Kalanchoe (pronounced kal-AN-cho or KAL-an-CO-ee) come with
either red, pink, orange, yellow, or white flowers. Often you can
enjoy their blooms for a couple months or more. While they
naturally bloom in spring, growers “force” them to bloom any time
While most discard plants after bloom, you can try to rebloom
them again. Grow them normally then, about 8 weeks or so before
you want them to bloom, give them “short days”. This photoperiod
treatment is actually long nights—no light for 14 hours daily,
such as in a dark closet between 6pm and 8am. During this time,
reduce watering. After about six weeks you should see buds
forming, at which time leave them in full light daily and water
Kalanchoe like bright light, such as a south-facing window.
Leggy plants mean they aren’t getting enough light. Also, they
like warm temperatures as in most homes, and should not be exposed
to cold below about 50 degrees (F). While the plant is growing,
and in particular blooming, fertilize with product of your choice
according to label directions. They don’t need much fertilizer,
so you may want to use half strength, or fertilize less often than
Their succulent leaves that are designed not to dry out readily,
and to store water, give the clue that they prefer drier soils.
So, if in doubt, don’t water them. This is the main means plants
die indoors prematurely. Watering once a week, often less, will
be sufficient. Make sure if they’re in a foil wrapper or saucer
that water can drain, or empty any after watering the plant.
These thick leaves also make them adaptable to the normally dry
air indoors during winter.
If you’re keeping your plants and they need repotting, don’t use
a pot much larger than the current one, and use a well-draining
potting mix such as for cacti and succulents—one often containing
perlite (white granules) or sand. Clay pots help keep the soil
drier than plastic ones. Just make sure pots have drainage
Other than root rots from overwatering, the only problems you may
encounter on kalanchoe are white mealybugs and brown scale
insects. If you’re discarding the plant after bloom, these won’t
be a concern. But if keeping the plant, check it weekly (when
you’re watering is a good time) for such pests. If found, merely
wipe off with a damp cloth or swab and rubbing alcohol. Wiping
leaves periodically will keep the dust off too.
Kalanchoe is in the Crassula family, with the well-known Jade
Plant a close relative. While there are 125 or more species of
kalanchoe, some more upright and some hanging and many just grown
for attractive leaves, most flowering selections you’ll find for
sale are of one species (blossfeldiana). This originally
came from Madagascar, introduced in 1932 by the German botanist
Robert Blossfeld. It, and its selections, range from six to 12
One variation in particular that you may find is the Calandiva
series. The small, tubular flowers have 32 petals instead of 4,
so resemble a miniature rose. This mutant was first found by a
Swedish grower in 1998 among purple flowers, and then was first
introduced to the public in 2002. This series includes a wide
range of colors, including salmon, lavender, and burgundy.
Return to Perry's Perennial Pages: Green Mountain Gardener Articles-- your reliable source of gardening information for over 50 years.