An attractive succulent, known for its long lasting flowers, it is not surprising that the Kalanchoe is such a popular houseplant. Pleasingly easy to care for, with just a little effort the plants can be encouraged to repeat flower throughout the year.
Great as a single houseplant or as part of a wider collection, whether you already have a range of houseplants or are new to plant care, the Kalanchoe is a great choice.
Here is everything you need to know about growing and caring for a Kalanchoe plant.
Bright and attractive, Flaming Katy is a pleasingly easy to care for houseplant that is ideal for beginners and experienced gardeners.
Warning. Kalanchoe is considered toxic to both cats and dogs. Keep the plants well out of the reach of any pets you may have.
Finding the Ideal Kalanchoe Plant
Native to Madagascar, there are over 100 known species of Kalanchoe. However, only a few of these are seen in cultivation. Also known as Florist Kalanchoe, Widow’s Thrill or Flaming Katy, this plant is easy to find in garden stores, plant nurseries, flower shops and even grocery stores.
One of the most well known Kalanchoe plants is Mother of Thousands.
Other common and attractive varieties include:
- K. Blossfeldiana is one of the most commonly grown varieties of Flaming Katy. It produces large flowers in a range of colors throughout the spring.
- K. Porphyrocalyx, or Pearl Bells, is identifiable by its purple pendant flowers and rectangular foliage.
- K. Thyrsiflora or Paddle Plant is known for its large, paddle-like foliage.
- K. Uniflora is a climbing or trailing variety that produces red or violet blooms. It is ideal for hanging baskets and living walls.
- K. Manginii is known for its large, fleshy foliage which have attractive yellow-white markings. When in flower the plant produces pretty bell-like pendant blooms.
- K. Pinnata is identified by its fleshy foliage and the tiny plantlets that emerge on the edge of the leaves. These can be removed and potted on as new plants.
Flaming Katy comes in a range of shapes and colors. Take the time to find a variety, or varieties that appeal to you.
As well as these traditional varieties you will also see the newer Calandiva cultivar. Calandiva is derived from the Blossfeldiana variety and comes in a range of bright colors, including pinks, reds, yellows and oranges. In addition to their bright, floral colors, Calandiva are also grown for their large, glossy green foliage.
Another newer cultivar is the Grandiva cultivar. Like Calandiva these produce multi-petal flowers that can resemble roses. Grandiva flowers are larger than Calandiva blooms.
When selecting your plant, try to choose the healthiest looking specimen possible. This makes ongoing care a lot easier.
Where to Position Your Plant
Kalanchoe likes lots of exposure to bright light.
Avoid placing the plant directly in a hot window. This can expose the plant to too much heat and lead to the foliage developing sunburn. Instead place the plant slightly back from the window.
If you live in a dark house, and struggle to provide enough natural light, grow lights are a great solution.
In warmer climates you can place the plant outside during the summer. Just make sure it is out of the direct glare of the afternoon sun. Remember to return your plant to its usual, indoor position before the cooler fall temperatures arrive.
Select a bright position for your plant. Just make sure that it isn’t exposed to the direct glare of the midday sun.
Temperature and Humidity
This is not a demanding houseplant. Flaming Katy can survive in a temperature range of 55 to 80 ℉. This means that it thrives in normal house temperatures.
In warmer homes the plant will come into flower quicker. The flowers will also be more short lived than in cooler homes.
Humidity levels also aren’t a concern for these plants. Unlike other houseplants they do not require a specific moisture level in the air.
Potting and Repotting
You may occasionally need to repot your Kalanchoe. Many house plant growers also like to repot their succulents and houseplants soon after purchase.
Kalanchoes happily grow in 6 inch pots. They are often sold in pots this size, but smaller plants can be sold in 2 or 4 inch pots.
There is no need to plant into too big a pot. Continue planting into 6 inch pots, or possibly an 8 inch pot if your plant is very large. While pot size isn’t an issue, they should be clean and have lots of drainage holes in the bottom.
A succulent, Kalanchoes need the soil to be as dry as possible. A succulent or cactus soil such as Miracle-Gro Cactus, Palm and Citrus Mix is ideal. Some growers can find this too well draining and like to plant in a mix of half succulent mix and half potting soil. If you have a little time to spare, making your own cactus potting mix is rewardingly easy.
Whichever soil mix you choose to use, mixing in a handful of organic compost as you pot gives your succulent an extra boost.
Place a layer of soil mix in the new pot. Carefully remove your Kalanchoe from its old pot and position in the center of the new pot. Plant to the same depth as in the original pot. You may need to add or remove some soil mix before you are happy with the position of the plant.
When you are happy with the plant’s position, continue to fill the pot with soil mix. As you fill the pot, be careful not to disturb the plant too much. Don’t fill the pot right to the top with soil. Try to leave a gap between the soil level and the top of the pot.
Caring for a Kalanchoe
Despite being commonly grown as a houseplant, Flaming Katy is also hardy in USDA Zones 10 to 12.
A low maintenance plant, depending on care and growing conditions Kalanchoe can achieve a height and spread of 12 to 18 inches.
Placed in a favorable position, and with the right care, your plant will happily produce masses of colorful flowers.
When to Water
Knowing how often to water your houseplants can be difficult. Each plant has its own specific needs. The Kalanchoe is a succulent. This means that it stores water in its fleshy stem and leaves.
Only water when the soil is completely dry. This may be as infrequent as once every two weeks but will vary depending on what size pot your plant is sitting in as well as how much warmth and light the plant is exposed to.
If you are unsure whether to water your plant, insert your finger into the soil. The top two to three inches of soil should be completely dry before you water.
A soil moisture meter, such as the Gouevn Soil Moisture Meter, can also be used and is suitable houseplants. This provides a more accurate and reliable way of measuring the moisture content of your soil.
When you water your succulent, thoroughly soak the soil. Allow the excess water to drain away before returning the plant to its normal position.
You may need to water the plant slightly more often when it is in flower.
Fertilizing a Flaming Katy
These are not heavy feeding plants. Apply a dose of balanced organic houseplant fertilizer once a month during the spring and summer. If you don’t want to use a chemical product, there are a number of natural houseplant fertilizers. These are just as effective as chemical and commercial products.
A top dressing of compost or worm castings every spring can also be applied. This provides the plants with enough nutrients to encourage flowering.
Don’t fertilize your plant in the fall or winter. This is the plant’s dormant period and is necessary for it to resume flowering in the spring.
If you are unsure whether or not to fertilize your houseplant, it may be better not to. Over fertilizing plants can lead to a salt build up in the soil. This burns the roots and causes brown spots to appear on the foliage.
Pruning and Pinching out
Over time Kalanchoe plants get leggy. Pinching out after flowering has finished helps to keep the plant more full.
Sometimes the foliage of your plant can become thick. Lightly pruning away some leaves gives the flowers more room to bloom.
As the plants grow their foliage can become very dense. Pruning away some of this foliage gives the flowers more room to flourish. Use a small, sharp garden scissors to prune your plants. Remember to always clean your tools after use to prevent disease spreading through your collection.
Encouraging Your Plant to Re-flower
Correctly caring for your plant helps to keep it healthy and encourages it to re-flower.
As the flowers fade, cut back and remove spent blooms. This stops the plant from wasting its energy trying to sustain the fading flowers. Keep the plant in a light position and water regularly.
Reduce watering in the fall. Apply a 0-10-10 fertilizer in later winter or just as buds begin to form. This promotes more flowering.
If your plant fails to flower, or if you want it to flower at a certain time, you can also force flowering.
Like the Poinsettia, the Kalanchoe is photoperiodic. This means that they require exposure to periods of darkness, about 12 to 14 hours every day, in order to flower. A failure to flower is often caused by keeping the plant in too light a position.
Time spent in the dark is vital if you want to encourage your plant to re-flower. When buds begin to set the plant can be returned to its usual light position.
To encourage or force flowering reduce watering and place the plant in a dark room or closet every night for 6 to 8 weeks. You can also cover the plant with a cardboard box.
Once buds begin to set, return the plant to its normal position and care routine.
Common Pests and Problems
As long as your plant is well looked after and not over watered, then this is a largely problem free houseplant.
Regularly check the foliage for signs of aphid or mealy bug infestation. Most infestations, especially if spotted early enough, can be easily removed with an application of homemade insecticidal soap.
Powdery mildew can sometimes occur if the plant is overwatered. Should this issue appear, allow the soil to dry out before watering again. You may also need to repot the plant into better draining soil. When you do resume watering, give the plant less water than previously.
How to Propagate
Kalanchoe can be propagated by taking stem cuttings or offsets.
While growing from seed is possible it can be difficult and time consuming. The other methods outlined below are easier and quicker.
Propagation is best done during either the spring or summer months. Do not attempt to propagate the plant when it is in flower.
Propagation by Stem Cuttings
Take cuttings from healthy parts of the plant. Each cutting should be 4 to 5 inches long. Strip away the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting.
Place the cutting in a dry position and allow a callus to form over the cut end. This can take about a week.
When the callus has formed, plant the cutting in a pot filled with a succulent or cactus mix. Dampen the mixture before planting the cutting.
Place the cutting in a small propagator in a light position. Avoid misting the plant during this time. Roots usually form within 3 weeks but can sometimes take a little longer.
Once roots have formed, grow the plant on, caring for it as you would a larger plant.
Propagation by Offsets
Many Kalanchoe varieties such as Pinnata and Mother of Thousands produce offsets along the edge of their leaves. To propagate these offsets either pick them from the leaf or wait for them to naturally fall before potting on.
Plant each plantlet in a small pot filled with succulent or well draining soil. Moisten the soil and place in a propagator in a light position. Continue to keep the soil moist until the offsets have grown by at least an inch in height.
Once the offsets have started to grow they can be removed from the propagator. Continue to care for the offsets as you would a larger Kalanchoe plant.
Some varieties produce offsets along the edge of their leaves. These can be removed and potted on as new plants
Easy to care for and pleasingly attractive, Kalanchoe is an ideal houseplant. Happy to flower during the spring, with a little extra care this most colorful of houseplants can be encouraged to repeat flower throughout the year.
Whether you are new to houseplant care, or looking to add something a little different to your collection a Kalanchoe is a great choice.