Growing Kalanchoes in South Florida

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora- Flapjack Kalanchoe

One of the most rewarding succulent groups is the Kalanchoe group, a diverse group of easy to grow spineless succulents. They make excellent container plants as well as good landscape plants. Some of them can grow to be small trees to 10  feet tall, while others are compact groundcovers. So many people are familiar with the modern hybrid Kalanchoes seen in florist shops and garden centers. The genus has so much more to offer than the "thoroughbred" florist types that we should experiment with them far more than we currently do. I believe that Kalanchoes can take some of the sting out of people's reactions when we talk about cactus gardens, since there is often an equation between cactus and "ouch". There are species with colorful flowers and those with elegant foliage, most of which are considered easy to grow. Look at some of the species below and see what you like. Many of these are available by mail order, and require olnly a sunny window indoors, or 6 or more hours of sun outdoors to grow well. As with so many succulents, great soil drainage is important. Clay pots will foster drainage better than plastic ones will, and fertilizing should  be light and occasional. Slow-release fertilizer such as Dynamite and Osmocote are good for these plants but in small doses.

Kalanchoe species

Kalanchoe beharensis 'Fang'

Kalanchoe tomentosa- Panda Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe beharensis- tree form

modern hybrid Kalanchoe
Many Kalanchoe species grow from leaves, rooting as do African Violets and other succulents like Sedum  . Propagating these plants simply requires putting leaves up on their edges into a very well drained mix such as cactus soil or perlite. The leaves will sprout roots and then grow into a new plant in a few months' time. This habit becomes especially rewarding if you happen to break a piece of the plant off during transport. The cut pieces will root, yielding plants that can populate your garden or be given away to friends. The plants should be grown in very well-drained media, whether they are in pots or in ground beds.
Most of this group will flower in the early months of the year during the shortest daylength.

With all of these good qualities and their high degree of adaptability, Kalanchoes should be part of the palette of plants you can use to make a great garden.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens