Kalanchoes are gorgeous succulents that are beautiful as a houseplant or, in warm climates, in your flower garden. Unlike lots of succulents, which are grown primarily for their foliage, many varieties of kalanchoe offer a one-two punch: lush, shapely leaves and plentiful, vibrant blossoms in shades of white, yellow, orange, pink, and red.
There are many different varieties of kalanchoe, and not all of them are immediately recognizable as relatives! Some, like the "Flapjack plant" (Kalanchoe luciae) and the "Copper Spoon plant" (Kalanchoe orgyalis) feature colorful foliage, while others, like Kalanchoe marnieriana have show-stopping blooms. There are even varieties with fuzzy-textured leaves, and one, Kalanchoe beharensis, that's a small tree!
The most commonly found variety of kalanchoe is probably Kalenchoe blossfeldiana. This plant is a favorite of florists for potted flower arrangements, it's easy to find for sale even in the flower department at the local grocery store!
This "supermarket kalanchoe" is a great starter plant if you're just getting into succulents. For fancier or more exotic varieties, you may need to go to a specialty shop or order online. You may also find some varieties of kalanchoe on offer at your garden center if you live in a warm environment—northern climes are typically too cold for outdoor planting since kalanchoes are native to tropical areas of Africa and Madagascar.
Though it's possible for kalanchoe plants to be grown from seed, the easiest, most consistent, and most reliable way to propagate kalanchoe is through cuttings taken from the stems, or from offsets or pups (the little baby plants that grow up from the base of the parent plant, or at the edges of leaves). As clones of the parent plant, both of these propagation methods will result in new plants with the same characteristics as their parent, from leaf shape to blossom color. Even better, these methods of propagation don't require any special equipment or materials, and are easy enough for even novice plant enthusiasts to take on.
Ready to try propagating your own kalanchoe? Here's what you need to know.
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Propagating via Offsets
The easiest way to propagate your kalanchoe is via offset, which means waiting until the parent plant has begun to generate miniature versions of itself. Some varieties of kalanchoe grow these offsets around the base of the parent plant, while others develop at the tips of the leaves.
Offsets growing from the base of the parent plant look like miniature versions of the parent. If not removed, they'll compete with the parent for nutrients and space. For garden-planted kalanchoes, this might not be much of an issue, but if you're growing your kalanchoe as a houseplant, you'll need to make sure to remove these pups before they crowd the parent plant out of its home.
For kalanchoe varieties that produce their offsets on their leaves (like Kalanchoe Pink Butterflies), these mini plants are perched at the outside edges of the leaves. When they've matured enough to survive, they fall to the ground and begin to grow.
Wait until your offset is one to two inches high to remove it. They need time to develop their own root system before being cut loose. Once it's time to remove the offset, use a small trowel or even a spoon to work it loose from the parent plant. Try to dig up as much of the offset's root system as possible without disturbing the parent plant too much. You'll end up with a tiny version of the parent plant, roots and all, that's ready for repotting.
While rooted offsets take a bit of finagling to remove, those that are produced on the parent plant's leaves are much easier to gather. You can either wait until they fall for themselves, or give the plant a light shake to break loose any offsets that are ready to go. Gather up these little pups (leaf-borne offsets are typically much smaller than rooted offsets) and remove them to their new home.
The primary difference in planting leaf-borne versus rooted offsets is their size. Other than that, the process is essentially the same! Plant them in succulent mix and keep the soil slightly moist (not wet!) until you start to see signs of growth. For tiny leaf-borne offsets, just set them on the surface of the soil rather than trying to bury their tiny roots. They'll take it from there. Make sure you keep your new plants in a warm environment with lots of bright but diffuse light—direct sunlight can burn the leaves, but kalanchoe do best with lots of indirect light.
Once you start to see signs that your new plants have rooted and are growing, you can start treating them like any other kalanchoe, including allowing the soil to dry out a bit between waterings and pruning and repotting as necessary.
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Propagating via Cuttings
Propagation via cuttings is slightly more complicated than via offsets, but it's still well within your capabilities, even if you're new to the process!
Choosing the right plant
The best plants to take cuttings from are healthy and thriving, without any pest infestations or disease, and which haven't bloomed yet for the season. Look for plants with large, vibrant leaves—remember, some varieties of kalanchoe will have shades of red or purple tingeing their leaves, but this is actually a sign of health. Watch out for leaves that look bruised, yellow, or brown, as these might be symptoms of disease.
Making the cut
Use sharp scissors or pruning shears, and apply rubbing alcohol or a dilute bleach solution to clean them between plants. This makes sure you don't accidentally spread diseases among your collection.
Ideally, you should prune your plant twice— once after it blooms to remove flower stalks, and once in early spring, well before it blooms, to improve its shape. Flower stalks are not suitable for propagation, so discard those stems. When you prune to shape your plant, work slowly, taking one stem at a time until you've achieved the desired effect.
Clip right above a leaf or stem node. The plant will branch at that node and continue to grow. Meanwhile, trim the cut stems into lengths that include two to three leaves apiece. Each of these is a new cutting! While some succulents can be regrown just from leaves, many kalanchoe varieties require the stem for propagation, so don't cut it too short! Aim for three to five inches.
Handling new cuttings
Cuttings need time to form a callus over the cut spot before you replant them. Leave them in bright, indirect light, until the cut end begins to look scarred over. This can take up to a week, so be patient. Waiting for the callus to form can help prevent disease from infecting your new cutting.
Rooting cuttings in soil
Use damp succulent mix as a home for your new cuttings. You can simply stick the stems into the soil up to the first leaves and pack it firmly around them, or, for a little added oomph, dampen the stem and apply powdered rooting hormone before potting it up.
Put the pot somewhere that's warm and gets bright but indirect light. Keep the soil slightly moist—with only a tiny root system just developing, cuttings will need a bit more water than established plants, but they still don't like wet feet, as this can encourage soil-borne diseases to attack the new roots.
Be patient! It can take weeks or months to see signs of new growth, but resist the urge to dig up your plant to check on the roots, as this could prove fatal to the cutting.
Rooting cuttings in water
This method might seem counterintuitive for a plant that hates wet feet, but it really works! You'll need a clear glass container and your cuttings. You may also need some additional supplies to help support the cutting—you want only the stem to be submerged, so if the plant is at risk of falling completely into the water, cover the top of your vessel with plastic wrap and poke a hole in it to slide the stem through.
Place it in a warm, bright spot (remember, no direct sunlight!) and wait. The benefit of water rooting is that you'll be able to watch the whole process unfold and know exactly when your plant has established a root system and is ready to move into soil.
Caring for New Plants
Once your cutting develops roots, you can treat it just as you would a rooted offset. If you rooted it in water, it's time to give it home in a pot. Succulent potting mix works well for kalanchoe. Make sure not to overwater once your cutting is planted—soak the soil, allow to drain completely, and make sure the pot isn't sitting in a saucer of water. Your plant won't need to be watered again until the top two inches of soil feel quite dry.