Kalanchoe is a succulent plant, native to Madagascar. From more than 100 plants belonging to the genus Kalanchoe, the cultivar Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is the most popular and widely cultivated indoor plant. The leaves are saw-toothed, broad, and dark green. The flowers come in a variety of colors, ranging from red, pink, orange to purple, comprise four petals, and bloom in clusters at the end of the stem. This indoor plant variety is rather small, not more than 4 inches in height as well as diameter. Being a succulent, it does not require too much water, and thrives well with a little sunlight, making it an ideal plant to grow indoors.
A Guide to Growing Kalanchoe Indoors
■ Buy a small clay pot, about 4 - 5 inches in size, in which you can plant your newly bought sapling. The pot should have a small hole at the bottom to allow water to drain. Fill it with potting soil which drains well. You can also add peat to this soil, as well as a few pebbles at the bottom for better water drainage. Being a succulent, you can also use the readily available cactus soil to grow your sapling. Or you can make your own blend of soil by mixing equal parts of the regular potting soil with sand and then adding a handful of gravel to it. Nourish the soil with a water-soluble plant fertilizer twice a month.
■ Plant your sapling in the potted mix, and keep the pot near the window. This plant cannot tolerate too much of bright sunlight for a long time, but still needs a lot of indirect light to grow well. So choose a window which filters sunlight for a few hours of the day. If the leaves start yellowing and look stressed, it's an indication that the plant is receiving too much sunlight.
■ During summers, kalanchoes need more water, as compared to the winter months. Since this plant is a succulent, its leaves act as water reservoirs, and its water requirement is relatively less. Check the soil with your hands before you water them. If it feels moist, it means the soil has enough of water. The water should not pool around the base of the plant, but gradually penetrate into the soil. Excess water is not beneficial for the roots, as it makes them prone to rot and diseases. Keep the leaves dry, as watering the leaves will turn them yellow.
■ This plant likes dry weather. So take care if it gets too muggy. In very moist conditions, brown spots may appear on the leaves. In such a case, ventilate the room well and allow the breeze to come in whenever possible.
■ During the winter, maintain the temperature close to 60 °F or above, as these plants do not prefer very cold weather. As the weather cools down, you will see your little plant beginning to bloom. To help it bloom better, you can cut back on the hours of sunlight it receives daily by moving it away from the window for a few hours a day, as less sunlight will help it form buds. Once the buds have sprouted, you can keep it back on your window sill.
■ Snip off any blooms that have withered or fallen into the pot. This will encourage new flowers to bloom faster and last longer.
■ Since these plants are easily available and fairly inexpensive, most people throw off the plant once it stops flowering, and buy a new sapling each year. But you can prune the plant in such a way that it lasts well into the next season, yielding pretty blossoms. When the blooms have all fallen off, snip off the dried-up stem and flowering head. Move your plant away from direct sunlight, and water it less frequently than you usually do. By spring next year, place the pot back on the window sill, water it the regular way, and you should see small buds reappearing!
■ Kalanchoe plants can be easily propagated through leaf cuttings. Take a healthy leaf and snip it close to the leaf stalk. Condition the soil by moistening it and adding peat and perlite in equal quantities. Insert the leaf well into the soil. Propagating a leaf requires moist conditions, so ensure the soil is always damp, away from sunlight, and in a well-shaded place. When you see tiny leaves emerging from the original leaf, cut and divide the leaf into individual sections and transplant the newly formed plants into separate pots filled with potting soil.
These plants are very easy to grow, and people continue to keep the plant even after it has stopped flowering because of its captivating foliage, made up of dark-green, succulent leaves. It is one of the best Christmas and housewarming gifts to give someone. What better way to add cheer to your room than by decorating it with multicolored kalanchoe blooms.