Kalanchoe: The Plants Borne from Leaves
|Sanford, Fla.; The genus Kalanchoe includes some of the most curious plants that you can find. Plants in this group have thick succulent leaves which often give rise to small plants along their margins called offsets or plantlets. It seems incredible that each leaf can produce dozens of tiny plants already developing as parasites on the leaves. Plants in this group also produce beautiful leaf shapes and markings that make them unique in the vegetable world. To make them even more interesting, some of them produce showy flower clusters that can only be described as spectacular. Flowers are bell-shaped, borne in terminal clusters, and usually hanging downward. Fruits are very small and uninteresting. Stems tend to loose the lower leaves.
Habitat: Plants in this group are native of the Old World tropics, mainly in Africa and Madagascar.
Viviparous plants: Plants in the genus Kalanchoe are sometimes called viviparous. The name indicates that the plant produces offsprings that germinate while still attached to the parent plant.
Care: As with most succulent plants, they should receive good light during the spring and summer. Too much light will turn leaves red or darker color. As winter approaches, keep flowering plants a little cooler. Minimum temperatures should be around 60 ?F. Plants that do not produce big cluster of flowers can be kept at a minimum temperature of 41 degrees; they usually do not tolerate high temperatures during the winter and tend to do poorly during this time of the year. The offsets drop constantly from the leaves and may compete for nutrients with the mother plant. Transplant or discard the plantlets as they can overcrowd the mother plant.
Soil requirements: Well drained soils with medium fertility are recommended for kalanchoe. These plants are tolerant to high salt content, alkaline soils, and dry soil conditions.
Light requirements: Plants will grow well in full sunlight or partial shade. The kalanchoe is a short-day plant and will only bloom when the days are less than 12 hours long. Under normal conditions, flower buds will start to develop by November and flowering will occur during the spring. Plants can be forced to develop flower buds by artificially controlling the hours of darkness using a black plastic bag or placing them in a dark room. This treatment must be continued for three to four weeks until buds are produced. By removing the initial flower buds, a more profuse flowering will occur. It takes about 12 to 15 weeks for flowering following this treatment.
Watering: Succulents should not be watered frequently. Plants with large leaves may require a little more water than plants with smaller leaves. Plants that produce offsets may be kept in relatively moist soils during the summer but in winter they should receive very little water.
Fertilization: Succulents do not require much fertilizer but plants will benefit from a slow release fertilizer or use monthly applications of a liquid fertilizer. Do not feed heavy doses of nitrogen to kalanchoe, it may affect their natural growth habit. A cactus fertilizer could be used to feed succulents.
Propagation: The kalanchoe can be propagated by seeds but most gardeners propagate them by removing the plantlets produced on the leaves margins and planting them directly on the potting media. Other plants in this group can be propagated from tip cuttings or leaf cuttings. Very fleshy leaves should be left to dry before placing them in the potting media.
Uses: Many of these plants are used in rock-and-sand gardens. They can be used for urns, and some species are used as ground covers. The flowering species are grown mainly for their beautiful flowers. Because of their low water requirements, they are placed in the garden next to the cactus.
Pests and diseases: These plants are generally free of pests and disease problems. Occasionally, caterpillars can damage leaves and sometimes leaf spots, caused by fungi, may affect some plants under very humid conditions.
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