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Kalanchoe blossfeldiana Poelln. 1934
pronounced: kal-un-KOH-ee bloss-fell-dee-AH-nuh
(Crassulaceae – the Stonecrop family)
common name: Flaming Katy
Kalanchoe is from the Chinese name for one of the species; blossfeldiana is a tribute to the German botanist Robert Blossfeld (1882 – 1945), who introduced this Madagascan plant to the rest of the world. In Madagascar, it grows in the relative cool plateaux of the Tsarantanana Mountains, in semi-arid conditions, with rainfall less than 15 inches (380 mm) per annum.
These plants are compact succulents, slowish growers that can take up to 5 years to grow to their full size of up to about 45 cm, with a spread of up to 50 cm. They are usually grown here as potted house plants, and as such rarely attain a height of more than 30 cm.
The various cultivars produce blooms in a wide range of colours: reds, pinks, oranges, purples and whites are all common. The flowers are either single, with 4 petals, or doubles with 8 or more petals. A plant will often have 50 or so flowers at once.
This is a glabrous succulent herb or subshrub that may develop woody stems with age. It has a round habit and a moderate plant density, with shiny scalloped green leaves. These are ovate to circular in shape, opposite or sub-opposite, and 5 – 10 cm long.
The plant does not require a great deal of water, and watering is best done when the surface soil has dried out. The succulent leaves can store enough water to last the plant for several days. In those times of the year when light or temperature levels are low, watering should be reduced. When potted, the plant will accept normal household humidity. When the plant has finished flowering, it may be repotted in a fairly sandy soil mixture; this is usually done every couple of years. Be careful when handling the plant, as the leaves are very brittle, and will snap easily with rough handling. The plant propagates readily from stem cuttings, although a rooting hormone may help them to establish more quickly. When fertilizing, use a mixture fairly high in potassium.
To encourage branching and to produce as many growing tips as possible, and therefore the most flowers, the plant can be pruned and shaped after flowering. The plant does need rather bright light, or at least several hours of sunlight a day, to do really well.
Some parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.
Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2015
Page last updated 17th December 2016