Kalanchoe Adanson 1763 (Widow's Thrill)
Chinese Kalan Cauhuy = 'that which falls and grows'
Kalanchoe includes 139 species of leafy succulents from South and East Africa, Arabia into S.E Asia.
Kalanchoes produce panicles of pendulous bells or upright clusters of many small brightly coloured flowers. Many hybrids are distributed through the nursery trade as attractive, undemanding flowering houseplants with single or double flowers in yellows to reds. A wide range of hybrids with bell-like flowers has also been produced.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana and K. delagoensis (K. tubiflora) often do well on a sales table as the small plantlets on their leaves
make them instantly attractive to children, but otherwise they can be a menace in a collection as the plantlets root in every nearby pot. I wouldn't be without them though.
Bryophyllum has been incorporated into Kalanchoe but this obsolete genus is still often seen on labels.
Cultivation: Many species and hybrids are easy to grow in a free-draining gritty compost on a sunny window ledge. Water weekly with a little of any balanced house plant fertiliser during the growing season. It may be necessary to tie plants to a cane and grow in a heavy (clay) pot for stability.
Kalanchoes tolerate cool, frost-free conditions during the winter if kept dry. Mealy bugs and vine weevils can be discouraged with a systemic insecticide based on Imidacloprid e.g. Provado Vine Weevil Killer. Crassulaceae are generally intolerant of Malathion.
Many species can be propagated from stem cuttings, or in some species from plantlets forming along the leaves. Kalanchoes should be treated as poisonous as some species contain toxic bufadienolide cardiac glycosides.
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana von Poellnitz 1934 (Flaming Katy)
The 1ft branching stem has smooth, fleshy ovate leaves have irregular serrated edges. Clusters of flowers are produced with four diamond-shaped petals.
Probably the most common Kalanchoe cultivated by the horticultural trade. Vast numbers of this undemanding plant are produced with flowers in many shades of magenta, red, yellow, white and green. Double flowers have appeared recently. New plants are easily propagated from cuttings and will flower better than an old plant.
Native to Northern Madagascar, in forests up to 7800ft above sea level.
Kalanchoe bracteata Scott Elliot 1891
This low branching shrublet has thin branches with quite fleshy ovate leaves. Some clones have all-green leaves and others
have leaves with a silvery coating. Clusters of bright orange-red, rather fleshy tubular flowers are produced at the ends of the stems.
Native to South-East Madagascar.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana Hamet & Perrier 1914 (Alligator Teardrop Plant, Flea Plant, Mother of Thousands)
Photo: Kathy Bender
Photo: Patrick Burns
Kalanchoe daigremontiana is an easily grown (biennial) succulent plant for a sunny window ledge. Small plantlets (bulbils) form on the serrated leaf margins, drop off, and grow in any nearby plant pot. Children seem to be fascinated by this. A large plant produces a panicle of pink flowers, which should be cut off after the flower is finished or the plant will die. In any case, when this Kalanchoe starts to develop a flower spike, it's best to start a new plant from the many bulbils.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana is native to South-West Madagascar and naturalised elsewhere. It has the potential to become an invasive weed in a frost-free climate and contains bufadienolide cardiac glycosides which can cause losses of grazing livestock.
Photo: RJ Hodgkiss
Photo: Cathy Sue Hawkins
Kalanchoe delagoensis Ecklon & Zeyher 1837
Syn. K. tubiflora Hamet 1912 (Mother of Thousands)
This almost indestructible (biennial) Kalanchoe propagates vegetatively by forming plantlets (bulbils) on the leaf tips. These drop off and root in any nearby plant pot, so it is almost impossible to lose the clone. This plant grows up to 5 ft tall and produces an attractive cluster of pink flowers at the top of its stem. A tall plant needs staking or it is liable to flop over.
Kalanchoe delagoensis is native to Southern Madagascar and naturalised elsewhere. It has the potential to become an invasive weed in a frost-free climate and contains bufadienolide cardiac glycosides which can cause losses of grazing livestock.
Photo: Kenneth Butler
Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri Raymond-Hamet & H. Perrier 1912 (Donkey Ears)
Named for: Dr. Gaston Bonnier (1853-1922) French botanist
A fast-growing succulent with large greenish to bronzed ovate to lancolate leaves covered with white farina to give a glaucous appearance and marked with flecks of purple. The serrate leaf margins develop occasional plantlets.
Native to Northern Madagascar.
Photo: Ivo Polach
Kalanchoe luciae Hamet 1908 (Flapjack Plant)
A choice biennial plant for a sunny position in a frost-free climate. In the shade, the leaves will go a boring green. This species tends to colour up naturally in full sun, but there is a particularly red cultivar called "Red Flapjack". The inflorescence is a dense panicle of yellowish-green flowers.
Native to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa and Swaziland.
The rather similarly shaped Kalanchoe thrysiflora has glaucous green leaves with a farinose coating, but the two species are often confused in the horticultural trade.
Kalanchoe cv. mirabilis
One of many attractive selected forms and hybrids with bell-like flowers, often given bell-related cultivar names such as "Mission Bells", "Bells Dream" etc.
Kalanchoe rhombopilosa Mannoni & Boiteau 1947
This small succulent species has sprawling thick woody stems bearing fan-shaped green leaves with undulate margins and a white farinose coating. The leaves may have spots and tend to become bronzed in strong light. A narrow panicle of yellowish flowers is produced in the Spring, but flowering is infrequent.
Native to South-West Madagascar. Leaves fall off but root easily. The leaves are quite variable and various selected cultivars are in circulation.
Kalanchoe rotundifolia Haworth 1825
This plant has slender, erect stems growing 3ft or more tall, bearing rounded blue-green leaves. The inflorescence is a small cluster of orange-red flowers.
Widespread in Africa including Zimbabwe and South Africa. This species is traditionally used by the Zulu in a charm to confer invisibility. It is poisonous to livestock.
Kalanchoe schimperiana Richard 1847
The stems and leaves of this perennial shrublet are pubescent. A cluster of greenish-white flowers is produced at the growing point.
Native to Ethiopia and Eastern Tanzania.
Photo: Jojo 2016
Kalanchoe serrata Mannoni & Boiteau 1947
This species has grey-brown thickened narrow-ovate succulent leaves with their under-sides marked with a darker chocolate brown and produces plantlets (bulbils) along the serrated leaf margins.
The inflorescence is an umbel of crimson bells.
Native to central and Southern Madagascar. All the plantlets falling off the leaves have the potential to root and grow, so this species can be invasive in a warm climate. Not frost-resistant. Reported to accumulate heavy metals such as copper and gold from the soil.
Kalanchoe tomentosa Baker 1882 (Panda Plant, Pussy Ears)
Name: tomentum = a layer of matted woolly threads on the surface of a plant.
This shrubby succulent plant grows up to 18 in tall and has ovate green leaves felted with white hairs and brown hairs along margins and leaf tips. The branching stem becomes woody with age. In the Spring, clusters of small yellowish-green to greenish-purple bell-shaped flowers with hairy outer surfaces are produced.
Native to Madagascar. Numerous selected cultivars emphasise different aspects of the brown and white leaf felting of this popular, tolerant window-ledge plant. Individual leaves will root and form new plants.
Photos: Lonna Richmond
Kalanchoe uniflora Raymond-Hamet 1910
Syn. Bryophyllum uniflorum (Stapf) A. Berger 1930
This epiphyte has thin trailing stems with quite fleshy, succulent ovate leaves. The inflorescence is a cyme produced at leaf axils along the stems, with one to three individual bright orange-red tubular flowers.
Native to Northern Madagascar, growing in heaths and forests at altitudes of 3000 to 6500ft. Not frost hardy but excellent for hanging baskets and for the milder temperate garden.
A prolific plant producing a panicle of bright yellow flowers.