Plant Palette

Plant Palette

Kalanchoe

Photo of Jennifer Schultz Nelson

Jennifer Schultz Nelson
Extension Educator, Horticulture
jaschult@illinois.edu

Kalanchoe

I'll be brutally honest. This is my least favorite time of year. Spring teases us with a bright, sunny, mild day, then it all comes crashing down when the cold winds roar the next day, usually bringing with it cold rain that chills you to the bone. I crave color this time of year, tired of the brown landscape staring back at me as I drive to work each day.

I find myself gazing longingly at flowering houseplants in the stores I frequent. If I bought all the plants I admire, I know before long there would be no room for me in my own home! One colorful plant that I've had over the years is kalanchoe. Its bright colors are a sure remedy for the winter blahs.

Kalanchoe needs at least four hours of sun each day, and grows best in cool conditions ranging from 50 degrees at night to 70 during the day. Most homes should be a good environment, assuming enough light is available. Water needs are simple–the plant should be watered thoroughly when the top few inches are dry.

As with most houseplants, spring is the appropriate time to repot kalanchoes. Pay special attention that the potting mix is very porous and allows water to drain freely. Spring is also a good time to propagate kalanchoes. They root well from cuttings dipped in a little rooting hormone and placed in a light soil mix.

From March until September, kalanchoes should be fertilized with flowering houseplant fertilizer. Kalanchoes naturally flower in the spring, but a Christmas bloom can be achieved with 30 days of extended darkness from 6pm to 7am starting on September 1st.

Colors for kalanchoes typically are shades of pink, red, orange or yellow. There is a double-flowered variety available named Calendiva which is absolutely beautiful. If spring doesn't show up soon, at least we have flowering houseplants!

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