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A Popular Succulent Houseplant: Caring For Flowering Kalanchoes

If you want a succulent houseplant that blooms, well then, let me introduce you to the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana. Perhaps you’ve seen one but never brought it home. I want to encourage you to do that because they’re easy to grow and are in bloom for quite a long time. Caring for flowering Kalanchoes is no trouble at all but there are a few things you need to know.

This popular flowering succulent houseplant, usually called kalanchoe, florist kalanchoe or flaming katy, is very easy to find. It’s sold in grocery stores, nurseries, big box stores, garden shops and flower shops. They’re grown in a wide range of colors; most of them vibrant hues like yellow, pink, magenta, orange and red. No shrinking violets here! Around the holidays you can more readily find them in white. The foliage makes a statement too because it’s glossy green and the leaves are quite large.

Caring for flowering kalanchoes:


These care tips are for keeping your kalanchoe going for the long haul. I had one for 5 years until it just got too leggy & I had to send it to the compost pile.

Size

Kalanchoes sold in 6″ grow pots usually grow to 12″ tall. They’re also sold in 4″ pots as well as in 2″ pots to go into dish gardens.

Exposure

These flowering kalanchoes like bright, natural light. A medium or high light situation is best as long as there not getting too much direct sun. Keep them out of any hot windows because they’ll burn.

Yours would enjoy spending the summer outdoors just as long as it’s protected from the hot afternoon sun. I live in the Arizona desert where I grow my kalanchoes both indoors & out. I have to keep mine on the patio out of the sun completely because the rays are so strong & the sun shines almost every day. They’d fry in just an hour here in summer!

The more light you give your kalanchoe, the better it’ll look. In lower light conditions the flowers tend to not open & the foliage gets spindly. If you have low light & you want a kalanchoe, buy it in as full bloom as you can.

Orange_red kalanchoes in 4_ grow pots on a nursery bench. The foliage is very glossy green

4″ Kalanchoes sitting on a bench in the grower’s greenhouse. You can see how glossy & large the foliage is.

Watering

These plants are succulents with fleshy leaves & stems which means you don’t want to keep them constantly wet. They need good drainage. Water yours well, let it all drain out & then water again when dry. That might mean you water yours every 2 weeks. The frequency will vary depending on your temps, light situation & the size pot your kalanchoes are in.

I water mine a bit more often when it’s flowering. They don’t need to be misted or sprayed but if yours is really dirty, give it a good hose off once a year.

If your kalanchoe comes wrapped in foil or in a decorative pot with no drain hole, remove the plant when you water it. You don’t want  water building up because that will lead to rot.

Temperature

Normal home temps are fine. The summer & winter temps really vary here in Tucson & my kalanchoes outside do okay. I also grew them outdoors when I lived in Santa Barbara where the temps were much less extreme & they seemed to be a bit happier.

As with any flowering plant, the hotter your home is the faster the flowers will open up & the bloom time won’t be quite as long.

Looking at a close up of the flowers of a yellow kalandiva kalanchoe. the flowers are tinged with apricot & orange

These are the fully open flowers of my Calandiva Kalanchoe. They’re an appealing combo of yellow, apricot & orange.

Fertilizing

I don’t use any. I top dress my kalanchoes with worm castings & compost every spring; even the ones growing indoors. If you have a balanced organic houseplant fertilizer, you can apply that in spring & summer if you think your plant needs it.

Soil

When I repot my kalanchoes, I use 1/2 succulent & cactus mix & 1/2 potting soil. All succulent & cactus mix would be fine with some compost mixed in. All potting soil works but it’s trickier to keep on the dry side.

I also mix in a handful or so of organic compost & sprinkle the top with a layer of worm compost when I plant.

Pests

I can’t remember my kalanchoes ever getting any. They’re subject to aphids & mealybugs so keep your eyes open for those critters. You’ll see what they look like & what can be done if you click on the link.

a close up of white,red, & hot pink Kalanchoes

White, red & pink kalanchoes waiting for a home. These would be good to use for a party or some other event, but the blooms won’t last quite as long if you buy them fully open. 

Safe for Pets

My kitties don’t bother any of my plants so it’s not a big concern for me. According to the ASPCA website, kalanchoes are toxic to both dogs & cats. I did a post on toxicity & houseplants sharing my thoughts on that subject.

Pinching

I grew many different types of kalanchoes in my garden in Santa Barbara. There are over 200 species found the world over. Many of them tend to get leggy over time. You need to pinch them down after flowering to keep them fuller. As I said above, mine that was 5 years old (you see it towards the end of the video) wasn’t worth trying to save.

Propagating

You can propagate kalanchoes by seed, division or stem cuttings. I’ve never done it by seed but that method takes the longest.

Division can be done if you easily find a way to separate the plant into 2 or 3 separate ones. Some have multiple plants in 1 pot so they won’t be hard at all to divide.

I’ve taken stem cuttings, about 4-5″ long with the bottom leaves few leaves removed, & then healed them off for a week or so. I planted them in succulent & cactus mix & they’ve rooted in about 3 weeks. Be sure not to mist the foliage while they’re rooting.

Both these methods are best done in spring or summer. Avoid propagating a plant while flowering.

close up of the flowers of a rose pink kalandiva kalanchoe

Another Calandiva – love this rose/salmon color.

Flowering

The masses of flowers are why this plant is so popular. Yours may flower again in spring or late fall naturally by cutting the flower stems all the way down. Leave the foliage be.

If yours isn’t blooming again, you can force it to. Kalanchoes are photoperiodic (Like poinsettias) which means they react to equal periods of light and dark exposure. They need  12-14 hours of complete darkness to bloom again.

Chances are, if you have them in your home, they’re in a room that isn’t getting that amount of complete darkness.  You have to put them in a closet or a room that’s got good light during the day and is pitch black for 12-14 hours. And yes, they need that every night for 6 to 8 weeks. And, be sure to cut back on the watering during this time. Once the buds begin to set you can return them to their normal routine.

Mine that was growing in the guest bathroom bloomed a couple of times a year. There’s a skylight so it got nice bright, overhead light during the day & was completely dark at night. I got off & on blooms all year long out of the ones growing outdoors.

Good To Know

Kalanchoes are succulents which means the can handle the dry air in our homes just fine.

The foliage is so big & dense that sometimes I remove a bit of it so the flowers show more.

Calandiva & Grandiva are relatively newer cultivars (or varieties) with multi-petals which resemble roses. The Grandiva flowers are even bigger.

This could be a problem: Kalanchoes are subject to powdery mildew if you keep them too wet. The foliage is very dense & fleshy – that’s why you don’t want to mist or spray this plant.

Nell Foster is holding a hot pink kalanchoe at a garden center. She's wearing a purple shirt & is surrounded by kalanchoes on benches

Me hanging out in the greenhouse with my purdy kalanchoe friends.

Kalanchoe flowers are long lasting and the foliage is rich, shiny green. They come in so many colors that surely you can find one you love. They’re a great blooming plant to brighten up your home!

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