Kalanchoe blossfeldiana often goes by the shortened name of Kalanchoe or by its more common names of Widow's-thrill and Flaming Katy, derived from its colorful and vibrant blooms.
As a present for a birthday, anniversary or to bring life to a dull table are all reasons people will buy this readily available and inexpensive houseplant. But like the Gerbera and Pot Mum its time in the home tends to be fleeting. On one hand you have a houseplant that although very compact is often smothered in small and numerous flowers with vivid colours lasting for many weeks (sometimes even months if conditions are cool and you deadhead the spent blooms). This without question is its main attraction, throwing colour and flaming beauty at you.
However on the other hand you have the Flaming Katy's brittle green succulent like leaves underneath, supporting and producing these amazing flowers. The problem with this is that the leaves are sort of boring or to some, even ugly in comparison and although the plants can reflower again and again in the future, while waiting for their reappearance they take up valuable shelf or desk space that might be better suited for more attractive foliage plants.
This drawback is such, that it's not uncommon for people to throw the Flaming Katy away after the flame has died out. This is a shame because looking beyond the surface it's a very easy and versatile plant to have around and as mentioned above, the flowers do often return again with minimal care and providing light levels are bright enough.
This Kalanchoe is poisonous to pets (and people) if ingested, but it's typically impervious to pests and does feature in the top 50 houseplants to clean the air, so if desired and safe to do so it's definitely worth keeping around.
For a month or so Kalanchoe will cope with dark areas in your home or office, perfect if you've chosen such a spot to show off its blooms. In the longer term this is no good as it needs very bright light, or at least a few hours of sun a day, failure to provide this will eventually finish the plant off and the flowers won't be back.
The occasional or forgetful indoor gardener will love the Flaming Katy as it will take erratic and sparse watering due to the succulent fleshy leaves being able to store water for several weeks at a stretch. An attentive owner wanting a prosperous plant will water heavily once the soil has dried out quite a lot and then will wait until its dry again. In cold months of the year only a small amount of water is needed every couple of weeks at the most.
As with many succulent like plants the humidity level isn't something you need to worry about.
Reduce the amount of water you give when light or temperature levels are low
Plants in bloom don't need any feeding. A few weeks after all the flowers have faded a standard houseplant feed is all you need. Alternatively you can use a feed which is designed for flowering plants, this will have a higher level of potash / potassium designed to encourage more blooms next time it flowers.
10°C - 22°C / 50°F - 72°F is the ideal temperature range for the the Kalanchoe, although it should still be okay if it ever slips outside of these ranges. Just make sure you avoid frost and if it's very hot, you must follow the watering instructions above. Good ventilation will prevent Basal Stem Rot and Botrytis.
Should you choose to keep the plant after flowering has finished then when it comes to repotting you should use a soil mix which is either very free draining, or add some grit or sand to the medium you are using. Look to repot every couple of years but when you do, be careful as the leaves are quite brittle and will snap easily with rough handling.
This is quite easy to do by Leaf Cuttings should you want to propagate new plants which are true to their parents.
Speed of Growth
Growth is generally slow no matter the conditions your plant finds itself in. However because the plant is rather small anyway, a little growth over an entire season can still make it look quite different. The maximum height and spread is usually reached between 3 and 5 years.
Height / Spread
Few indoor K. blossfeldiana's will ever be taller or wider than 30cm / 12in, which gives a pretty dainty specimen.
This houseplant certainly has flowers to shout about. Reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, purples and whites are all common, coming in either singles with 4 petals or doubles with 8 or more petals. It's usual to have 50 or more blooms at a time so all you really see from a casual glance is one big cloud of colour but if you get in close the detail on each flower is both phenomenal and stunning.
How do you prolong the flowers? To prolong the flowering period of your Kalanchoe choose a cooler space away from strong heat and bright sunlight. As the blooms start to fade, deadhead by removing them carefully from the flowering cluster.
How do you get the Flaming Katy flowering again? Re flowering can be brought on by playing around with light levels to fool the plant, but in our experience just keeping them in a bright semi sunny position following the care instructions above is enough to get them blooming again in the future. The only "trick" therefore is to let them rest for a month after the original flush of flowers has finished. During which point don't give any feed at all and only just a little water during this period. After a month resume standard care and new buds should eventually appear.
Lanky / Leggy plant
Not necessarily a "problem" but it's an indication you aren't providing enough light. If the light levels are low the plant will leave its compact nature behind and become leggy as it spreads itself out to maximize the light it does receive.
Along with pests, in general the Flaming Katy holds its own well against diseases. The only ones you are likely to come across are caused by too much watering combined with high levels of humidity and poor ventilation as Crown and Stem Rot and Grey Mold are common in these conditions. In the picture Grey Mold (Botrytis) has taken hold on a fallen leaf, it should be removed as soon as possible to prevent the risk of it spreading to any healthy growth.
Leaf distortion / Leaf Curl
Normally this is a result of certain insecticides. Where possible you should use organic methods of pest control, however if you use chemicals and leaf distortion ruins its appearance to such an extent, you will need to discard the plant.
Sometimes this can be what most people would expect when they see this - underwatering, but it can often be a sign of overwatering in this plant. It's easy to know which however, when you see this symptom feel the soil, if its dry you've confirmed the underwatering theory, if it's sodden then you know its from overwatering.
Kalanchoe will shed it's leaves if you constantly don't water enough. They go yellow because the plant has killed that particular leaf but is first taking out all of the "goodness" and transporting it to other areas. It's ultimately a self preserving attempt, better to lose a few leaves and regrow them than die totally. It's not good for it in the long term however so work on your watering skills.
Credit for pink, red and white Kalanchoe flowers - Article / Gallery - Wildfeuer
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