Kalanchoe (2015)

By Eric Driskill (August 2015)

PhotoIn the family Crassulaceae, Kalanchoe is a large genus of succulent sub-shrubs, shrubs or perennial herbaceous plants that grow in southern and tropical Africa south of the Sahara Desert, Madagascar, islands of the Indian Ocean, India and Malaysia.

The genus was described by the botanist Michel Adanson in 1763. It has about 125 species, with the majority of these sold in “big box” stores as ornamental houseplants and outside “annuals.” Of course, the species most often present in succulent collections are absent from the shelves of those big box stores.

The leaves of kalanchoe are fleshy and come in a myriad of shapes, colors and markings – some with smooth leaves and others that are pubescent (fuzzy). The flowers also appear in a myriad of colors.

PhotoKalanchoe plants are propagated by leaf and stem cuttings or seeds. In some plants, new individuals develop vegetatively as plantlets at indentations in phylloclade margins. The main culprit is Kalanchoe daigremontiana, commonly known as the Mother of Thousands.

Some say that when this species is introduced into a respectable succulent collection and allowed to take hold, it is as hard to get rid of as a large uncontained planting of mint in your garden! The mint can be thinned and find its demise in a cold julep, but there is no such refreshing concoction to help rid your collection of those thousand K. daigremontiana.

Most of the species found in succulent collections are from Madagascar and South Africa, and seem to land on the extreme ends of the size spectrum of the genus. The largest Kalanchoe is from Madagascar. K. beharensis can reach 20 feet tall. You will more likely see species on the other end of the spectrum.