Kalanchoe (Widow’s-thrill) – Care, Growing, Watering, Requirements, Propagation

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Kalanchoe (Widow's-thrill)
Kalanchoe (Widow’s-thrill)

Kalanchoe plants are popular for their interestingly shaped leaves and beautiful blooms. There are hundreds of plants in this genus, but not all are available in cultivation.

Kalanchoe plants are succulents native to dry areas, making the plant resistant to drought. These are not finicky plants and you can easily get the hang of tending to them.

Growing these plants indoors comes with a few important recommendations that I’m going to discuss below.

Kalanchoe Plant Care Tips

Growing flowering Kalanchoe plants is a rewarding experience. Here’s what you need to know about these plants to help them thrive in your home:

Plant Size

Knowing the size Kalanchoe plants reach at maturity will help you pick an ideal location for them in your home as well as a suitable pot.

Kalanchoe plants grow to 6-12 inches tall and to about 6 inches wide. Bigger varieties are also available but for the most part, Kalanchoe varieties available in the flower trade stay small.

Therefore, you don’t need a large pot for them, and you can place them nearly anywhere, where light conditions are ideal for this plant.

Light Requirements

Kalanchoe plants thrive in high light conditions. Sunny windowsills and the brightest rooms of your home should be prime locations for these plants.

If brightness is hard to come by in your home, you’ll need to supplement the plant’s light requirements with fluorescent lights.

These are the light requirements during the growing period of this plant. These requirements change in the blooming or reblooming phase.

A different proportion of light and darkness must be achieved during this period. Kalanchoe plants become short-day plants during the blooming season, needing quite a bit of darkness over light.

The shorter days and longer nights typical of winter means that you can enjoy Kalanchoe blooms in winter too.

If winters in your area aren’t gloomy enough, you can artificially block the light by placing a box over the plant for 14-16 hours. Do this for 4-6 weeks until you notice flower buds forming.

Watering

Kalanchoe Watering
Kalanchoe Watering

Kalanchoe plants that grow indoors should be watered when the top 3-4 inches of soil dries out. Plants that grow outside will not usually need extra watering as they do well with water that the rain provides.

Newly planted Kalanchoes should be watered to keep the soil moist until they become established.

When watering, add water only to the base of the plant to avoid getting water on the leaves, which promotes fungal diseases.

Temperature & Humidity

The temperature range considered ideal for Kalanchoe plants is between 65 F and 85 F degrees. Native to tropical and subtropical regions, outside temperatures should be above 45 F degrees for the Kalanchoe plant to survive outdoors.

Frost protection is crucial since the plant does not tolerate the cold. If you’re growing these plants outdoors, you’ll need to take them inside as soon as temperatures reach 45 F degrees.

The plant does well in arid conditions, humidity is not a requirement and highly humid rooms will cause issues.

Soil Type

As with most succulents a well-draining, well-aerated soil is essential to the health of Kalanchoe plants. Although I have had some success using ordinary potting soil mix, the best results I’ve noticed using a combination of 50% peat moss and 40% perlite. Alternatively, you can use cactus mix soil to amend a heavy soil and improve aeration and drainage.

I keep my kalanchoe plant in a clay pot with drainage holes on the bottom, but plastic pots will do fine as well.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing is not crucial, but it can benefit the plant and aid in blooming. Fertilize during the growing season. You can use liquid fertilizer or slow-release pellets, but limit feeding to once a month.

Potting & Repotting

Kalanchoe Potting Repotting
Kalanchoe Potting Repotting

Because they’re slow growing plants, Kalanchoes don’t need to be repotted often. Even so, it’s a good idea to refresh the soil, so replant as needed.

When replanting, choose a pot that is 2 inches larger than the pot that’s currently housing the plant and choose a soil type that works best for these succulents.

When repotting, make sure to pinch down any dark brown or mushy roots. Water well. Once you’re done with the repotting, place the plant in a sunny window so it can receive around 4 hours of direct sun daily.

Kalanchoe Plant Propagation

Kalanchoe plants can be propagated from stem cuttings, which root the quickest. Make sure your stem cutting is around 2-3 inches. Remove the bottom leaves and allow plant the cutting in pre-moistened soil.

Cover the pot with a transparent plastic which will conserve moisture and create a greenhouse effect, allowing the plant to root in 14 to 21 days.

Make sure you keep the covered pot in a warm location out of direct sunlight. Once the plant has rooted, you can transplant it into its final pot.

To prevent rotting of the stem or fungus to develop, before planting it, keep it in a dry location for a callus to form, and only then put it under a plastic cover.

Different Types of Kalanchoe Plants

Different Types of Kalanchoe Plants
Different Types of Kalanchoe Plants

Whether you’re looking for a flowering variety or a hanging variety, here are my top Kalanchoe plant recommendations:

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

As the most common variety available, you’re bound to find this plant at any flower shop. It’s known for its large flowerheads that come in a variety of colors including red, orange, pink, yellow, and white.

Kalanchoe manginii

With fleshy, rounded leaves and urn-shaped flowers, this distinctive Kalanchoe variety grows 12 inches tall and 12 inches wide.

Its flowers are red orange to bright red and leaves also turn reddish if the plant is kept in bright sun. The plant is suitable for hanging baskets.

Kalanchoe beharensis

Native to Madagascar, this plant is recognizable for its velvety, large and fleshy leaves. The leaves feature fang-like protuberances on the underside. Mature plants produce, long-stalked, urn-shaped plants that form small clusters.

Flowers are red-orange or greenish. However, the plant’s leaves are far more interesting than its flowers and it’s mostly grown for its peculiar leaves.

Kalanchoe porphyrocalyx

If you want a hanging Kalanchoe variety, the K. porphyrocalyx is an ideal choice. It produces large, pendant flowers that come in purple or pink.

Kalanchoe pinnata

Also known as the miracle plant for its pharmacological activity, the plant has scalloped leaves with red margins. The plant produces colorful, long-lasting flowers.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Another peculiar variety, this plant has spear-shaped leaves with baby plantlets growing on its edges. For this reason, this plant is also called ‘Mother of Millions’.

There are many more Kalanchoe varieties that you may find in the flower trade. Bear in mind that the growing requirements may vary from species to species, so make sure to check the requirements of your chosen variety.

Kalanchoe Plant FAQs

As a beginner gardener or a novice to Kalanchoe plants, you may have a lot of questions about this plant. Here are some more growing tips and solutions to common problems:

How do I get my Kalanchoe Plant to Bloom Again?

Kalanchoe Plant Flower
Kalanchoe Plant Flower

Some decide to discard a Kalanchoe plant after the first bloom. Don’t do that. You can make your Kalanchoe bloom again by manipulating lighting conditions. The first step is to cut the amount of light the plant gets during the day.

You can place a box over the plant to deprive it of light for a 14-hour period, daily for around 6 weeks or until flower buds appear. Essentially, with this technique, you can force the plant to bloom at a specific time.

Are Kalanchoe Plants Toxic?

The ASPCA website lists the Kalanchoe plant among the plants that are toxic to cats and dogs, so keep them out of reach if you have pets. Ingestion of the plant can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Why are my Kalanchoe Leaves Curling?

Curling leaves on a Kalanchoe plant is usually a sign that your plant is in distress. Curling leaves can be caused by lack of water, fungal disease if other signs are present too (e.g. black spots appearing on leaves), or exposure to low temperatures.

Can Kalanchoe Plants be Grown Outdoors?

Yes, Kalanchoe plants do very well outdoors too if temperatures in your region are within the range acceptable for these plants. If you’re keeping them in pots outside during the summer, you can transfer them indoors if temperatures drop.

Conclusion

Kalanchoes are wonderful houseplants that are immediately recognizable for their colorful clusters of flowers. They’re not a hardy plant, but they’re also not difficult to grow and are generally considered low maintenance.

You can group different varieties together to create beautiful arrangements. Just give them plenty of light during the growing season and make sure they’re kept safe from frost, cold windows and cold drafts.

Watering this plant is also a problem area, especially if you’re not accustomed to the watering needs of succulents. Checking the soil for dryness every time before watering can help you to avoid inadvertently overwater the plants.

All in all, if you follow these guidelines and the guidelines specific to your Kalanchoe variety of choice, you won’t encounter issues with growing this plant.

Updated: January 29, 2020

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