Kalanchoe is a succulent plant prized for its hardy nature and low maintenance. It is native to Africa, Madagascar, India and Southeast Asia. They are generally warm-climate plants, though some cultivars can tolerate near-freezing temperatures for a short time, according to DesertTropicals. They come in such a wide variety of shapes and characteristics that identifying them can be challenging. Flowers can be of many different colours and leaf shapes vary widely. To identify kalanchoe, you should take a step-by-step approach of examination of various parts of the plant.
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- Kalanchoe plants
Look at the general structure of the plant. Succulents like kalanchoe are specialised plants that can store water within their leaf cells. This makes them able to withstand drought. They generally have thick leaves in a variety of shapes and textures. They can grow low to the ground or upright.
Notice the colour and shape of the leaves. Kalanchoe comes in a variety of cultivars that can have a wide variety of shapes. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana has broad, dark-green, serrated leaves, while Kalanchoe manginii has narrow, densely-clustered leaves. Kalanchoe daigre-montiana has triangular leaves with tiny plantlets growing at the edges. Kalanchoe thyrsiflora leaves grow in an overlapping spiral pattern.
Observe the colour and shape of flowers. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana has clusters of small flowers at the end of stems in a variety of colours. Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi bears purple or reddish brown flowers. Some varieties of kalanchoe do not flower at all, like Kalanchoe tomentosa, which has fuzzy leaves giving it the name "panda plant."
Tips and warnings
- Kalanchoe gastonis bonnieri has leaves the shape of long, pointed donkey ears, giving the plant its name, "the donkey ear plant." Young leaves are light green or greenish-white when young, which then develop spots as the plant matures, according to PlantCare. It bears drooping red or yellow flowers.
- Kalanchoe blooms heaviest in the spring, but can bloom all year long.
- If you find a plant that you suspect is a kalanchoe that has small baby plants growing at the tips of the leaves, it is likely a Kalanchoe pinnata, Kalanchoe daigre-montiana or Kalanchoe tubiflora, according to North Dakota State University.
- Cactus are succulents with spines, though they do not have branches or leaves, according to Bachmans. They are categorised separately as cactus.
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana blooming times can be manipulated to occur at desired times such as Christmas.
- There are 130 species of kalanchoe and many additional hybrids which can make identifying the correct species difficult.
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