Plant Profiles Kalanchoe

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The pretty Kalanchoe is a succulent with vibrant flowers ranging from red to yellow with all shades in between. Kalanchoes belong to the Crassulaceae (stonecrop) family. Stonecrops are belong to the Sedum genus.

There are around 125 species of Kalanchoe, most of which are found through the tropical regions of Africa and Madagascar. There are also a few species in Asia. They range from low and sprawling to tall. Kalanchoes would make a good collection subject as the leaves come in a range of sizes, colours and textures. Technically kalanchoes are perennials. The kalanchoe most easily recognised by gardeners is Kalanchoe blossfeldiana.

The Kalanchoe makes a pretty addition to a rockery or container. In pots, they enhance a balcony or an indoor area with their appealing foliage and long-lasting pretty flowers.
Leaves can be any size up to the 30cm long and tend to be coarse. The leaves may be felt-like, powder-coated, glossy, or notched. They may be blue-grey, silver-grey, green-gold, silver-mauve or even bronze on the top and silver underneath. As if such variations weren’t enough, the margins may be tinged with red, dark brown or purple.

Depending on the species, the small but vibrant, star-shaped flowers open at varying times. The double flowering winter Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana cv. ‘Calandiva’) has exquisite double flowers and blooms right through winter. It is best grown indoors or in the shade.

Kalanchoe x hybrida ‘Tessa’ has bright red, tubular flowers and grows in full sun or light shade. The brilliant bells hang over the edge of the pot and are spectacular cascading from a hanging basket.

Varieties with attractive foliage include:
*  Kalanchoe beharensis – also called ‘Maltese Cross’, ‘Felt Bush’ or ‘Elephant Ear’ – white flowers, grey-green leaves up to 15cm long and covered in fine hair. The leaves are irregularly lobed.
*  Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Fang’ – is similar to ‘Maltese Cross’ with irregular leaves and white flowers. The under surfaces of the silver-grey leaves have tooth-like projections.

Both these varieties form shrubs to 30cm high.

*  Kalanchoe ‘Penwiper Plant’ – oval blue-green leaves with eye-catching purple markings. The leaves are large with scalloped edges. This variety flowers in large white clusters in winter.

*  Kalanchoe tomentosa (Panda Plant or Pussy’s Ears) – silver-grey leaves covered with white ‘felting’ and with very dark toothed margins. The flowers are red.

Kalanchoes will grow in full sun or light shade. They do not like frost. If your area is warm and frost-free, Kalanchoes will be happy outdoors in a sunny, sheltered position. Otherwise, they are best in a greenhouse or indoors. They need good drainage and light, friable soil. Being a succulent they should not be kept too wet. For best results, allow the soil to dry out between waterings. To stop the plants become long and rangy, pinch back the tips of the stems. This will ensure a more compact shape.

Kalanchoes can be propagated from stem or leaf cuttings, or seed. Some varieties produce plantlets along the leaf edges. These can be carefully removed and planted to form new plants.

The variation in the Kalanchoe group ensures that there is one that will enhance a spot in anybody’s garden.

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