Cedar Valley Arboretum & Botanic Gardens

Brighten Your House with Kalanchoe!

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Hey All – I wanted to share with you this great article about kalanchoes from our November View.  Enjoy!

Brighten Your House with Kalanchoe

by Rita Lynn

Until recently, I had a cat that grazed on many houseplants.  One of her favorites was poinsettias.  No matter how much I wanted a beautiful plant for the winter holidays, it didn’t make sense to get a poinsettia and have her chew it to shreds.  Fortunately, I found kalanchoes, which she never even nibbled.  (Cautionary note: http://www.aspca.com lists kalanchoes as toxic to animals.  Apparently, my cat had checked the website, but you might want to keep your plant in a place where pets can’t reach it.)  I was glad to be able to display dazzling red kalanchoes where I would have liked to have poinsettias.

First of all, how do you pronounce the name of these beauties?  Writers admit that this is one of the most frequent questions about this plant.   After searching numerous sources, it appears that there are up to 4 ways to pronounce “kalanchoe,” all of which are acceptable.  So just enjoy the plant and don’t try to come to an agreement with a friend about how to say its name.

The kalanchoes customarily seen around the winter holidays (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) are native to Madagascar and are succulents in the jade family (Crassulaceae).  They have fleshy dark-green leaves with scalloped margins.  You find them topped with large clusters of small, four-petaled flowers in bright shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and white.  Flowers open in succession from the center of the cluster to the outer edges and can last for six to eight weeks.

The best part about kalanchoes is that they are so easy to care for.  Being succulents, they should not be overwatered – they won’t even mind if you forget to water them for a while.  Pots and soil should allow for good drainage.  They prefer a brightly lit environment.  Cooler night temperatures prolong bloom.

We usually purchase kalanchoes in full bloom.  Fortunately, they will re-bloom fairly easily the following season.   Kalanchoes, like poinsettias, require short day lengths for bud development.  Buds will form when the plants are placed where they have natural day length between October 1 and March 1.  Or like poinsettias, you can control light at night by placing the plant in a dark area in late afternoons and bringing it out in the morning.  They require about 6 weeks of natural winter day lengths (14 to 16 hours of darkness a day) for buds to form.  Temperatures above 80° will delay bud development.  Once buds show, controlling day length is no longer necessary.

Kalanchoes have few disease problems.  You can avoid root rot by using well-drained soil and not overwatering.  Powdery mildew can be discouraged by allowing good air circulation around the plant.  Mealybugs, aphids, or brown scale may appear; these pests can be removed by hand.

It is not difficult to propagate these plants from stem cuttings taken in spring or early summer.  You should look for vegetative rather than flowering stems.  Shoots should be 2 to 3 inches long, with two pairs of leaves.  The bottom set of leaves should then be removed and the stem left for several days to allow callous to form before putting it into the rooting medium.  A 50/50 mix of peat moss and perlite is recommended, and no rooting hormone is needed.  Place the pot in a plastic bag to maintain high humidity, and put the cutting in bright, indirect light.  You should get transplant-ready plants in 2 to 3 weeks.

If you haven’t tried them before, do add a kalanchoe to your winter decorations.  And consider giving one as a gift.  They are readily available, and what recipient wouldn’t appreciate having a plant as colorful and undemanding as this?

 

Sources:

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/indoor/flowering/hgic1563.html (image source)

http://www.arhomeandgarden.org/plantoftheweek/articles/kalanchoe_3-7-08.htm

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Written by cedarvalleyarboretum

December 7, 2011 at 6:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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