make sure to use a well-draining pot. Clay is a good choice, as the material is porous and will help keep the soil relatively dry.
Caring for Kalanchoe in the Winter
If you've brought your kalanchoe plant outdoors for the summer, you'll want to keep an eye on the weather to know when to bring it indoors as temperatures drop.
- When should you bring kalanchoe inside?
Bring kalanchoe plants indoors for the winter before night temperatures drop below 55 degrees.
- What is the lowest temperature kalanchoe can tolerate?
Kalanchoe plants can tolerate temperatures as low as 45 degrees if they're acclimated to the outdoors, but it's best to bring them indoors before it gets that cold.
- Can kalanchoe plants come back after a freeze?
In zones 9-11, kalanchoe plants can often survive a frost, even if their foliage dies back. In colder climates, however, they won't survive frost damage.
- What kind of light do kalanchoe plants need in winter?
Keep kalanchoe in a place with bright, indirect light, such as a south-facing or west-facing window, during winter. You can use a grow light if your space doesn't have bright enough natural light.
- How much water does a kalanchoe plant need in winter?
Kalanchoe plants need less water in winter than they do in spring or summer. Allow the soil to dry out fully between waterings.
How to Get Kalanchoe to Bloom
Kalanchoe's bloom cycle is set in motion by lengthy periods (at least 14 hours) of nighttime darkness in the wintertime. Roughly four months later, in spring, you'll be treated to bursts of colorful flowers that can last several weeks. Blooms can recur throughout much of the year if you control the light exposure.
Kalanchoes require bright sunlight during the day to bloom properly. Harsh direct sunlight can actually inhibit blooming, so bright, indirect light is ideal.
Deadheading the flowers once blooms are spent is another way to prompt continual flowering. If you're struggling with getting your plant to flower, look for a fertilizer blend that is high in phosphorus, which can help it produce more buds next time.
How to Keep Kalanchoe Blooming
With the proper care and environment, kalanchoes can bloom year-round indoors. The most essential factor is ample sunlight. For your kalanchoe plant to bloom to its full potential, it should be located somewhere where it gets at least six to eight hours of bright light each day. During the fall and winter, the plant should experience near-total darkness for the other hours of the day. A full 14 hours of daily darkness for a period of at least six weeks is necessary for the plant to amass energy for further blooms.
Common Problems With Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe plants are very easy to grow, but problems can arise when they are not watered correctly or if they experience temperature extremes.
Soft, Damaged Blooms and Leaves
Plants that are touched by near-freezing temperatures will often experience damaged leaves or stunted blooms. For best performance, keep these plants at temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Temperatures that are too high can cause leaves to wilt. Ideally, keep these plants below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drab or Burned Leaves
Proper light exposure is key to good-looking plants. Too little light and the leaves will lose the trademark glossy green. Too much direct sunlight, and you can expect burned leaves. Indoor kalanchoes will do best in a location that receives a lot of bright indirect light, but not too much direct sunlight.
Soft, Fragile Stems
A very common problem with kalanchoe is overwatering or planting in a soil medium that holds water. Excessive water can easily cause root and stem rot with these plants. If you see this problem beginning, withhold water until the plant recovers.
Failure to Bloom
When a kalanchoe fails to bloom, it is usually because it does not get the lengthy period of winter darkness that allows the plant to reset its bloom cycle. During the winter months, these plants need a six-week period where they experience nighttime darkness lasting a full 14 hours each day. Without this reset period, the plants usually fail to bloom again.
How long can a kalanchoe live?
As is true of many slow-growing perennial succulents, Kalanhoe blossfeldiana can thrive for as long as its basic needs are met. There are many cases of century-old potted kalanchoe plants.
Is kalanchoe best as an indoor or outdoor plant?
In USDA hardiness zones 10 to 12, kalanchoes can be grown outdoors year round. In cooler climates, they're best grown as a houseplant. You can acclimate indoor kalanchoes to the outdoors in spring and leave them outside until temperatures begin to cool in late summer and early fall.
Do kalanchoe plants work well in mixed containers?
Kalanchoe is usually planted by itself in a container, but it also works well in large pots planted alongside other succulents like aloe and jade. On a patio, kalanchoes are often planted with sedums and other creeping plants.
Kalanchoe Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants. ASPCA.
Kalanchoe beharensis. Missouri Botanical Garden.