Kalanchoe is a pretty, succulent plant that originally comes from Madagascar. There are more than 200 species of kalanchoe, although the Kalanchoe blossfeldiana variety or 'Flaming Katy' is typically found in your local garden center. It comes in a variety of flower colors, including shades of red, pink, orange, white, purple and yellow in vivid shades on several flower heads. Each head has 20 or more tiny blossoms grouped closely together. Like all succulent flowers, kalanchoe cannot tolerate having chronically wet feet.
Setup for Healthy Kalanchoes
Unlike many tropical plants, kalanchoe does not like to be kept moist. It also doesn't like to remain dry for long periods like cacti do. A kalanchoe watering program for kalanchoe starts with a pot that has good drainage holes and fast-draining, highly-porous soil. When you buy kalanchoe for holiday decoration, you should consider transplanting it after the holiday season since many times it comes in a container that may not be roomy enough nor drain well enough to suit the plant's preference for alternating dry and wet soil.
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Transplanting Kalanchoes After the Holidays
Most kalanchoe are used as throwaway holiday decorations. If you want to keep the plant, let the pot go without water for two weeks. Flip the pot over and bang the bottom hard to dislodge the plant and root ball onto newspapers on your tabletop. Knock loose the old soil from around the roots and discard.
Use a new pot and fill the bottom with about 1/2 inch of foam pellets. Mix porous potting soil and sphagnum peat moss and pre-wet it with hot water. Allow the soil to drain on a sheet of plastic. Mix in 1 tbsp. of pulverized lime to bring the pH to between 5.8 and 6.3.
Lay 1/2 inch of the pre-wet soil in the pot and set the plant on top. Make sure the top of the root ball is just below the rim of the pot. Add enough soil mixture to lift the plant high enough, then pour the soil mixture around the roots. Pour warm water over the soil frequently to settle it around the roots. Fill the pot then water again to settle the soil.
Pack down with your hands and add more soil as needed. Poke deep holes in the soil and pour packets of copolymers (available at your plant nursery) into the soil. This is important to ensure proper release of water to the new plant. Now find a dark place for the plant and don't water for two weeks so new roots will grow. Then water the plant from the bottom by setting the pot in a bowl of warm water for its first watering.
Long-Term Kalanchoe Watering
Place the plant in bright light or full sun if possible – four hours of direct sun if you can manage. Kalanchoes like warm dry conditions between 60 and 75 degrees. Water every eight to 10 days, watering from the bottom in the mornings. If leaves droop, you're over-watering. If that happens, let the soil dry an extra day or so before watering next.
After Memorial Day, increase kalanchoe watering for the summer to once a week. If the surface soil in the pot becomes bone dry, use a small plastic watering can with a long spout and wet the soil on the top of the pot with warm water. Don't get the leaves wet as they can mildew and rot.