How To Care For Christmas Kalanchoe

Unhappy looking Kalanchoe

Unhappy looking Kalanchoe

Before I start cutting stems from my two and a half year old Christmas Kalanchoe and plunking them into dirt in an attempt to propagate it I figure I should find out how to properly care for it in case I’m successful.

As mentioned in my previous post the Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana (aka Christmas Kalanchoe, Florist Kalanchoe and I love this name – Flaming Katy) is a succulent native to Madagascar. It was introduced in Potsdam, Germany in 1932 by Robert Blossfeld thus it’s name. It produces clusters of small flowers above dark green, waxy leaves in single and double flowering varieties. The flowers come in many brilliant colours such as white, pink, fuchsia, red, yellow, orange, etc.

Basic Tips For Maintaining Healthy And Happy Kalanchoe

• Use a good draining potting mix like cactus or succulent soil.
• Allow the soil to dry to the touch before watering thoroughly.
• Place in very bright indirect light or even full sun if it’s unavoidable.
• Fertilize once a month (except during the darkness phase if you’re trying to re-flower). A balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer is ideal but make sure to dilute it.
• Prune back as much as you like after flowering season to encourage compact and bushy growth.

Watering and Soil
Kalanchoe need a quick draining potting mix such as a succulent or cactus soil. Alternatively, you can mix one part coarse sand with two parts potting soil. Perlite can also be used.

They should be watered thoroughly and a good method is to fill a sink with water and soak the pot until the soil stops releasing bubbles. Make sure there is at least one drainage hole in the pot for excess water to escape and never let the plant sit in water or get the leaves wet. Drain the plant completely and allow the soil to dry about a quarter of the way down between watering. The leaves can rot if overwatered or shrivel when under watered.

My Kalanchoe has have been very resilient to under watering as it’s very dry but still sprouting a few leaves. I can also attest to the shrivelling that results from under watering ;o) Kalanchoes are succulents so they don’t need misting and can tolerate low humidity.

Light
Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana is great for indoor window boxes, the more light the bigger and prettier the leaves are. The best spot for them is in a south or west facing window where they like very bright indirect light and can even tolerate full sun. Without enough light they become leggy, weak and may not flower. Hmmm… that sounds like another one of my problems! Kalanchoe thrives in moderate to warm temperatures in the 15-20o C range (60-70o F) and 5o C (10o F) cooler at night. They are frost sensitive and will only tolerate temperatures to 5-10o C (40s o F).

Flowering

Pink Kalanchoe buds.

Pink Kalanchoe buds.

The Kalanchoe is generally not a hobby plant. Instead it’s most often sold around Christmas time and tossed out in the Spring once the blooms have faded, just like the Poinsettia. However, with proper care they can be successfully brought back to flower the next season.

They are photoperiodic (also like the Poinsettia), meaning blossoming is dependent on periods of darkness. Beginning in mid September to encourage budding, give the plant 10 hours of daylight followed by 14 hours complete darkness (minimum 12 hours) every day, over a period of two to three months, during which no fertilizer is required. To achieve this put the Kalanchoe in a room or closet in the evening where no artificial light will be turned on and then return the plant to a high light location during the day. Any temperature over 25o C (80o F) or any light during the night darkness will negatively impact the bud setting process.

Once the new buds emerge above the leaves, the night darkness can be relaxed. Blooms should start in December and last 6-8 weeks. To encourage the plant to flower for an extended period, remove older flowers as they wither and new ones open. The flowers sprout from terminal stems so it’s beneficial to cut them below 1-2 sets of leaves to promote additional blooming during the winter months.

Pruning
After flowering season the Christmas Kalanchoe will enter a rest period. It’s a good idea to give it a major pruning at this point to help increase the diameter of the stems and to encourage compact and bushy growth. Cut the stems just above where two leaves meet and the stem will usually grow two new branches at the cut.

The plant will easily survive and thrive from cutting it back by more than half. That’s another thing I neglected to do since getting this plant over two years ago. I’m just starting to wrap my head around the concept of regenerating stems. We can’t re-grow limbs after all!

Re-pot if necessary by putting horticultural charcoal about 1-2″ deep at the bottom of the pot to absorb excess moisture and to keep the soil in good condition (thus avoiding root rot). Resume feeding once a month during the growing period (spring and summer). Any general houseplant fertilizer will do but a balanced 20-20-20 fertilizer is ideal (at half strength to prevent deformed leaf growth).

Happy looking Kalanchoes.

Happy looking Kalanchoes.

General Tips
House plant problems usually arise from light, water and soil conditions but Kalanchoe is a very hardy and forgiving plant which can tolerate most conditions (except over-watering). Symptoms of a distressed plant is usually leaf drop no matter what the underlying cause. As the Kalanchoe is more often over watered than under watered let that be your first assumption.

Kalanchoes are generally free from pests but occasionally get mealy bugs and aphids. The bugs are hard to see but cottony-white spots where leaves meet the stems are obvious signs. Avoid commercial pesticides as these can kill succulents. Instead, use a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol to wipe away the cotton. Check weekly and repeat as necessary.

Most people feel the Kalanchoe plant is attractive only in its first growing year so new plants are propagated from old ones and the old ones thrown away. If the appearance of my scrawny plant is an indication then let it be an example. I will try to propagate my leggy Kalanchoe and keep you posted.

Let me know your experiences with re-flowering or propagating any Christmas plants.

14 comments

  1. I discovered your blog last week and started follow your posts religiously. I have not commented on any blog just yet but I was thinking I would love to. It’s really exciting to actually contribute to a article even if it’s only a blog. I really don’t know exactly what to write other than I really enjoyed reading through 2 of the articles. Nice articles indeed. I sure will keep visiting your blog weekly. I learned quite a bit from you. Thx!

  2. Thanks! It’s always fun to share insights and experiences with people whether you’re a writer or a reader. I like your blog BTW.

  3. hi! I actually like the look of your Kalanchoe! i recieved a cutting from a friend two years ago, and it was really a beautiful stout thing in the first year, it never bloomed, but I love the greenery of this plant. 2 years later it is more like a tree, but i baby it, and it has nice full leaves, occasionally something will go wrong and they will start to dry out or fall, which baffles me beacuase i am very consistent with watering it, and it has well draining soil that gets watered thoroughly, and let to dry out. anywho, i have another plant that i recieved a year ago, the mother plant! and that thing is VERY leggy, it hangs out over the edge of its pot, but i like that as well, it gives off a wild feeling or soemthing! her apartment is really dark so i take it that is how it got its shape. I love my kalanchoes, i got one puny bloom last winter, and i tried as best as i could to give it the appropriate amounts of sun and darkness, nearly killed it…. and it looked like hell, but its good now, i think ill just appreciate the foliage from now on, its my favorite attribute anyway, the flowers are a mere bopnus for me. 🙂 nice post

  4. You’re lucky Brad! I’ve never gotten another flower from my plant. I gave a cutting to a friend who neglected it except for a bit of watering and it got a bloom as well. The mother plant became super leggy so I finally disposed of it. Haven’t figured out how to get the cuttings to branch either. Maybe I’ll try cutting one of them right down to see what happens…

  5. I just received this plant as a gift and it has beutiful full blooms of yellow, pink and orange. My dilemma is knowing how to care for it now as it is October. I would like to keep it blooming and have the blooms return so any tips you can give me would be great. My plans are to repot the 3 plants once the blooms die off in 3 separate pots (thanks to your blog I now know the correct soil and care) however if it is supposed to bloom around Xmas time how do I care for it if mine is blooming now?

  6. That’s a very good question Haley! I don’t know the answer to that but maybe another reader knows and will post a reply. In the meantime I’ll check around and see what i can find out for you.
    PS Your hairstyles look fabulous!

  7. Hi there, this is the second time I’m coming across your blog on my search of Christmas Kalanchoes. I got a couple from my mother-in-law very small earlier this year, I dont remember if I got them from her about to bloom, but I know they bloomed profusely. I pinched them back based on the many recommendations on the net when they started to get straggly. They have since grown huuuge, and I am really hoping that they will rebloom. Would love to show you what they look like 🙂 now.

  8. Thanks for stopping by and writing Audria! The cuttings that I planted over a year ago took root and have grown nicely albeit slowly and at different speeds. They have not sprung any new branches which I was hoping for to make them fuller. I pinched one of them back and little leaves are sprouting :o)

    That’s fantastic your plant has grown! Yes, I’d love to see pictures of how it’s turned out! Feel free to email your pictures to me at donnasjunkmail(at)unscriptedmind(dot)com and let me know how tall it is now! I’ll even try to post them to your comment.

  9. This is my first attempt to flower the red flowered “mother” Kalanchoe from last year, so thought I would double check for darkness for Christmas blooms. I may have missed the deadline.

    What I wanted to mentioned was the mother plants produced a lot of babies after I trimmed it back last year. There were actually roots forming on the starts. So I clipped them w/roots attached, used rooting hormone to speed up the rooting process, planted them in peat pots and put them in plastic container from baby lettuce/bakery/plastic McD glasses for humidity. Later, I planted 3 in each pot as 7″dia x 4″deep pot, just like the mother plants was in. Sadly only had 1 of 3 mother plant that lived (probably overwatered it), so I repotted it in the same size sterilized pot, making sure it was slightly wider than the roots. I had them outside most of the summer, with morning sun and protection from afternoon sun, as it gets very hot in eastern WA. I only watered with either water or weak solution of miracle grow fertilizer when the dirt was dry 1-1.5″ deep . They all look very good and healthy. I gave one pot with babies to a friend.

    Wish me luck on getting them to bloom!

  10. That’s awesome Cathy! Isn’t it fun to share the baby plants with friends? Propagating stem cuttings from Kalanchoes seems to be a fairly straight forward process. The first time I let the cuttings sit away from the sun for approximately 5 days to “scab over” a bit before putting them into moist soil. They took root and continued growing upwards but I eventually threw out the mother plant as it remained really leggy even though it did grow some new leaves. I’ve also seen a single leaf fall off one of the stems and land upright in the soil and take root on it’s own.

    In a recent experiment I cut one of those young’ins down to a 3″ stalk to see if I could get it to branch out. I put the leafy stem portion directly into the same pot and it rooted with no problem. The old bare stalk is finally growing new shoots – my hope is to see them branch out!

    Getting the Kalanchoe to bloom is another story. I have yet to attempt it but as mentioned in a previous comment I gave a baby plant to friend who left it in solarium and it bloomed one flower. So who knows what inspires them? Good luck with your plants and let me know if they blossom!

  11. They’ll grow from leaf cuttings, too…though they take a little longer to mature.
    You can even get up to 6 plants per leaf!

  12. Thanks for stopping by John. Funny you mention that – I usually leave leaves that have fallen to dry out but a couple have taken root just recently. They’re starting to grow and I never would have thought this would happen. We’ll have to see how many plants will grow out of them… Do you know how to make them bushy? Mine seem to grow upwards from a single stem.

  13. Glad I saw this article. I do have a question if you can answer. My kalanchoe looks just like the one in the article so I will definitely plan to change the soil, increase my watering, and prune BUT…..my kalanchoe has started growing thorns over the last year……is this normal? Does this mean anything? Is it a mutant plant?

  14. Glad you found this article helpful. I have not heard of thorns growing but you might be referring to small hair like growths which are actually new roots. This is quite normal. You can clip the branches with these ‘baby’ roots and put them into soil to grow a new plant.

    Good luck with your kalanchoe and let me know how it goes if you try it!

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