Kalanchoe is a succulent perennial plant native to the rainforests of Southeast Asia. This relative of the jade plant features clusters of small, colourful flowers and oval-shaped, fleshy leaves. Unless you live in a warm, frost-free climate, it is best to plant kalanchoe in a container so it can be brought inside in the winter. It is not difficult to plant kalanchoe, and by observing some basic gardening guidelines, you can ensure that your kalanchoe does double duty, serving as an attractive patio plant in summer and a cheerful houseplant in winter.
Prior to 1980, gardeners knew kalanchoe as a tall, sprawling plant with simple red or orange flowers; it was not particularly well-suited for use as a potted plant. In 1980, kalanchoe's popularity took a leap when growers developed a compact variety with lush foliage and profuse flowers in many colours, including white, pink, yellow and orange. Kalanchoe prefers temperatures between 15.5 and 29.4 degrees C; it is sensitive to cool temperatures, and will die within hours if the temperature dips to 4.44 degrees C. Kalanchoes bloom in cycles, with periods of generous blooming--usually more pronounced in winter--alternating with periods of rest. You should provide a dark area and a lot less water during these rest periods.
To plant kalanchoe, buy a healthy specimen in the spring for outdoor transplanting in a container. To allow good aeration of the roots, plant kalanchoe in clay pots. Facilitate adequate drainage by placing pebbles at the bottom of the pot, and use a light, quick-draining potting soil with plenty of peat moss, sand and perlite. Use care when transplanting kalanchoe in order to avoid damaging the sensitive root system. Avoid the use of companion plants in the same pot; kalanchoe does best as a solo act. Place the pot where it will get plenty of full sunlight; to avoid leaves becoming burnt, move the plant out of direct sun in the summer. When temperatures begin to fall under 15.6 degrees C, move your kalanchoe indoors for the winter, making sure it is not near drafts or cold windowsills. For a vibrant, hardy flower bed annual, plant kalanchoe in your garden in well-drained, slightly alkaline soil, and fertilise lightly. To avoid leaf spot, as well as damage to the plant's tender leaves, space the plants far enough apart so that their leaves don't touch, and air can circulate well. Kalanchoes planted in an outdoor flower bed won't survive the frost, but they will provide bright bursts of colour and attractive foliage during the warm season.
Kalanchoe is available in many colours, making it possible to custom-design your container garden to suit your taste. For daffodil-yellow blooms, plant Alexandra or Milos kalanchoes. For bright fuchsia flowers, try the Parina cultivar; if you prefer a salmon colour, choose the Pablo cultivar. The Meru is pale pink with deeper pink at the centres, while the Klabat cultivar combines yellow with flaming orange. The Pumila and Tetra Vulcan are dwarf varieties.
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