How to Grow Kalanchoe
Does your house look empty and dull after you clear away the holiday decorations? Then you need at least one kalanchoe plant! Like poinsettias, they are light sensitive, needing 16 to 18 hours of continuous darkness before they bloom. Long winter nights are perfect for coaxing them to bud and then burst into colorful bloom in January as the days start to get longer.
What’s a kalanchoe?
Kalanchoes are succulents that are native to the island of Madagascar. Their leaves are slightly thickened and waxy to conserve moisture in an arid environment. The plants can be grown outdoors in growing zones 7 through 11. They are very sensitive to the cold, preferring temperatures ranging from 60 to 85 degrees Farenheit. Grow them in partial shade. Full sunlight will burn their leaves.
In colder climates, kalanchoes can be grown as houseplants, either indoors entirely, or brought outdoors during the summers only. Indoors, grow them on a sunny windowsill. If your plant gets long and spindly, it’s not getting enough light. Move it to a sunnier spot or provide artificial light.
How do I take care of it?
Give it well-drained soil and only water when the top of the soil dries out. Soil that is too wet will cause the roots to rot. Fertilize monthly with any houseplant fertilizer.
With just a little care, you will be rewarded with years of vibrant four petal flowers in red, pink, white, yellow or orange. There are even double varieties available. My kalanchoe is nearly ten years old. It delights me every year with bright pink flowers.
After your plant finishes blooming, clip off the dead flower stalks and any other dead foliage. Allow it to rest, with no fertilizer, for a few months until it starts growing again. When you see new growth, you can resume fertilizing.
How do I make it bloom?
Kalanchoes are light sensitive. They need 16 to 18 hours of complete darkness to set their buds and then begin blooming. Grow them in a room that is dark at night, with no artificial light. A family room where you watch TV in the evenings is not suitable. A rarely used guest room would be a good spot.
I grow mine in my home office. Since I work from home, I leave my office between 5 pm and 6 pm each day. No lights are turned on in the room after I leave. The long hours of winter darkness are just what my plant needs. Each January, it bursts into bloom.
If you don’t have a room that is completely dark at night, you can put your plant in a windowless closet at night to provide the complete darkness that it needs. Just remember to take it out of the closet in the morning!
Can I make more?
It’s easy to root cuttings from your kalanchoe. Snip off a branch that is not flowering. Remove any leaves on the lower 2 inches. Make sure that there are at least 2 pairs of leaves left. Leave the cutting out for a few days to allow it to “callous” which means that the cut end will dry out. Once it has dried, you can dip it in rooting hormone if you have it and then gently push it into the soil of a pot. Moisten the soil and then cover the pot with a plastic bag that has some slits cut into it. The plastic bag will provide a humid environment for your cutting. Place the plastic covered pot on a sunny windowsill, checking the soil periodically to make sure that it remains moist. Roots should start growing in 2 to 3 weeks.
Chase away those winter blues with the brightly blooming kalanchoe. Or two or three!
© 2017 Caren White