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What is Kalanchoe?

Angela B.
Angela B.

Kalanchoe (pronounced ka-lan-ko-ee) is a succulent plant that flowers profusely and requires minimal care. It's low maintenance coupled with its ability to be planted indoors or out, makes it a popular potted plant. The plant comes from the plant family crassulaceae which contains more than 125 species. It has its roots in Madagascar, though its popularity has led to kalanchoe being grown around the world. The subshrub, or low-growing perennial, blooms in long-lasting clusters of tiny flowers in a range of colors, including white, pink, red, orange, yellow and purple.

Kalanchoe was first cultivated using seeds that took the better part of a year to bloom. Those who still choose to grow kalanchoe from seeds, and plant them in March will likely see 4 inches (about 10 cm) by December. The plant can be found for sale in big-box home improvement and gardening centers and in grocery store floral departments, among other places.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

As a succulent, kalanchoe requires well-draining soil and a pot with a hole in the bottom to allow excess water to escape before the plant’s roots rot. Watering early in the day once a week allows kalanchoe roots to dry by nightfall and protects the plant from overwatering. The soil should dry out between waterings, which could take longer than a week during non-blooming periods.

Kalanchoe flowers as the days become shorter, just before winter. Growers have found that artificially creating short-day conditions inspires kalanchoe to bloom just about any time of year. Creating such conditions is as easy as reducing the plant’s usual daily sunlight or limiting its exposure to light to only 8 to 10 hours a day. The subsequent appearance of buds on the plant means it is ready to be returned to normal lighting conditions — usually bright shade or indirect sunlight, though direct sunlight or direct shade may be tolerated, depending on the variety.

The resulting blooms have four connected petals, four carpals, four sepals and eight stamens, differing from the standard flower of the crassulaceae family, whose parts come in multiples of five. A kalanchoe plant can flower continually for as much as eight months. It takes work to make the inexpensive kalanchoe bloom again once its initial blossoms are gone, so many people throw it out and buy fresh when the flowers finally fade. It is, however, a perennial so keeping a non-blooming kalanchoe will usually result in a subsequent bloom if one's patient.

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