The kalanchoe is a perennial succulent and a member of the Crassulaceae family. A native of Madagascar, this easy to care for plant has as many as 125 species and is a popular choice for a potted plant or as an addition to the landscape.
Even though kalanchoe plants are technically perennials, often they are treated as a disposable annual that is thrown away after the flowers fade. However, it can be made to bloom again.
Typically, kalanchoe plants bloom summer through fall. The flowers form little clusters similar to tiny bouquets and come in many shades of red, orange, yellow and purple. Its oval-shaped leaves are thick, as is standard in succulent plants.
Most often, kalanchoes are grown in pots as a brightly colored houseplant, but they can also be used as landscape plants if you live in the right climate. Kalanchoe plants, indoors and outdoors, prefer low humidity, bright light and well drained soil.
Kalanchoe care is very simple. It is an ideal plant for people who think they have no time to take care of a houseplant. Like a cactus, they need little water and rarely need fertilizer. However, their needs vary slightly depending on if they are inside or outside your home.
Growing Kalanchoe as an Indoor Plant
If you are growing a kalanchoe as a houseplant it will need bright light for eight to ten hours a day. It should be potted in a light, well-draining potting soil that is about 50 percent perlite.
- Watering only needs to be done when your kalanchoe is dry. Just stick your finger into the soil. If it feels moist, you do not need to water it just yet. Soggy soil will lead to root-rot and will kill your plant.
- Fertilizing should also be infrequent, with application no more than once a month. If you intend to throw away your kalanchoe after blooming, there is no need to fertilize at all.
If you plan to keep your kalanchoe, you can make it flower again. When the flowers start to fade, cut them off and put your plant in a dark room for about a month. Cut back on watering at this time. When new buds start to form, put it back in a sunny area. Resume normal watering. Soon you will be able to enjoy more lovely flowers.
Growing Kalanchoe as an Outdoor Plant
Kalanchoes planted outside also need well drained, alkaline soil. If you live in a wet climate, you will not have much success with outdoor kalanchoes. The same is true if you live in a cold climate, because kalanchoes do not like to get cold. Ideal temperatures are a low of 65 degrees at night and a high of 85 degrees during the day. If your location does not fit this ideal, you can try putting your plants in pots outside and just bring them in when the weather is not cooperative.
If your kalanchoes are planted outside, they should only need to be fertilized once a year with an all-purpose fertilizer. Avoid overcrowding your kalanchoe plants because this can contribute to leaf spot if the plants do not have adequate air circulation.
In the southern part of the U.S., kalanchoes can be planted in the fall. Other parts of the country can plant them in late spring after all danger of frost has passed. Those who live in coastal areas will appreciate that kalanchoes are salt tolerant and can handle salty air and soil.
Starting New Plants
Kalanchoe plants are fairly easy to start at home. With many species, you will see tiny plants forming along the outer edge of the leaves. When these get large enough, you can carefully remove them and plant them in their own little pot.
Another way to propagate kalanchoes is to take a cutting of about two to three inches long and allow it to dry for 24 hours. Ideally, the cutting should have at least two leaves on it; four or five leaves are even better. Then plant one end of the stem in the potting soil. You will not even need a rooting compound to get it started.
Some species of kalanchoe will sprout little off-shoots that can also be potted once they grow large enough. Whichever way you use, starting new kalanchoe plants is very easy.
Kalanchoes are sometimes susceptible to some common garden pests and problems. The most common are caterpillars, aphids and mealy bugs. Keep in mind that kalanchoes do not respond well to some pesticides. As is usually the case, natural pest control is the best option.
Occasionally, your plants may have disease problems. Leaf spot is most common and due to lack of proper ventilation. Another possible issue is powdery mildew, which is caused by the same reason as leaf spot.
If your plant is in a cool, humid environment, you may notice calloused spots on the leaves. While this is not harmful, it is also not very attractive. This can be avoided by making sure your plants have the right growing conditions.
You will not often have problems with kalanchoes. With just basic care, you can enjoy a beautiful plant that will brighten any home or yard.
Kalanchoe Life Span and Growth
Kalanchoe can live a long time if cared for properly. It can be grown indoors as a houseplant, or outdoors in a garden bed or container. However, if you live in a cold area and don't want to bring your kalanchoe indoors, you can simply buy them year after year and grow them as annuals.