How to care for Christmas kalanchoe
Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana) is often bought as a house plant during the festive season. It's popular thanks to the colourful blooms which start to appear in December and last around 6 to 8 weeks. Native to Madagascar, it's a succulent plant that can survive in dry environments with little humidity. This also makes kalanchoes incredibly easy to care for – another reason people love them. Available in single and double flowering varieties, they have beautiful dark green waxy leaves and tiny tubular flowers, perfect for brightening up your home. Red is of course is most people's top choice at Christmas but this beautiful plant also come in white, pink, fuchsia, yellow and orange.
Caring for your kalanchoe
Kalanchoes require bright light to thrive. The more light they receive, the bigger their leaves will grow. If they aren't given enough light, their stems can become leggy and weak as they try to seek it out. Although they enjoy bright light, avoid placing them on very sunny windowsills. Their leaves can burn if placed in direct sunlight and they're also prone to wilt if it gets too cool in the night. A temperature of around 15-20°C during the day and 10-15°C at night is ideal.
One of the most common issues with kalanchoes is overwatering, which can cause the leaves to rot. So make sure your plant is in a well-drained soil – use a potting mix designed for cacti and succulents, or alternatively use a 50/50 mix of potting compost and perlite. You only really need to water your plant when the soil has dried out.
Around once a month, add in some general purpose fertiliser when you water.
To encourage more compact and bushy growth, prune your kalanchoe back once the flowering season has ended. Prune the whole stem, just above the leaves so that the stem grows two new branches from the point it's been cut.
If you would like to repot your plant, just after the flowering period is a good time. Adding a couple of inches of gravel to the bottom of the pot will improve drainage and prevent the roots from rotting.
Continue to feed your kalanchoe once a month throughout the spring and summer. Only use half-strength fertiliser during the growing period to prevent the growth of deformed leaves.
Most people tend to buy their kalanchoe in December and throw it away once it has stopped flowering. But with a little extra care and attention these plants can be brought back to flower in a similar way to poinsettias. So how do you do it?
From around mid-September onwards, stop feeding your plant and give it 14 hours of complete darkness per day. A good way is to place it in a cupboard overnight from around 6pm to 8am. Make sure that the cupboard you choose won't be disturbed during the night, because even small amounts of artificial light can prevent this process from working. During the day it should be placed in a cool but bright location (10-15°C).
After about 6 to 8 weeks, buds should start to re-appear on your kalanchoe. At this point it will be ready to put back out on display in a bright location for you to enjoy. Continue to care for your plant as you did the previous year and you should enjoy long-lasting blooms throughout the festive period.
NOTE: Kalanchoe is poisonous if consumed, so be sure to keep your plant away from pets and small children.