Kalanchoes considered easy-care plants

Marianne C. Ophardt, WSU Benton County Extension.December 20, 2013 

It is not as favored here as in Europe, but Kalanchoes (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) have been slowly gaining in popularity. Almost any time of year you can find them at the grocery store.

During the holidays, you may run across ones with red or white flowers, but there are also pink, fuchsia, orange, or yellow-flowered types.

Native to a semi-area of Madagascar that receives less than 15 inches of rain per year, the Kalanchoe (kal-lan-KOE-ee) is a drought-tolerant succulent with thick, waxy, scalloped-edged leaves.

The first cultivars of Kalanchoe marketed to consumers in the 1950s had orange or red flowers. Plant breeders' efforts led to more diverse, attractive flower color selections. The long-lasting flower clusters are produced above the leaves. Individual flowers in the clusters have four petals, but there are double-flowered types that have many more petals, making each flower look like a tiny rose.

The early cultivars were generally propagated from seed and took as much as 10 months before flowering. Newer cultivars are more compact, more uniform, propagated by cuttings and bloom much sooner.

Kalanchoes are easy-care plants. It will not need much attention. They do best with lots of bright light, and allow the soil to dry slightly before watering. Kalanchoes like daytime temperatures of 50 to 70 degrees and nighttime temperatures of 45 to 65 degrees. (The flowers will last longer at the cooler temperatures.)

Once it is finished flowering, cut off the flower stalks and then repot into a larger pot. Be sure to use a well-drained potting mix, such as one specifically for cacti and succulents. Grow the plant on a sunny windowsill.

Kalanchoe is a short-day/long-night plant. This means that it flowers in response to long nights that happens naturally as the days become shorter. However when growing as an indoor plant, a Kalanchoe may be subjected to indoor lighting. If you truly want to rebloom your plant, give it uninterrupted darkness for at least 12.5 hours each night. Put it in a dark closet or box, but still give it bright light during the day. Anytime it doesn't get the long-night treatment, flowering will be delayed.

After about six weeks of consistent uninterrupted long nights, the flower buds will start to form and the plant will no longer need the long-night treatment for flowering to proceed. If this sounds like too much work, you may simply want to throw the plant out and buy a new one.

-- Marianne C. Ophardt is a horticulturist for Washington State University Benton County Extension.

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