Kingdom   Plantae
Phylum    Magnoliophyta
Class     Magnoliopsida (Dicotyledons) 
Sub-Class Rosidae
Order     Rosales
Family    Crassulaceae
Genus     Kalanchoe
Species   Approximately 200
The most common plant referred to as simply kalanchoe is Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana, also called Flaming Katy or Christmas Kalanchoe (because it blooms in winter). It is fast-growing, flowering succulent with thick green ovate leaves which may be from 1" - 4" long. The flowers range in colour from bright pink to red, orange and yellow. It is a member of the Crassulaceae family, which includes such plants as sempervivum (hens and chicks), and the jade plant. This variety of Kalanchoe is seen as an outdoor plant primarily in the American southwest as a sun-loving ground cover and in it's native habitat in Madascar. Most of the United States is too wet and chilly for kalanchoe to be a viable outdoor plant.
Kalanchoe prefers bright sunlight and sandy, well-drained soil. Allow the soil to dry to the touch between waterings. To produce flowers, the plants require a minimum of six weeks of 14 hours of darkness per day. During dark periods, the plants require less water.
Kalanchoe is a very easy to propagate plant. In fact, if left alone it will propagate itself. Almost any plant material which drops onto the soil can (and probably will) produce a new plant. This is particularly true of Kalanchoe Tubiflora, which avidly produces plantlets. You can propagate the plant on your own using stem cuttings or leaf cuttings.

To propagate using leaf cuttings, remove a leaf from the plant and allow it to dry for a day or two. Then dip the leaf stem into rooting hormone (such as RootOne, available almost anywhere you can buy plants) and put it into warm moist soil. Soon roots which grow and a new plant will sprout.

Stem cuttings are just as easy and allow you to more quickly produce a mature plant. Find a branch you wish to make a new plant from (at least 2" - 3" long and at least two sets of leaves) and cut it just below a set of leaves (do not use stems which are woody). Remove the lowest leaves then leave the stem to dry. Dip the cut end of the stem into rooting hormone, and put it into warm moist soil. Soon roots will develop (usually within two weeks) and new leaf growth will occur (new leaves are very pretty, they are a light green and sparkle like glitter in the sunlight)..

Being so meticulous is not necessary with these plants -- as stated above they will propagate themselves (sometimes growing out of control).

Since the plant is so often sold around Christmas and tossed out in March, there is not a whole lot of information to be had regarding proper pruning. It is not often a hobby plant. Many people feel the plant is only pretty during it's first growing year, and so new plants are propagated from old ones and the old ones are thrown away. I hate throwing away plants. Here is it what has worked for me:

Most often the plant will be in bloom when you buy it. The flowers tend to be on the end of long flimsy stems, and after a few weeks growth these stems will begin to bend and fall into the plant. Cut the stems that hold the flowers just above the first set of leaves. Often, this will encourage another round of blooming during winter months. The kalanchoe can be convinved to produce blooms for much of the winter with continual pruning of this sort.

After the plant has stopped flowering, it is a good idea to give the kalanchoe a pretty good haircut. A major pruning will help to increase the diameter of the stems, encourage branching, and result in a more bushy and pleasing plant. Stems should be cut just above where two leaves meet. The stem will then usually create two new branches just above the leaves. The plant will readily survive (and thrive) after having it's branches cut back by more than half.

Kalanchoe is a very hardy and forgiving plant. It makes a fabulous plant for indoor window boxes. The more light, the bigger and prettier the leaves are, but it can tolerate most conditions (except over-watering). If you want to keep a kalanchoe for more than just a few months, here are some tips:
  • Allow the soil to dry to the touch between waterings. The best method of watering is to fill a sink with water and soak the pot until the soil stops release bubbles. Then let the plant drain completely. Avoid getting water on the leaves.
  • Fertilize once monthly. Any common houseplant fertilizer will do but a 20-10-20 fertlizer is optimum. Dilute it! Otherwise you may deform new leaf growth.
  • If you re-pot the plant, put horticultural charcoal about 1" - 2" deep at the bottom of the pot. This helps absorb excess moisture and helps to keep the soil in good condition (thus avoiding root rot). Use a commercial cactus and succulent soil or mix two parts potting soil with one part sand. Top the soil with a layer of small gravel (smaller than pea-sized) to keep the leaves above the potentially moist soil.
Houseplants usually face few problems except those pertaining to light, water, and soil conditions. Unfortunately, the symptoms of a distressed plant is usually leaf-drop, no matter what the underlying cause. However, this plant is more often over-watered than under-watered so that should be your first assumption.

The most common pest found on the kalanchoe is mealybugs. The bugs are difficult to see with the naked eye, but their presence is made obvious because they make cottony-white spots where leaves meet the stems. Avoid commercial pesticides as these can kill succulents. Instead, dip a q-tip in rubbing alcohol and wipe away the cotton. Check every week and repeat as necessary.

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