plant of the month
(also kuh-LAN-ko-ee and kuh-LAN-cho)
Flaming Katy, Flaming Katie,
(also Madagascar widow’s thrill, Kalekana and Brilliant star)
Kalanchoes are compact shrublike plants, with branching clusters of tiny tubular four-petaled flowers atop stems that grow as long as 12 inches and rise out of a dense base of thick waxy dark-green leaves. The ‘Calandiva®’ series has roselike “double” blooms, each of which can have as many as 32 petals.
Hues include pink, hot pink, red, red-orange, orange, salmon, coral, yellow, lav-ender, purple, white, cream and bicolors.
Longevity varies by cultivar and is dependent on environment and care. Bloom cycles last from two to six (or more) weeks, but plants typically can live and rebloom for two or three years (see “Reblooming”).
Kalanchoes are available year-round; however, they were introduced as winter flowering plants, available from December through February.
in-store and consumer care
Indoors, bright light is required, including some exposure to direct sun (which can cause leaves to turn reddish). Outdoors, these plants need filtered sunlight.
Because of Kalanchoes’ succulent nature, the soil should be kept on the dry side: Drench the soil thoroughly, then allow the surface to become dry before watering again.
Indoors, Kalanchoes prefer moderate temperatures—60 F to 75 F. Outdoors, they can tolerate temperatures from 50 F to 90 F, depending on season.
These plants do not require high humidity levels; do not mist them.
Kalanchoes are sensitive to ethylene gas, but the degree of sensitivity varies by cultivar. Exposure to ethylene can cause blooms to fade, dry out or fail to open and foliage to turn yellow or fall off. Keep these plants away from sources of ethylene (fruit, cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust), and make sure they are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during transportation.
Feed Kalanchoes with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer every two to four weeks while they’re in bloom and/or from May through September.
Repot every year in late spring/early summer (June-July).
Before Kalanchoes will form new flower buds, they must be kept in complete darkness for 14 to 16 hours every day for at least two weeks (and as long as two months)—preferably beginning in early fall. The plants can receive moderate light for only eight to 10 hours each day during this period. Blooms will appear about six weeks later.
Aphids, mites, scale and mealybugs can become problems. The first three can be eradicated with insecticidal soap if the infestations are caught early on; mealybugs can be removed with cotton swabs dipped in rubbing alcohol.
Gray mold (Botrytis) can develop if plants are kept too wet and too cool.
FADED BLOOM COLORS / YELLOW LEAVES
These maladies are generally the result of insufficient exposure to sunlight or exposure to ethylene gas.
To view 36 additional Kalanchoe varieties, please download the PDF.
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WHAT’S IN A NAME
The genus name Kalanchoe has Chinese derivations; hence, its four-syllable pronunciation. The specific epithet (species name) blossfeldiana was given in honor of Robert Blossfeld, a German hybridizer who, in around 1932, introduced the plant in Potsdam from its native Madagascar.
Kalanchoe is a member of the Crassulaceae (orpine) family. Relatives include jade plant (Crassula), hen-and-chickens (Echeveria), stonecrop (Sedum) and houseleek (Sempervivum).
HOME SWEET HOME
K. blossfeldiana is native to the African island of Madagascar. The plant was discovered there in 1927 by French botanist Joseph Marie Henry Alfred Perrier de la Bâthie.
||• Look for plants that have one-fourth to one-half of their blooms open.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, by R.G. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson
Chain of Life Network®, www.chainoflifenetwork.org
Complete Houseplant Survival Manual, The
by Barbara Pleasant
Dictionary of Plant Names, by Allen J. Coombes
Hortus Third, by Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey
House Plant Expert, The, by Dr. D.G. Hessayon
SAF Flower & Plant Care
by Terril A Nell, Ph.D. and Michael S. Reid, Ph.D.
Stearn’s Dictionary of Plant Names for Gardeners
by William T. Stearn