If you're looking for a unique and undemanding houseplant, then you can't go wrong with mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana).
Native to the tropical and subtropical regions of Madagascar, the mother of thousands can only be grown outdoors in hotter regions. For example, it has been introduced to Florida and Hawaii.
Perfect for novice houseplant-lovers, this forgiving and low-maintenance succulent gets its name from the many baby plantlets that grow along the edges of its serrated leaves.
These plantlets not only add interest, but it means that the Kalanchoe daigremontiana is very easy to propagate from. So easy, that they can be somewhat invasive when grown outdoors. Many gardeners contain them in pots to minimize their spread.
Unlike many Kalanchoe species, you're not going to opt for a mother of thousands for its flowering potential. It rarely flowers indoors. When grown outdoors, small, tubular, dangling, pinkish-gray flowers can appear at the start of the warm season, and the plant will often go into decline after blooming.
|Botanical Name||Kalanchoe daigremontiana|
|Common Name||Mother of thousands, devil's backbone, alligator plant|
|Mature Size||3 ft. tall|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial shade|
|Soil pH||Acid, neutral, alkaline|
|Hardiness Zones||9 - 11, USA|
|Toxicity||Toxic to people and pets|
The Kalanchoe daigremontiana is hardy, drought-tolerant, and capable of handling intense heat. It won't flourish in more temperate or cold regions, though, so is generally kept as an uncomplicated houseplant.
The mother of thousands prefers a bright spot in your home where it can appreciate several hours of light. Too much direct and intense afternoon sun, however, can result in leaf scorch, so positioning them somewhere with indirect light can work well.
As with most succulents, your Kalanchoe daigremontiana will need a well-drained potting medium—standing water is a big issue for this plant. Many enthusiasts use a cactus mix, and others might mix sand or perlite into a standard potting soil.
Using a clay pot is desirable as this helps to absorb excess moisture and take it away from the plant.
The mother of thousands is drought-tolerant, but not quite as much as many succulent species.
It'll do better if it receives regular and gradual hydration, especially during its growing season. Still, it may only be as often as once every few weeks, even in spring and summer, and it won't be a major problem if you forget now and again.
Once the first couple of inches of the soil surface is dry, this is usually the time to rewater. By gradually dampening the soil, you won't risk oversaturating the roots. During the fall and winter, you'll want to reduce watering considerably.
Overwatering can cause problems with limp leaves.
Temperature and Humidity
Mother of thousand plants usually do best with temperatures around 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you move the plant outdoors when the temperatures get warmer in the summer months, it's best to do this gradually, and make sure it doesn't receive too much intense, direct sunlight. The plant should come back inside before the temperatures drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most Kalanchoe species can cope without regular fertilization, and the mother of thousands is no exception.
Is Mother of Thousands Toxic?
If you have children or pets in your house, you'll have to be very careful about where you position your Mother of Thousands. All parts of the plant contain a toxic cardiac glycoside called daigremontianin.
Gradual and repeated ingestion of plant parts can cause a type of intoxication called Cotyledonous. Although it rarely causes serious poisoning, it can vary in its levels of severity, depending on the amount consumed.
Because the plantlets can drop off easily, make sure they won't fall somewhere within reach of your pets or children, and it's always a good precautionary measure to wear gloves if you're working with the plant.
Toxicity of Kalanchoe daigremontiana: Symptoms of Poisoning
If smaller quantities of the plant have been ingested, it can cause stomach upsets and may lead to vomiting and diarrhea.
If large quantities are consumed, this could lead to more severe problems affecting the muscular and nervous system. It could cause heart palpitations, tremors, and seizures. Smaller pets or younger children will be at greater risk with lesser quantities and, in the rarest and extreme cases, it could lead to death.
Other than removing dead stalks and dropped plantlets, there isn't much further pruning requirements for this plant.
Propagating Kalanchoe daigremontiana
The mother of thousands is easily propagated from the plantlets it produces rather than from seeds. You could end up gifting many new plants to friends and family.
The plantlets are usually ready to remove as the main plant heads towards its dormancy period in the winter. They'll fall off naturally, or you can remove them from the leaf they're attached to if they're ready to detach without you applying a lot of pressure.
The plantlets can then lie on the surface of a well-drained and damp potting medium where they'll begin to take root.
Potting and Repotting Kalanchoe daigremontiana
Generally, the only time you'll need to do some repotting is if fallen plantlets have begun to take root in the pot of the mother plant. These should be removed and disposed of, or replanted in another container with good drainage holes.