Kalanchoe (kal-un-KOH-ee) is a genus of about 125 species of tropical, succulent flowering plants in the family Crassulaceae The Kalanchoe humalis (hu-ma-lis) is native to Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique.
This plant can be found growing among rocks and in crevices and sometimes on a rocky island in the rivers falls and rapids.
The genus was first described by the botanist Michel Adanson in 1763. Adanson was a Jesuit missionary, pharmacist and naturalist known for producing the first comprehensive accounts of Philippine flora and fauna.
Adanson named Josephus Camelluas as his source for the name. He explained that the name came from the Chinese name “Kalanchauhuy”.
The ‘Desert Surprise’ Kalanchoe plant made quite a splash in 2010 when a selected clone called ‘Desert Surprise’ was introduced into the nursery trade.
‘Desert Surprise’ Needs…
- Light: They prefer bright, sunny locations, especially during the summer growing season. During the winter, consider a south-facing window.
- Water: Water moderately throughout the summer and reduce watering in the winter. Let the soil
surface dry out between waterings, and in the winter, the plant can almost dry out – they thrive in the low humidity of winter households. Watch the fleshy leaves for signs of water distress.
- Temperature: They prefer warmth. Do not let fall below 55 F.
- Soil: An ordinary potting soil mix is fine.
- Fertilizer: Feed bi-weekly in the summer with a liquid fertilizer, or use slow-release pellets.
Tip: Kalanchoe like their space. Avoid planting companion plants with the kalanchoe and repot them each spring in pots larger by one inch. Use fresh soil with a 20-8-20 time release formula fertilizer at half strength.
Propagating ‘Desert Surprise’….
Kalanchoe seeds are tiny, around 2.5 million per ounce. When you propagate kalanchoe with seeds, you’ve got two options. The first is to purchase seeds from your local garden center or nursery. The second is to cross-pollinate two kalanchoes or more in your perennial flower garden if you have them.
The kalanchoe seeds can go directly into warm, slightly moist soil made of half cactus mix and half fine potting soil. The warmth and the humidity of the dirt will activate the seed’s growth hormones and guide the sprout towards nutrients, thus giving you a baby kalanchoe sprout.
Seeds should be placed in indirect light and kept at temperatures between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fill a clean spray bottle with filtered or rainwater and mist the seeds only when the soil appears dry. Do not over water!
Germination should take around 10 days. Pinch the seedling back lightly at six to eight weeks. When they are six inches high, transplant the seedlings to their own individual one to two-inch pots.
You can crossbreed the two varieties and come up with a hybrid that can either have traits of the parent plants, traits of its own, or both. It’s always exciting to see what crossbreeding two kalanchoe plants will bring you, and what colors you’ll see in your shrub.
To crossbreed, wait until you have two or more plants in full bloom. Use a small paintbrush or Q-tip to brush pollen from the stamen of one flower to the stigma of another, transferring from plant to plant. Since the flowers come in crowded bundles, it may be easiest to cut off a clump of them and pull them apart to get to the pollen.
If you want to have the exact same plant in repetition in your garden, you can propagate kalanchoe with leaf cuttings. Take your cuttings in early spring, using a pair of sharp garden shears to cut a few strong green shoots off of the kalanchoe, six to eight inches long.
Strip the leaves off of the bottom three inches of the cutting. You should allow the cuttings to dry on the counter for around three days to let the cut side heal up. If you plant the cutting immediately, it will be susceptible to rot.
The soil requirement for cutting propagation is a cactus mix blended with some humus topsoil. Before planting, water the mix thoroughly and allow it to drain for half an hour so that the soil is moist for planting. Dig a small hole and stand the cutting upright, filling the hole in and pressing firmly so that it stands up on its own.
Avoid watering the kalanchoe cutting for at least one week. This encourages the leaf to survive in rather dry conditions by rooting through the soil.
The dirt you use should be permeable, well-drained and never overwatered.
You should attempt to propagate multiple cuttings to achieve at least one viable seedling. Small plants will begin to grow from the base of the cutting after one month. Keep the seedlings moist, spraying them with filtered or rainwater, but never letting it puddle.
Blooming Kalanchoe ‘Desert Surprise’…
In mid-summer, a flower spike with small purple blossoms appears from the center of the open rosette. Many people discard the plants after the bloom is over, but this isn’t really necessary.
Simply cut off the flowering head, let the plant rest with reduced water, and resume its normal care. It should flower naturally in spring. Professional growers force Kalanchoes to bloom throughout the year.
The Good And Bad About Kalanchoe
Kalanchoe species are known to be poisonous to cats and dogs. The leaves are poisonous as are the roots. The unassuming flowers are the most toxic part.
These plants are the food plant of the caterpillars of Red Pierrot butterfly. The butterfly lays its eggs on phylloclades, and after hatching, caterpillars burrow into phylloclades and eat their inside cells.
Kalanchoe species contain bufadienolide cardiac glycosides which can cause cardiac poisoning, particularly in grazing animals.
This is a particular problem in the native range of many Kalanchoe species in the Karoo region of South Africa, where the resulting animal disease is known as krimpsiekte (shrinking disease) or as cotyledonosis. Similar poisonings have also occurred in Australia. Click to read Bad Plants For Animals.
In traditional medicine, Kalanchoe species have been used to treat ailments such as infections, rheumatism, and inflammation. Kalanchoe extracts also have immunosuppressive effects. Kalanchoe pinnata has been recorded in Trinidad and Tobago as being used as a traditional treatment for hypertension.
A variety of bufadienolide compounds have been isolated from various Kalanchoe species. Five different bufadienolides have been isolated from Kalanchoe daigremontiana.
Two of these, daigremontianin and bersaldegenin 1,3,5-orthoacetate, have been shown to have a pronounced sedative effect.
They also have a strong positive inotropic effect associated with cardiac glycosides, and with greater doses an increasing effect on the central nervous system.
Bufadienolide compounds isolated from Kalanchoe pinnata include bryophillin A which showed strong anti-tumor promoting activity
Also, bersaldegenin-3-acetate and bryophillin C which was less active. Bryophillin C also showed insecticidal properties.
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