More than 130 species belong to the genus Kalanchoe (Calancoe) which fall into the category of ornamental plants, perfect for growing in pots in the apartment, most appreciated for their flowering and ease of cultivation. A few precautions are enough to admire the abundant and elegant flowering of the Kalanchoe. Small and colorful: this is the best way to describe them.
They adapt perfectly to any type of home environment, giving a touch of color to the home. They are so small that they can be safely placed on small dividing walls, on tables or on any other element of the amendment.
Kalanchoes are succulent plants, but to see them from afar it would seem a wrong classification. It is only by approaching and observing the fleshy leaves with greater attention that one realizes that the position in the family of succulent plants of Crassulaceae is not at all wrong. The leaves are rich in water and retain it to survive for a long time in the areas of origin, where the climate is warm for most of the year.
With the genus Gymnocalycium and with the genus Stapelia we have understood that even succulents and cacti have every right to be part of the beautiful flowering plants. The genus Kalanchoe also joins this fascinating group, whose identity card is rich in colors. Perennial species with a bushy appearance, but which give birth to beautiful small flowers and bright colors. The fleshy triangular or elliptical leaves, supported by fleshy shrubby or climbing stems, form the background of the flowers formed by four petals, usually red, white or pink.
Small, perennials, with shiny and shaded leaves in shades of green, with small colored flowers that are easy to grow: that’s why they are considered the perfect ornamental plants for the home!
Main species and varieties
The Kalanchoe genus, of the Crassulaceae family, includes many species (there are more than 130) originating in Madagascar, South America, some regions of southern Africa, India and China. Here are the most known and widespread species.
This is the species most requested by lovers of this genus of succulents. It does not exceed 30cm in height and 20cm in diameter, so a small pot can be good to see it grow without problems. It has beautiful deep green leaves and flowers that can have the most intense shades of yellow and orange, that is, they can be pink or white. Flowering usually occurs in the spring or early summer.
It is very easy to grow, but to have an always abundant and enchanting bloom it is always necessary to cut the withered flowers. To preserve its precious decorative aspect, even dry leaves must always be eliminated, to push the plant towards a new vegetative phase. Long-lasting flowering has earned Kalanchoe blossfeldiana a place on the list of most requested ornamental houseplants.
Little water, particularly draining substratum and temperatures never below 10 or 12 ° C: these are the only requests for this beautiful species. It is a perfect plant for the home not only because it is an added value to the amendment, but also because the leaves are able to capture some harmful substances present in the air, such as formaldehyde. Do we include this species in the list of 50 plants that purify the air? We certainly put it in the group of plants of happiness: K. Blossfeldiana is also known as a smile plant because with its delicate shapes and bright colors it helps to find a good mood.
Sturdy succulent, with erect and little branched growth habit, which can even reach one meter in height (it is difficult, but not impossible). The leaves are larger than those of the species described above and can even reach 20cm in length. The margins of the leaves are toothed and along them spread some propagules (small green spheres which, falling, produce a new seedling, as happens for ferns). Precisely for this reason, she is known as “mother of millions”, from the English “Mother of Millions”. The color of the leaves is bright green (or bronze) in the upper part, while gray or brown in the lower page. The colors of the flowers are not as flashy as those of Kalanchoe blossfeldiana and vary in shades of gray and purple.
It is a plant native to Madagascar and can also be safely grown in our country, putting into practice very few precautions. It is a species of easy cultivation, just like Aloe. The flowers of K. daigremontiana last for many months, but flowering takes place not earlier than the second year of life of the plant.
Properties of Kalanchoe daigremontiana: a juice used in natural compounds for the treatment of inflammatory diseases and allergies is extracted from the tissues of the plant. In addition, it is a plant with incredible antioxidant properties.
Species with a branched growth habit that grows more in width: it does not exceed 10cm in height. It is characterized by a dense hair that gives the leaves a bright silvery-white color. Although very small, this plant stands out, both for its shapes and for the particular variable color. The color of the leaves turns light red (in winter) when the plant is reached by the sun’s rays. The flowers are pink, delicate, and with 4 petals (with yellow shades in the center). Flowering occurs in the spring.
It may seem a very delicate and difficult to grow plant, but it is absolutely not so, as it follows the trend of the other members of the genus, all with 5 stars as regards the ease of cultivation. To protect the plant it is advisable to choose bright environments, to irrigate constantly (without ever abounding in doses), and to place it in a sheltered place when temperatures drop below 12 ° C.
A perennial plant with small dimensions: hardly exceeds 35cm in height. It is highly appreciated as an ornamental indoor plant for the colors of the obovate leaves and the shape of the flowers. The leaves are green in color with red margins, while the pendulous flowers and bright shades of red or orange. Flowering occurs in summer and the particular panicle inflorescences give the plant a decidedly different appearance to that of the other species described so far.
Small succulent with low and slow growth, which presents itself with a large rosette of green or gray leaves and up to 10cm long. Clearly visible spots of brown color break the green-gray base of the leaves (with red spots). The flowers grow on an inflorescence that develops upwards and are purple or green in color. The form of this species resembles that of the K. fedtschenkoi at first sight.
In order not to have problems, it is better to place it in very bright places, even during the summer season, while in winter it is advisable to strictly opt for southern exposure and for an environment with temperatures always above 10 ° C. The flowers, beautiful in colors, last a long time and make their appearance in the spring.
A small shrub that does not exceed 50cm in height: a limit that the plant reaches not earlier than 3 years. It is an ornamental plant native to Madagascar and not very resistant to low temperatures and, for this reason, we only recommend growing it in a pot in the apartment. It has a branched and bushy habit and the leaves are beautiful light green with a non-linear border. The flowers are very characteristic: small white clusters positioned on inflorescences that develop in height. When they open, I take the shape of a small daisy. Certainly, the Calancoe millotii does not stand out for the bright colors of the flowers, but it certainly does not go unnoticed for the shapes of the same.
How to describe this species? We use the adjective “strange”, choosing it not by chance. The shapes are really very particular and make this plant fascinating. It does not exceed 30cm in height and has the same cultivation characteristics as the other species, but stands out for these by the shapes and color of the leaves. The latter does not have a well-defined shape (we can define them rhomboid or fan-shaped) and are green-silver in color, with showy brown spots. They develop along sprawling and woody branches. The flowers are pale yellow in color. A very interesting species, also because it is very easy to grow.
We have described the Calancoe as indoor ornamental plants, but some species can also be grown in the ground in the garden, obviously with the right climatic conditions. K. rotundifolia is one of those species suitable for outdoor cultivation, in places where the climate is mild even in winter.
It is impossible not to notice even from afar the orange and tubular flowers (even if small in size), which develop along thin inflorescences and between fleshy leaves grouped at the base. The name rotundifolia refers to the shape of the leaves. It can also be grown safely in the apartment, but only in very bright environments.
Species that can resist well even to long periods of drought and that stands out for its foliage. It is the perfect plant to insert in a small rock garden or to give a touch of color in the house. It can also bloom well in areas of partial shade: the serrated leaves are dark green, which turns red when grown in areas with little light. The stems are hanging, since the growing leaves can become quite heavy. Spring flowers are very small and tubular and grow on tall, branched inflorescences.
Ornamental succulent plant for which we recommend only the pot cultivation in the apartment. Its maximum height is about 40cm and has beautiful fleshy, wide and rounded leaves, which are grouped into neat and compact rosettes. They are covered with a thin waxy veil and are greyish-green in color, with darker shades (tending to red) on the edges.
The flowers develop at the end of high inflorescences, which start from the center of the rosette, and are tubular and pink, white, yellow, or red in color. This species, when grown indoors, usually blooms in winter.
Species native of Madagascar which looks like a small succulent shrub. The fleshy leaves are covered with thin white hair (tomentum), which gives them a velvety and soft touch. The margins are darker in color. Usually, it does not exceed 50cm in height. Flowering occurs in the spring. The bell-shaped flowers are yellow or green in color.
Perennial plant also native to Madagascar. It has an erect bearing and can even reach a meter in height, therefore it differs from other species precisely because of its size. The leaves are cylindrical and can reach 15cm in length. They are light green in color and have clearly visible dark spots. Adventitious plants develop on the leaves (i.e. those that develop the roots on the stem or on the leaves) that can be used safely for the multiplication of the species. Flowering is winter and the flowers are yellow, orange, or red.
Species are native to central and western Africa. It is an erect perennial succulent that usually does not exceed 40cm in height. The glaucous leaves are spotted with violet and have nonlinear margins. Graceful four-petal flowers that occur during the season before summer. It is a plant that prefers cultivation in closed, bright, and constant temperature environments. It suffers particularly when temperatures drop below 12 ° C. The name refers directly to the large leaves, almost as smooth as marble.
For the very particular shapes we can define her as a nice and cheeky group. It is a perennial succulent native to Madagascar with delicate ovate and bright green leaves. The shapes are very different from those seen for the other species (it can be grown as an indoor pendant) and the pendulous flowers (which develop on long and slender inflorescences) occur in summer, wearing a nice red suit. In full sun the leaves can slightly change color.
Spring? Summer? Autumn? Winter? The flowering of Kalanchoe, as well as being flashy for the colors and delicate for the shapes, can take place all year round. In practice, depending on the species, flowering can take place during all seasons (more numerous species that bloom in spring and summer).
The flowers can be stellar or tubular in shape and are gathered in showy and decorative terminal tufts. Many colors (yellow, white, pink, salmon, pale orange, red or purple, also in various shades) ready to give a touch of joy and freshness in the dullest environments. A necessary condition to be able to admire the Calancoe in bloom is light: all species need many hours of light during the day. After flowering, the plant must be pruned without mercy: it is the only way to encourage its subsequent development and to obtain a beautiful bloom again.
Tips for growing Kalanchoe
The Kalanchoe is very easy to grow plants and although the genus includes many different species and which can bloom in any season, common tips for all can be followed.
Let’s see how to take care of Kalanchoe.
Cultivation in pots
These succulent plants hardly exceed 30cm in height, so you don’t need a large pot (preferably terracotta).
Kalanchoe is quite resistant plants and with the cultivation, in pots, an excellent result is guaranteed from an ornamental point of view. The pot can be safely placed on terraces and balconies, preferably with southern exposure, but during the colder seasons, it is recommended to move the plant to sheltered places (they do not particularly like low temperatures). The substrate must be light and the humidity level must be kept low enough, as succulent plants.
In the lower part of the pot, it is always good to put a part of sand to facilitate the drainage of the water. The repotting must take place every year (even every two years, because the growth is very slow, but the whole must be evaluated from time to time) at the end of flowering.
Cultivation in open ground
We have described the Calancoe as ornamental indoor plants, but the possibility of growing them in the garden is not totally excluded. For cultivation in open ground, it is recommended to choose a place of partial shade (even if they are plants that love light, it is better not to overdo it with direct exposure to sunlight).
Kalanchoes love the heat and resist relatively low temperatures, but never below 5-7 ° C. Several species can survive near-zero temperatures for short times, but none really tolerate frost. During the winter it is necessary to move the plants to warmer and sheltered places. That’s why pot cultivation is recommended. Also in the home, it is necessary to pay attention and never let your guard down. Air currents can weaken the plant, making the leaves turn yellow and dry.
“Trust is good, not trusting is better”! The Kalanchoe have a lot of faith in the sun, but the latter could play bad jokes. All species belonging to the genus in question love the light (for many hours a day), but the direct rays of the sun could cause serious problems.
In the house, it is good to choose very bright environments, while in the garden it is better to choose half-shade positions (the less strong shelter of other plants is perfect for creating an ideal bright shadow condition for Kalanchoes). On the terrace or on the windowsill it is recommended to choose an east or west exposure, while in winter and autumn a south exposure.
The ideal substrate for the cultivation of Calancoe must be fertile, light, and very draining since water stagnation can damage these splendid succulents. For pot cultivation, it is recommended to create a layer (on the bottom of the container) of coarse sand, expanded clay or pumice stone, all materials that allow water to not stagnate and flow away. A good quality soil for succulent plants (with blond peat) may be fine.
The waterings are of fundamental importance for the cultivation of Kalanchoe. Like all succulents, they do not require large quantities of water, but the irrigations must be regular and constant. It is always advisable to check the soil moisture level before proceeding: only when the substrate is completely dry is it possible to administer water to the plant.
In summer and spring: water the Calancoe every 7 or at most 10 days (or simply as soon as the soil has completely dried);
In winter and autumn: water every 2 weeks approximately.
It is better to irrigate with not cold water and without ever wetting the leaves directly (the rots are ready to attack them), but paying maximum attention to drop the vital liquid only at the base of the plant, directly into the ground.
Kalanchoe multiplication can take place:
per seed: the seeds must be planted in a substrate composed of soil for succulents and river sand. This operation must be completed in the period between February and April. The container must be placed in a shaded place and where it is possible to control the temperature, which must be kept constant and around 20 °. The container must be covered with a transparent plasticized sheet, so as to create the perfect level of humidity. After germination, the seedlings can be moved to their final pot.
By cutting: simpler operation, as it is enough to take a cutting without flowers of about 8cm and let it dry for a maximum of one or two days. The cutting must then be planted in a pot containing the same substrate described above. It is possible to protect the cutting with a small plasticized sheet, always to obtain the perfect level of humidity. The pot must be placed in a sheltered place and with constant temperature (as it happens by multiplication by seed) and only when the shoots appear will it be possible to eliminate the cloth and take care of the seedling in a normal way.
Kalanchoes are semi-virus plants and quite resistant, but they still need regular and balanced fertilization to grow vigorously and to show all the beauty of their flowering. Fertilization must take place regularly in spring and summer, intervening every 15 days, using liquid fertilizers for succulents. In autumn and winter fertilization must be suspended. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc are the macroelements and microelements that the plant needs. A good fertilizer must have high percentages of the elements just mentioned.
It is possible to intervene immediately after flowering, eliminating dry leaves and withered flowers. They are not plants that develop uncontrollably, therefore pruning interventions can be limited to the operations just described. Pruning is very important to prevent diseases, to keep the habit orderly, to facilitate the plant in its vegetative restart and subsequent flowering.
Pests, diseases and other adversities
All species of the genus Kalanchoe are very resistant and are hardly attacked by parasites (attacks from the mealybug are rarely recorded) or diseases. We have repeatedly stressed the importance of a very draining substrate for these plants since one of the biggest problems is represented by root rot. Stagnation of water can create serious problems and cause the plant to die. The leaves that begin to become mushy, losing their fleshy natural characteristic, are the result of an excess of water in the soil (stagnation). It is advisable to immediately run for cover, avoiding water the Calancoe and wait for the soil to dry completely. Only then continue with the irrigations, as previously indicated.
too much light in the hottest hours of the day, especially during the summer season, can lead to yellowing of the leaves and, in some cases, to the blockage of flowering. Immediately move the plant to an area that is always bright enough, but keeping it away from direct sunlight.
The leaves begin to lose their natural color and begin to turn yellow and dry out even when the temperatures are too low. Immediately move the plant to a sheltered place or a warmer closed environment.
Kalanchoe (the scientific name given by the French botanist Adanson in 1765), originating in Madagascar and tropical Africa, is often used in very delicate floral compositions with a very particular effect. The small size, the different structures of the stems, the colors of the leaves, and the extraordinary flowering guarantee only excellent results for wonderful compositions.
In China, where various species of Calancoe grow spontaneously, these plants are believed to have been born from the tears of a goddess in love. Precisely for this reason, donating these plants is equivalent to making a real declaration of love and devotion.
The most known and widespread species in our country is the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, which hardly exceeds 30cm in height and which is also known as Calancola.
Kalanchoe juice is considered an excellent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. The leaves of the plant have healing properties and are able to bring the damaged tissues towards a speedy recovery, both in case of burns, ulcers or abrasions. Many cosmetics based on Calancoe, perfect for skincare.
The healing properties of the Calancoe were known in ancient times when the juice extracted from the plant was widely used. Kalanchoes began to attract the interest of scientists in 1962 and a few years later the first studies on the effects and properties of these plants were published.
Kalanchoe juice has been used to treat fistulas, wounds, and burns of various levels, obtaining positive and nothing short of surprising results. Studies have also shown that the juice can be used both for external and internal treatments, without particular problems. In fact, African populations used Calancoe leaves for topical use or ate them (used in the preparation of decoctions and various doughs). A great discovery that led the large multinational drug companies to produce Kalanchoe juice on an industrial scale, even in the form of ointments.
The juice contains several bactericidal substances (a study has shown that it also has a bactericidal effect on hemolytic and non-hemolytic Streptococcus, as well as on Staphylococcus) and anti-inflammatory. That’s not all, because other more recent studies have also revealed the immunomodulating, adaptogenic and antihistamine properties of Kalanchoe juice, which allow prophylactic preparations for seasonal infections or in cases of more serious diseases to be treated. Kalanchoe are not only plants that are very easy to grow and beautiful to look at, but they are very useful in medicine. They are truly extraordinary!
The Kalanchoe fall into the category of plants dangerous for animals, especially for cats, which could have respiratory problems by ingesting some parts.
Language of flowers
Kalanchoes have a very specific meaning and are defined as the plants of happiness. Giving one of the beautiful species belonging to this numerous genus is a gesture that will surely be appreciated. With the Calancoe he wishes the good of the house, so they are the perfect gift for those who invited you to see his new home. Small plants that can be considered as real amulets to drive away all evil and that as powerful magnets are ready to attract only positivity and joy.