Plant and Garden

Kalanchoe (gastonis-bonnier) aka Donkey Ear Succulent

The Good, The Bad, The Toxic... clinical studies on Kalanchoe indicate there Kalanchoe (Bryophyllum gastonis-bonnieri) leaves effectively fight cancer, tumors abscesses, hypertension, renal colic, diarrhea, and psychological illnesses (schizophrenia , panic attacks and fears). However, it is toxic after small amounts.

Kalanchoe (kal-un-KOH-ee) gastonisbonnieri (gas-TON bon-nee-ER-ee) is a fast growing perennial or biennial succulent. in the Crassulaceae family. found native to Madagascar.

The name Kalanchoe is somewhat of a mystery because there is some thought that it comes from a phonetic transcription of the Chinese words ‘Kalan Chauhuy‘ meaning “that which falls and grows”, likely in reference to the plantlets that drop from many of the species.

However, others believe it is from the ancient Indian words ‘kalanka‘ meaning “spot” or “rust” and ‘chaya’ meaning “glossy” in reference to the reddish glossy leaves of the Indian species K. laciniata.

The specific name “gastonisbonnieri” honors French botanist Dr. Gaston Bonnier (1853-1922).

Like many succulents, there is confusion about the clasificcation of this plant. “There is no doubt that it [Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnieri] belongs to section Bryophyllum, but some authors continue its placement in section Kalanchoe”. Dr. Bernard Descoings writes in “Illustrated Handbook of Succulent Plants: Crassulaceae” (Eggli, Urs (Ed.), Springer 2003.

In botany, a Section is a taxonomic rank below the genus, but above the species. The subgenus, if present, is higher than the section, and the rank of series, if present, is below the section. Sections may be divided into subsections.

Bryophyllum (from the Greek βρῦον/βρύεινbryon/bryein = sprout, φύλλον phyllon = leaf) is a plant sectionof the Crassulaceae family that has sometimes been included within the genus Kalanchoe.

The Donkey Ear plant is invasive in many places around the United States. It has been found growing in almost all states including, Florida, Illinois, Alabama, California, etc.

Also called Palm Beachbells, Giant Kalanchoe, Good Luck Leaf, Leaf of Life, Life Plant, Miracle Leaf, Sprout Leaf Plant, Sprouting Leaf, Tree of Life.

Kalanchoes are not particularly hard to grow, and the flowering varieties are highly rewarding for their colorful and long-lasting flowers.

Donkey Ears are monocarpic plants. They usually die back after flowering, but they produce new plants, or pups, you can replant to replace the original plant.

Growing up to 18 inches tall and wide with ovate-lanceolate leaves that can be enormous, up to 20 inches long. The leaves are bronze-green covered with a waxy white covering to look overall gray-green and splotched with maroon-brown blotches.

The terminal inflorescence begins to rise in the fall to grow up to 3-foot tall stalk that branches near the top with several clusters of pale peach-colored buds that darken and become the calyces holding the darker reddish-salmon petals with flared tips and yellow interior.

In determinate inflorescences the terminal flower is usually the first to mature (precursive development), while the others tend to mature starting from the bottom of the stem. This pattern is called acropetal maturation.

When flowers start to mature from the top of the stem, maturation is basipetal, while when the central mature first, divergent.

They generally flower in fall and early winter, and their red and yellow flowers entice hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other insects into the garden.

Donkey Ear Kalanchoe make excellent hanging plants. They prefer bright, sunny locations, especially in the summer growing season.

These donkey ear-shaped leaves often have small plantlets developing along the leaf margin. The plant will
produce epicuticular wax, a powdery white film you see on the surface of the leaf. This waxy film protects the leaf from sun damage. Additionally, epicuticular wax helps the plant to conserve its moisture, slowing the rate of water loss through the surface of the leaves.

Donkey Ears grow indoors or outdoors very well. Light, warmth, moisture are the three keys. These plants are from a warm enviiroment. They will not tolerate cold, frost, and freeze. Consider indoor care during the winter, using a south-facing window.

Drainage is critical so containers with drainage holes are paramount. Many prefer to clay terracotta pot in unless the plant is to be used in a hanging basket.

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.

You can feed the plant bi-weekly in the summer with a liquid fertilizer, or use slow-release pellets.


  1. However it’s toxic after small amounts, what? You don’t explain small amounts how or what, perhaps you don’t have full command of the English language. This statement is of little or no use

    1. Since I am not a scientist or a doctor, I feel safe just saying small amounts. Thank you for your kind question or strange insult as I have perfect use of the English language.

      I guess you should not consume any!!! Please feel free to use Google to find more info on other websites that might be willing to give you exact estimates.

      Thanks again!

      1. Thank you… this was exactly what I was looking for.
        PS.. your use of English is exemplary as was your info on a useful plant that not many are familiar with. TY

  2. How exactly would one use this plant to combat cancers? Teas or topical, or in a salad?? Are they toxi. To pets in small amounts or people. The statement was kinda vague could you elaborate a little more.

    1. I am sorry but I am not a doctor so I can not elaborate. I just share what I read in studies and published sources.

Let us know your ideas and comments below!

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