The Kalanchoes are native to Madagascar, frequently growing on granite and gneiss outcrops.
These species belongs to the Crassulaceae, or Crassula family, which includes such familiar genera as Sedum, Sempervivum, Crassula, and many others.
More than 100 varieties of Kalanchoe grow in the wilds of Africa and other parts of the Old World.
The heavily felted leaves and stems are an adaptation to drought.
They are especially effective in reducing water loss through evaporation in exposed and windy sites. In other plant species, heavily felted leaves are often an adaptation to higher elevations.
The felt may help to protect these plants from excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. In habitat, this species occurs at elevations between 3900 and 5200 feet.
Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Chocolate Soldier’
(Chocolate Soldier Panda Plant)
‘Chocolate Soldier’ is an interesting and attractive small slow-growing succulent subshrub that grows to about 2 feet tall.
This plant has narrow slightly concave and elliptical succulent pale brownish green leaves that are covered in tiny hairs, giving the plant a velvety look and feel.
Along the upper leaf margin and the tip is a raised slightly toothed rim that is reddish on new leaves and matures to a rusty brown color, giving this plant a very unusual two-toned appearance.
In summer it can appear, clustered atop 18-inch tall stalks, the yellow-green flowers with dark brown petal tips, flowering is not that common.
Plant this succulent with a well-draining soil in full sun to part shade and water only occasionally to very little.
Most important position the Kalanchoe tomentosa indoor panda plant in medium to bright light. As with most succulents, soil should be allowed to dry between waterings. In fact, watering is a limited part of panda plant care.
When you do water, do so completely while giving the plant the occasional drink. You’ll find humidity is not an issue when learning how to grow a panda plant successfully.
The average room provides enough humidity for this easy-care, furry plant. The indoor panda plant can live for many years in these conditions. Move it outside during spring and summer, if desired, but provide protection from hot afternoon sun.
While this species will tolerate brief periods of temperatures into the lower 40’s and even into the upper 30’s, sustained cold and long periods of cold and wet conditions can kill this plant, and a frost will kill it outright.
Temperatures from the mid 60’s to the mid 50’s would probably be best for the winter dormancy of this species.
This plant should have good air circulation, especially during hot and muggy conditions where mold and mildew can become established in the felted leaves.
Propagating Panda Plant Kalanchoe tomentosa
In fact, when you’re growing Kalanchoe panda plants, you’ll likely find more areas in the home that would benefit from one of these plants.
Propagation of the indoor panda plant is easy and an inexpensive way to get more of the plants. Root leaves of the plant in spring or summer in a sandy potting soil or a perlite mixture.
Next, new roots develop and the plant will grow new leaves, at which time it should be transferred into a new container.
Blooms are rare when growing Kalanchoe panda plants indoors. Therefore, if you wish to grow a Kalanchoe with regular indoor blossoms, look to the cultivar Kalanchoe blossfeldiana hybrids.
Over the years, a number of select cultivars have been introduced, these varying mostly in details of the shape, size, and density of the foliage, or the overall size of the plant.
“Chocolate Soldier” is the most popular of all, with broader regions of color on the leaf tips and margins. The plant is found in colors that range from a radiant rusty brown on new growth, and gradually maturing to a more chocolate-
Some online sources also indicate that “Chocolate Soldier” is a more reliable plant with a faster growth rate than others in the species.
Do Panda Plant Bloom?
Although this plant can flower within its natural habitat – it’s rare to see flowers bloom indoors, so it’s grown for primarily it’s foliage within homes or offices. If your lucky enough then you will see lovely small tubular shaped flowers bloom at the tips of the branches.
The flowers of Kalanchoe tomentosa , while small and not especially showy, are interesting, in that the outer petals are also densely covered with felt. Plants which are grown exclusively as a houseplant will seldom produce flowers.
Flower production requires warm temperatures and very bright light. To increase the likelihood of flower production, this plant should be moved to outdoor in spring and summer to benefit from increased temperatures and exposure to full sun.
Use a lower nitrogen “bloom booster” for best bloom result. Both Peters and Miracle Grow has a great product line.
The lower leaves are shed as the plant grows; while this is normal, in time, this can result in a plant with long stems topped with rosettes of leaves.
Pruning will encourage branching and will result in plants with a fuller appearance. The base of this succulent becomes woodier as this plant matures.
While the majority of other members of the Crassula family have flower parts in multiples of 5, the flowers of Kalanchoes have parts in multiples of 4, with 4 sepals, 4 petals, 8 stamens, and 4 free (not united) carpels.
Old-hand gardeners know for best success indoor cactus and succulent plants require a certain amount of neglect.