Flowering kalanchoe plants are reasonably low-maintenance houseplants that draw you in at the garden center because of the numerous, cheerful, tiny flowers. Though the foliage is nice, it would be surprising to see these plants being sold when they’re not in bloom. Often these poor indoor plants are discarded after bloom time. Paying a little bit of attention to kalanchoe care will ensure your plants thrive year-round—and rebloom for you.
Bearing in mind that there are multiple varieties of Kalanchoe, such as panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa), paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora), and mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana), among others, I’m going to focus on the flowering kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) that you find at the garden center, grocery store, or nurseries, usually in late fall and early winter when you’ll also find familiar flowering plants like anthuriums and cyclamen for sale.
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is often simply labeled with “Kalanchoe” as the common name on plant tags. It is also called flaming Katy, Christmas kalanchoe (because of the time of year you see it in stores), florist kalanchoe, and widow’s thrill.
The plant was discovered in Madagascar by botanist Robert Blossfeld, hence the eponymous “blossfeldiana” part of the name. Because of its origins, the plant will grow outdoors in a warm climate (about zone 9 and up), but anyone in lower zones enjoys growing it as a houseplant. Kalanchoe is an upright plant that grows to be almost eight inches (about 20 centimetres) in both width and height. The great thing is kalanchoe blooms are not fleeting. They will last for up to eight weeks.
Be sure to keep your kalanchoe plants away from pets as they are toxic if eaten.
A kalanchoe care must: Finding the right light
Kalanchoes come in a range of colors to suit your décor—and your flower pots—from white, yellow, orange, and red, to pink and magenta. Plant breeding has yielded some interesting petal details, as well. Generally you’ll see these plants in varying sizes around the holidays, among other festive houseplants, like poinsettias, cyclamen, and Thanksgiving cactus.
Kalanchoes crave a lot of natural light, so be sure to place your houseplant in a bright area. In the winter, especially, choose a west- or south-facing window.
If you’ve brought home a plant that is already blooming, you can get away with placing it somewhere that gets a bit less light to help prolong the blooming period. At this point it can tolerate cooler conditions. In general, ideal temperatures for kalanchoe grown indoors is about 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit (15.5 to 29 Celsius). Through the summer months, keep them in a warm, sunny window.
Watering your kalanchoe
Because they are succulent plants, kalanchoes can be a bit forgiving if you forget to water. Allow the soil to dry out completely between watering. Wait until the first few inches/centimetres of soil are dry before watering your plant.
Avoid getting water on the leaves as that can lead to blemishes, and potentially rot.
Bottom watering your plant ensures that it gets the water it needs through capillary action, while protecting the leaves. Just be sure to avoid leaving the plant in water. Give it a drink and then put it back in its usual spot.
If the leaves start to wilt and appears to be limp, it’s possible you are underwatering your kalanchoe. Overwatering can lead to the same result. Overwatering can also lead to root rot, so do keep an eye on the base of the plant through the foliage, so you can easily spot problems before they get worse.
Fertilizing your kalanchoe
How to prolong kalanchoe blooms—and encourage them to rebloom
Deadheading all those small flowers on a kalanchoe will encourage more flowering. Use a sharp, clean pair of scissors to snip away blooms at the base of the cluster. When kalanchoe is not in bloom, it has nice succulent foliage that you can display among other houseplants.
To get your kalanchoe plant to rebloom for you, you’ll need to trick the plant by exposing it to lower light levels that mimic shorter days. This is why it’s referred to as a “short-day plant,” just like your Thanksgiving cactus. Time this with the changing of the seasons as the days get shorter in the late fall. Over the course of about a month, water the plant less, if at all. Expose the plants to only about eight or nine hours of light a day. You can put it in a closet in complete darkness for the rest of the time. Once you start to see flower buds, move the houseplant back to its bright light position. You can also resume watering the plant.
Potential pest issues
The most common indoor plant pests that could afflict your kalanchoe includes scale, mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites. This article on types of houseplant bugs provides tips on spotting and dealing with all three pests.
Repotting a kalanchoe
If your kalanchoe outgrows its pot, or you want to add it to something a little nicer than your standard garden center plastic, wait until the plant has finished flowering before moving it. Choose a pot that is slightly larger than the current one and make sure it has drainage holes. The soil needs to drain thoroughly between watering to avoid rotting.
Use a potting soil formulated for succulents that contains a bit of grit so that it drains well between watering. You could also add a bit of perlite or vermiculite to a houseplant potting soil, which will help with drainage.
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