Kalanchoe pinnata is the succulent you all need in your life right now. It also goes by common names such as Bryophyllum pinnatum, cathedral bells, and the air plant.
It has traditionally been a sign of health and well-being in many cultures. This care guide in this article will teach you how best to grow and propagate pinnata.
- What Is Kalanchoe Pinnata Plant?
- Kalanchoe Pinnata Care
What Is Kalanchoe Pinnata Plant?
Kalanchoe pinnata is also known as the cathedral bells plant. This name has been given because of its bell-shaped purple flowers. It has the most fantastic-looking leaves where several tiny leaflets outline each leaf.
Kalanchoe Pinnata Care
Keep this plant someplace warm with temperatures around 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the whole soil to dry before watering abundantly with filtered, distilled, or rainwater. Provide direct sunlight for at least six hours each day except on hot summer days.
Make your Kalanchoe soil that is well-draining and nutrient-rich. Fertilizing is not really needed for this plant. Try to keep humidity on the lower side.
– Water Requirements
It would help if you allowed the Bryophyllum pinnatum soil to dry till the very end. Water copiously with a reasonable volume of water afterward. Keep watering until it begins to flow freely out of the drainage hole. Gardeners call this the ‘soak and dry’ method of watering succulents.
Make a habit of always checking your soil’s dryness levels before watering. This will save your plant from being over or underwatered. Many people just put their fingers in the soil to gauge how dry the soil feels one to two inches from the surface.
In order to know if the soil is deep till the end, use a thin stick. Insert it gently and near the rims of the pot. You don’t want to end up damaging the roots inadvertently. See whether it comes out dry or moist.
Most of us find it super convenient to use common tap water for watering our plants. However, is your tap water safe for plant consumption? You can have yours checked from any local laboratory.
In most cases, it contains salts, minerals, and gases that are harmful to plants. It would help if you started using distilled or filtered water instead. Rainwater is a cheaper alternative if your area gets steady rainfall throughout the year.
– Light Requirements
Kalanchoe needs direct sunlight that is also adequately bright for at least six hours each day. You only need to protect it from direct sunlight during summer mid-afternoon hours.
Potted succulents look great indoors, but providing adequate light for them can be a hassle. A room with a large window is a must. This plant will carry on living even under indirect bright light. However, its growth might become slower as a result.
Our Kalanchoe loves it when we put it directly on the window sills. An eastern or the western window gets three to four hours of direct sunlight each day. The southern window gets direct sunlight all day long. The most useless window is the north-facing one because your plant will get only indirect light from it.
During peak summer days, it is smarter to provide some shade from direct sunlight. Especially during the midafternoon time, cover your southern side window with a curtain. This is where your pinnata succulents will actually thrive. Put them out on the terrace or a garden to soak in all the sun that they like.
Only during the hottest summer days should you provide the plant with some shade. Move their pot under another plant or a table. Sunburn can be pretty nasty for succulents. Their otherwise plump leaves become dry, wrinkly, and brown. Luckily, this is not a common problem at all.
Artificial grow lights are a lifesaver for those struggling to provide Kalanchoe with direct sunlight daily. You will only need to buy two or three LED grow lights.
Install them above the succulent at 10 to 15 inches. To be effective, have them run at least 12 to 14 hours a day.
– Soil Requirements
You cannot use common gardening soil for this plant. What you need is a properly mixed soil mixture that is rich in nutrients. It also needs to be a rapidly draining mix to prevent water logging.
Making your own soil is always better than using an ordinary potting mix. You can give it all the right properties that your plant needs. Here is how perfect Kalanchoe soil is made.
- Start by taking one part of ordinary potting soil as the base material. Go for a well-draining mixture from a well-reviewed source.
- Add double the amount of sand to it. We always use coarse sand instead of a fine one. It is just easier to handle and mix.
- Your soil also needs a good dose of nutrition in it. Peat is the most widely available and used organic constituent of the soil. Add one part of it to your soil and mix well.
- If you make compost at home, you can also mix it along with the rest of the stuff. Cover the soil with a layer with mulching objects like clipping, shavings, cardboard, etc.
– Temperature Requirements
For a succulent, 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit is a pretty narrow temperature range to maintain. In US hardiness zone 9 to 11, you will be able to grow it outdoors throughout the year. For the rest of the areas, moving it indoors in the winter is best.
Temperatures above 85 degrees will cause Kalanchoe to suffer from burns. Its leaves might dry out and turn crispy brown around the edges. On the other hand, temperatures below 50 degrees lead to cold damage where most of the leaves will fall off.
– Humidity Requirements
Being desert succulents, this plant has pretty low humidity demands. It will survive on your average home humidity levels of around 50 to 60 percent, but these are still high for its leaves.
So, what can you do to keep pinatas looking healthy and striving? Ensure that the air circulation around the leaves is adequately maintained. Never mist this plant nor splash it with water.
It is also not a good idea to grow it in high-humidity rooms like the kitchen or the laundry room. High humidity risks these succulent leaves to fungal infections like powdery mildew. If you feel like your house is too humid, a dehumidifier might help.
– Fertilizing Requirements
Kalanchoe is not very big on fertilizing. You need to make its soil with a good percentage of organic constituents. This will keep it going for a relatively long time. If you must, use a very diluted amount of liquid chemical fertilizer every five or six weeks.
Here are some essentials you need to take care of when fertilizing a Kalanchoe plant:
- Water the soil and the roots thoroughly to help buffer against the chemicals in the fertilizer.
- Double or triple dilute liquid fertilizer by mixing water in an equal or double amount.
- If you see signs of overfertilizing, such as leaves getting yellower, stop feeding for the next couple of weeks.
- When watering, use a large amount of water. This will help wash away toxins that build up in the soil over time.
Make it a habit to clean your plant at least once per week. Washing is not a good option; use a dry cloth instead. Especially clean under the thick pinnata leaves, which is the favorite hiding spot for bugs.
You will also have to take time out for yearly pruning and snipping. Disinfect your instruments foremostly. Trim the branches to maintain the plant’s shape as per your wishes.
Just one word of caution: Don’t trim off more than one-third of the plant in one go. Also, keep removing old leaves and flowers once the bloom period ends. You don’t want an overcrowded and bushy plant with compromised air circulation.
Propagate your Kalanchoe pinnata at home using the parent plants’ stem cuttings or leaves. Leaf propagation is an easier method, especially for beginners. However, stem cutting is the method that provides better results.
The best time to propagate any plant is the early spring to the summer season. This is when the plant’s growth potential is at its peak. During wintertime, the plant goes into dormancy and will rarely, if ever, grow roots and shoots for propagation.
Read both these methods and decide which one is your favorite.
– Propagating Kalanchoe Through Leaves
Choose the best-looking young leaf in your plant for this method. This exponentially increases your chances of success.
- Make sure to cut the leaf from the plant along with its stem right from where it emerges from the leaf node.
- Clean the leaf first. Then apply some rooting hormone to the lower surface of the leaf.
- Mix the soil that you would for an adult plant. Moisten the top of the soil by sprinkling some water on it.
- The place the leaf on top of the soil so its lower surface is in contact with it.
- Move the plant to a shaded but bright location. Keep sprinkling water on it and ensure humidity is above 50 percent.
- A cool observation about this plant is that its leaves sprout new roots immediately into the soil.
- The shoots will also emerge if proper care of the plant is ensured.
– Propagating Kalanchoe Through Stem Cuttings
Stem cutting propagation is way better in terms of success. Learn all the steps of this process up ahead.
- Choose a healthy pinnata stem to take your cutting from. Cut five to six inches from the growing end of your chosen stem.
- Wrap your cutting in tissue paper for a while to let it dry. Then apply some rooting hormone to the cut end either in powder form or liquid form.
- Prepare your ideal soil mix for Kalanchoe first. Then insert your rooted cutting right in the middle of it.
- Initially, it’s better to wrap the pot in transparent plastic to increase its humidity to very high levels. Only take it off when you have to water the plant as required.
- Keep the plant in a shaded yet bright spot. You will soon have your own baby Kalanchoe plant soon after.
Every Kalanchoe plant parent needs to know how to deal with powdery mildew and pest attacks. You must know what to do if your plant’s light needs are not being met on an everyday basis.
We bring you simple solutions to these most commonly occurring Kalanchoe problems.
– Powdery Mildew Attack
Does your pinnata plant look like someone sprinkled flour all over it? If yes, you are currently dealing with a common fungal infection. Don’t panic just yet. It is a benign condition that is very easy to treat.
All plant parents must have neem oil in their pantries. Wet a cotton roll with a few drops of this oil. Then use it to wipe the white fungal hyphae covering the plant. Do this every week until the infection resolves.
Another way to use neem oil is to mix one teaspoon of it with one gallon of water approximately. To make this solution stronger, add a tablespoon of dishwashing soap. Using a spray bottle, spray the plant weekly until completely cured.
Baking soda, when mixed with water, is a strong anti-fungal. Mix one teaspoon in one quart of water for the most effective solution. Again, spray every week till your plant becomes spot-free.
It would help if you had common household vinegar for this. Mix water and vinegar in a ratio of 3:1 and put it in a spray bottle. Spray every week, making sure that no plant part gets missed.
One-metal milk mixed with two parts of water will cure your kalanchoe plant of its problematic mild spots. Moisten a cotton roll to apply this mixture on the leaves and under them. Since this is a relatively milder solution, you can apply it twice a week.
– Improper Sunlight: Leggy Plant
Kalanchoes kept indoors are most at risk of not receiving adequate sunlight. You will notice that its stem and branches seem to be stretching in an awkward direction. They become long, thin, and spindly as they grow towards a light source.
If you don’t solve this problem immediately, it will only grow bigger, followed by the leaves turning yellow and ultimately falling off. The plant can die because it can no longer produce enough food.
The best solution is to move the plant to a brighter room. Choose an eastern or a western side window and place it on the window sill or anywhere else close by.
We understand, however, that natural light is not so easily available everywhere. The good news is that artificial growth light for plants are as good as natural light. You can order a couple of them at very reasonable prices.
Grow lights work best when installed directly above the plant in question. These days most of the grow lights are LED. This gives you an energy-efficient solution to your leggy plant.
– Pests: Aphids, Mealybugs, and Spider Mites
For some reason, sap-sucking pests love the Kalanchoe pinnata plant. The leaves are too thick for nibbling plants to attack. Instead, you will have to deal with mealybugs, aphids, and spider mites.
All of these pests feed on nutrients from the sap of their host plant. Initially, only slight yellowing and curling of leaves will be the symptoms. You might even see larger bugs like mealybugs crawling across the plant.
Over time, you will see your plant become dull and drooping. The growth of new leaves and stems will be affected. You will notice a thick, sticky substance spread over the surface of the leaves.
Place the potted Kalanchoe under a sink and run water through it. Ensure that you eliminate as many of these bugs as possible. Add a bit of anti-insecticide soap for an extra effect.
Then start a weekly regimen of neem oil on the leaves and under them. Alternatively, mix vinegar with water in a 1:2 ratio and spray weekly.
Here is a quick review before we wrap our Kalanchoe pinnata guide up.
- This is a succulent, so it needs watering only once the soil is dried.
- Direct sunlight for six hours is a must.
- Keep humidity on the low and temperatures moderate to around 60 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In low light conditions, the plant will become leggy and stretched. Use grow lights to remedy this affliction.
A cathedral bell plant might be a bit demanding for a succulent. However, we believe its fresh foliage and purple blooms make up for that effort.
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