Caren White is a Master Gardener and instructor at Home Gardeners School. She has been associated with Rutgers Gardens for over a decade.
If you are a succulent lover and looking for something a little different, look no further than the chocolate soldier plant. It has fuzzy leaves and a cute brown or red edging to its leaves.
What is Chocolate Soldier Plant?
Chocolate soldier plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) is a succulent that is native to Madagascar. It is also known as Pussy Ears or Panda Plant. In its native region, it is believed that if this plant blooms, it means that the household that owns it will have prosperity and riches.
Chocolate soldier plants grow 2 – 3 feet tall. They have blue-green leaves that are covered with tiny hairs giving them a fuzzy appearance. The edges of the leaves have a red or brown color that appears as the leaves mature.
Like all succulents, they are grown for their foliage, not their flowers. Chocolate soldier plants flower in the summer. The flowers grow on 18 inch tall stalks. The flowers themselves are tiny and kind of a greenish yellow. Don’t look for flowers if you are growing this plant as a houseplant. They rarely bloom indoors.
Is Chocolate Soldier Plant Poisonous?
According to the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), chocolate soldier plant is toxic for both cats and dogs. If they eat it, they will experience vomiting and diarrhea and occasionally an abnormal heart rhythm.
It’s probably better not to grow this plant if you have pets.
How to Grow Chocolate Soldier Plant
Chocolate soldier plant can be grown as an outdoor perennial in zones 10 – 12. Most of us grow it as a houseplant. You can put your plant outdoors during the summer after night time temperatures are consistently above 45⁰F. Bring it back indoors in the fall when night time temperatures fall below 45⁰F.
The plants are reputed to be cold hardy as low as 25⁰F but they grow best if they are not exposed to temperatures below 45⁰F.
Indoors, you will want to grow this plant in bright indirect light. They will develop leaf burn, like our sunburn, if they are grown in direct sunlight. An east facing window where the plants get morning sun is fine.
Chocolate soldier plant needs well-drained soil. Use potting soil that is formulated for succulents or cacti for best results.
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Water your plant sparingly. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. If you water it too much, it will develop root rot and die.
Because these plants are native to a dry environment, they do not mind the dry air in our homes. There is no need to provide any humidity for your succulent.
How to Grow a Chocolate Soldier Plant From a Leaf Cutting
Most succulents are easy to propagate from leaves. Fuzzy succulents such as the chocolate soldier plant are more difficult. If you don’t succeed the first time, don’t give up. Try it again until you get a new plant.
Choose a healthy leaf and gently twist it off of the stem. Then just lay it on top of the soil in a container as you would with any other succulent. Put the container somewhere where it will get bright indirect light. Do not water.
In about 2 – 3 weeks, you should start to see roots growing from the end of the leaf that was formerly attached to the stem. Now you can begin watering regularly. Make sure that the soil remains moist.
Eventually a new rosette of leaves, your new baby plant, will start to grow from the end of the leaf that had been attached to the stem. Leave the original leaf alone. It is providing nutrients to the new plant. Eventually it will fall off on its own. When that happens, your new plant is ready to be transplanted to a new, permanent home.
How to Divide a Chocolate Soldier Plant
An easier way to propagate chocolate soldier plant is through offshoots. Offshoots are clones of the parent plant. They are baby plants that grow around the base of the parent plant.
When you see an offshoot starting to grow, leave it alone. It will need to grow its own root system before it can be separated from the parent plant. It will take 2 – 3 months before it has a complete root system.
After 2 – 3 months, you can use a sharp knife to cut the offshoot from the parent plant. After you cut it, leave it in the same pot for a couple of days to callous over. This scar prevents pests and diseases from entering the new plant.
After the offshoot has formed its callous, you can remove it from its original pot and replant it into its own pot.
© 2020 Caren White