Did you receive a holiday plant with bright flowers and succulent, scalloped leaves? It most likely is a Kalanchoe blossfeldiana or Flaming Katy. It is a gorgeous flowering plant and even when it isn’t blooming is an attractive succulent. Yet, with the right care, you can get it to bloom again in your home which is the goal. Many people simply throw them out after they bloom along with their poinsettias and other holiday plants that have finished blooming. Let’s talk about the care of these beautiful plants so they can bring beauty to your home year-round.
The pictures below were taken last weekend at Hidden Lakes Gardens in Tipton, Michigan. If you are in southern Michigan, Hidden Lakes Gardens are owned by Michigan State University and have lovely indoor and outdoor gardens with collections of numerous unusual plants.
These plants are originally from Madagascar and are named for and were introduced to the horticulture world in 1932 by German hybridized and botanist, Robert Blossfeld (1882-1945). I’m sure he never imagined the popularity this plant would have or the colors that would be introduced. Flaming Katy was originally an only-red-flowered plant but is now available in many bright colors as you can see.
First, if your plant was a gift received during the holiday season, it may be in a decorative foil sleeve. When you water it, remove the plant from the sleeve, water it thoroughly, let it drain, and return it to the sleeve. Or re-pot (not up-pot) it into a decorative container that is the same size as the pot it is already in.
Potting Medium and Watering
Kalanchoes are succulents so should be planted in a potting medium that is fast draining. Use a cactus and succulent potting mix, adding more perlite or pumice to improve drainage. Though it is a succulent, it still needs to be watered thoroughly. Many assume they only need to give their succulents, and cacti for that matter, a splash of water. Watering the plant thoroughly means watering until water runs out the drainage hole, making sure the entire root ball is moistened. Empty out any extra water from the foil sleeve or saucer, not allowing the plant to stand in water, and allow the kalanchoe to dry down quite a bit before watering again. Watch the leaves and if they become wrinkled, you know the plant has become too dry.
These plants are succulents and hail from Madagascar, so they appreciate a high light environment. To make sure they grow well and flower, place them in a west or south window. If you don’t have enough natural light, grow your kalanchoe under lights or add supplemental light to a lower light situation.
Re-Flowering Your Kalanchoe
Kalanchoes are long night, short-day plants like poinsettias. They flower naturally in the late fall into winter so they start flowering as the nights get longer. This, of course, will only happen if the plant has had enough light and has been well taken care of all year long. To keep your plant more attractive while blooming, carefully remove the spent flowers. The individual flowers are small so smaller scissors would work well to make sure you only cut off the spent flowers.
Problems that could occur
These are relatively easy to care for, but like other succulents, these can be attacked by mealybugs and scale. Hopefully, that won’t occur but always check closely when you are watering or caring for your plant to catch a problem before it gets out of control. If it is watered too often and left wet, rot can occur. If the plant becomes too dry, the leaves will wrinkle and it may not recover after being watered. That would mean the roots became so dry, they couldn’t take up water any longer. So, watch for pests, keep it watered, not standing in water, and not so dry the leaves wrinkle.
I just procured one of these variegated kalanchoes this year. (The large one below is at the botanical garden. Mine is just a 4″ plant.) I love variegated foliage so it was a no-brainer. As you can see, it doesn’t look as if it will bloom as prolifically as the non-variegated type, but that is normal. Usually, variegated plants don’t bloom as profusely as their all-green counterparts. Variegated leaves don’t contain as much chlorophyll as solid green leaves, so they aren’t making as much food for the plant. But, with foliage like that, who needs flowers?!
I hope this helps you keep your kalanchoe healthy and flowering profusely!
Have a great week, plant friends!