Kalanchoe is popular with gardeners for a variety of reasons. House plant growers enjoy having it in their collections for the long-lasting bloom heads that appear in the cold of winter. Those in warmer climates appreciate its drought-tolerance, making it great in rock gardens and xeriscaping. Growing kalanchoe is pretty easy, but there are a few tips that will make it even easier.
First up: How to pronounce this troublesome plant name! The Botanary at Dave’s Garden says it’s “kal-un-KOH-ee,” and also notes that the name comes from the Chinese for one of the species. There are over 125 species in this genus, but the one you’re most likely to come across in grocery store florist sections or houseplant nurseries is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana. It’s native to Madagascar, and was brought to the rest of the world in 1932 by the botanist Robert Blossfeld. Due to its extreme cold sensitivity, kalanchoe is best-suited as a houseplant in most climates, and has become a very popular one.
Growing kalanchoe indoors is fairly simple, since the temperature range it requires (60 – 85 degrees F) is basically the same as most people. It needs well-draining soil; over-watering or letting it sit in wet soil can cause root rot. The plants are usually sold in the winter or early spring, while in their natural bloom cycle. The flowers are long-lasting, but once they fade, you can trim the heads to better enjoy the succulent foliage. Lots of bright sunlight will keep this plant healthy throughout the summer months, whether it’s growing indoors or out.
One of the more challenging parts of growing kalanchoe can be getting it to re-bloom. Kalanchoe is what’s known as a short-day plant, meaning it needs extended periods of complete night-time darkness to form buds. (Poinsettias and Christmas Cactus are also short-day plants.) If you’re growing kalanchoe outdoors (in zones 9 – 11), the natural day-night cycle will take care of this for you. Look for buds to start forming in winter and early spring. When growing kalanchoe as a houseplant, you may have to help it along. If the room where you keep it experiences a lot of artificial light in the evenings, change the location to allow a more natural light cycle in the fall, until the buds appear. (Get more information here.)
Kalanchoe is fun to share with friends, as it grows well from cuttings and sometimes even sets new buds on the edges of the leaves. With the wide array of kalanchoe colors and flowers available, you can start a collection in no time at all.