KALANCHOE – Pronounced “collin-co-wee,” this plant genus from Madagascar includes 125 species ranging in height from a few centimeters to tree-sized. The popular indoor plant variety is generally 5-10cm tall and 5-10cm in diameter.
Kalanchoe features a central cluster of delicate flowers in orange, red, pink or white and blooms can last for many months. Flowering plants can be purchased in pots as small as 5cm, so some owners prefer to transplant them to a slightly larger and prettier container. A 10cm pot is plenty large enough for one plant, and a 15cm container could be used to cluster two or three plants together.
Kalanchoes naturally flower under short days and grow vegetative under long days. Growers manipulate day length by using lights for long days and blackout shading to simulate short days. This day length manipulation ensures a year-round supply of blooming Kalanchoes.
For maximum shelf life, Kalanchoes should be purchased with 10- 25% open flowers. Kalanchoes do well with as little as 5 -10% open flowers, if placed in an area of adequate light. They will flower for up to 2 months under proper conditions.
Kalanchoe are very sensitive to ethylene. Symptoms of ethylene damage include buds that go brown or won’t open, faded flowers and flowers that appear to be dried out. Keep them away from ethylene sources such as ripening fruit, decaying plant matter and engine exhaust.
When you bring your new Kalanchoe plant home you should place it in an area of bright light, but avoid direct sunlight. Near a south window in the winter or near; an east or west window during other times of the year is ideal.
Kalanchoes do well over a wide temperature range. Normal room temperature (18C) is ideal. Avoid temperatures below 10C. They should be watered thoroughly when the top 1 or 2 cm of soil is dry to the touch. Do not allow the plant to sit in water.
While it’s blooming, watering once a week should be sufficient. Make sure containers drain thoroughly. Left in wet soil, the roots can be prone to rot, so be sure the soil dries out between watering. An ordinary plant fertilizer can also be applied about once every two weeks.
Other than avoiding direct sun in the hotter months, Kalanchoes can tolerate a wide variety of lighting conditions, though faring best in bright indirect light. (You’ll recognize too much sun exposure when the leaves begin to look “sunburned.”)
Due to the complex daylight manipulations required to flower a Kalanchoe, it is common to discard plants after they finish flowering. The small plants are typically so inexpensive that when the blooms whither, many people simply discard the plant and buy another. The thick, fleshy foliage remains attractive however, and aficionados may want to keep their specimen for the next blooming cycle.
To prepare your Kalanchoe for new blossoms, first cut the withered stalk and remove it, then let your plant rest for at least a month. During this resting period, the plant requires less light and even less water, so cut back your watering schedule to about once every other week.
In nature, Kalanchoes are stimulated to flower when they sense the shorter daylight hours of winter. To induce your plant to flower, move it to a low-light location or limit light exposure to only 8 to 10 hours a day. Once the buds have started forming, you can return your little beauty to normal light conditions. Happy Growing!