How to Care for Kalanchoe—and Get the Most Vibrant Blooms
Succulents are popular for a reason: Their thick, fleshy leaves make a statement, and they're notoriously easy to take care of. If you want to add a new succulent to your plant family, consider the kalanchoe, a perennial, flowering plant that can live happily either inside or outdoors in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 to 12 (check your zone here).
Like some other succulents, this one blossoms once a year for a few months—but to reap this colorful reward, you'll need to take good care of your kalanchoe plants. Here's what you need to know about how to grow and care for kalanchoe, according to plant experts.
There are many different types of kalanchoe, but the ones you bring home from a home improvement store or nursery typically require the same kind of care. When you're caring for a kalanchoe, follow these steps to ensure a happy, healthy plant.
Kalanchoe prefer bright light. According to Tim Pollak, assistant manager and outdoor floriculturist of plant production at the Chicago Botanic Garden, kalanchoe can tolerate direct, unfiltered light indoors (the perfect plant for a sunny window) or full sun outside.
Choose a well-draining soil that won't hold too much water for your kalanchoe. John Saltiel, a gardener at the United States Botanic Garden, says a loamy soil, which consists of equal parts silt, sand, and clay, works well whether your kalanchoe is kept indoors or outside. A succulent or cactus mix can also work—just avoid regular garden soil or peat moss, which tend to stay moist. Always choose a pot with a drainage hole, so water doesn't stay stagnant around the roots and rot the plant.
Kalanchoe adapted to arid desert climates, so too much water can be damaging. Only water yours when the soil is completely dry an inch or two down—this might be every several days, once a week, or more. "If it gets too much water, the roots and stem will rot, and it'll start to collapse," says Pollak. If you plant kalanchoe outside, plant it in a window box or container, where you can better control the moisture levels.
Temperature and Humidity
Low humidity levels are best for kalanchoe, so try to keep them in a dry area (this isn't a bathroom plant, says Pollak). As for temperature, anywhere from 60 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit is fine—but the warmer, the better. "It can tolerate cool temperatures, but they prefer to be on the warmer side," says Pollak. For that reason, Saltiel suggests bringing kalanchoe indoors anytime you anticipate below-freezing temps.
Only fertilize kalanchoe during the vegetative season (usually during the non-winter months), when their stems are growing but they don't have flowers. Any simple houseplant fertilizer works, Pollak says—just follow the instructions on the product label. Saltiel recommends more frequent, diluted concentrations when it comes to fertilizing kalanchoe.
How to Propagate Kalanchoe
The best way to multiply your kalanchoe, according to Pollak, is through a stem cutting. Only propagate a kalanchoe when it's in a vegetative state (when the plant is actively growing, with no flowers).
- Choose a healthy stem. Identify a healthy stem that has at least two leaves, and cut above a leaf or node (the bumpy point where stems and leaves originate). Pollak recommends cutting a 2- or 3-inch stem.
- Allow the stem to callous. Before planting, allow the bottom of the stem to fully dry for a few days. The callousing process prevents disease and root rot.
- Plant the cutting. Stick the cutting, callous down, in succulent mix or perlite. "Being a succulent, this plant doesn't want to be too wet, so you don't want to put it into water directly," Pollak says.
- Mist the plant. Once you plant the cutting, mist it regularly with water. Don't allow the soil to dry out completely while the cutting is taking root. Within a week or so, Pollak says the cutting should be rooted.
Types of Kalanchoe
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana: Nicknamed the Christmas kalanchoe, this type of kalanchoe is among the most popular. It's typically sold around Christmas time, as it blooms when the days are shorter.
- Kalanchoe daigremontiana: Saltiel says this type, which forms tiny plantlets on the leaf margins, is among the easiest to grow and propagate. When the plantlets fall, they grow new plants. Simply place one on soil, as you would a germinated seed, and wait for it to root.
- Kalanchoe pinnata: Known for its bright green, scalloped leaves, this kalanchoe also grows plantlets. In some cultures, Saltiel says the plant is used as a spice.
- Kalanchoe thyrsiflora: This kalanchoe, also known as a paddle plant, grows rose-like flat and round leaves. This kalanchoe dies once it flowers, but it lives on through offsets. "You never have an issue with it fully dying because there are always 10 or 20 more coming up around it," Saltiel says.
- Kalanchoe tomentosa: Known for its unique, hairy appearance, this type of kalanchoe is adapted to conserve water—so Saltiel says it's important not to over-water.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is kalanchoe poisonous to dogs or cats?
Yes: Saltiel says kalanchoe is poisonous to animals, including cats and dogs, so it's best to keep them out of curious pets' reach and use caution outside if you have livestock.
How long does kalanchoe live?
Every kalanchoe is different, but in general, these slow-growing succulents can survive as long as you meet their needs. And because they're so easy to propagate, kalanchoe can live extra long lives through stem cuttings or offsets.