How to Grow Flaming Katy in Your Home



Madagascar-native Flaming Katy is a real treasure. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a perennial, seasonal bloomer with vivid umbels of bright flowers. Succulent, scalloped leaves form a backdrop for the bursts of red, pink, yellow or salmon. And, for a houseplant, their blooming time is quite long!

You’ll find that this perennial plant’s a perfect addition for an indoor garden. Those in warm climates can consider outdoor growth, too. And best of all, it doesn’t require constant attention. It’ll keep doing its thing, indoors or out, with only minor care.

Curious about this stunning kalanchoe? Read on for a complete care guide!

Good Products For Growing Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana:

Overview

Gorgeous pink Kalanchoe blossfeldiana at the Hong Kong Flower Show. Source: KHQ Flower Guide
Common Name(s): Flaming katy, florists kalanchoe, Christmas kalanchoe, widow’s thrill
Scientific Name Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
Family: Crassulaceae
Zone: 10-12 outdoors, but often grown as a houseplant in other zones
Height & Spread: 0.5-1.5 feet tall and wide
Light Full sun to partial shade, can grow in bright indirect lighting
Soil Sandy, light, well-drained soils
Water: Sparingly, let dry between waterings
Pests & Diseases: Scale, mealybugs, mites. Susceptible to root rot & some mildew.

All About Madagascar Widow’s-thrill

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a lovely, drought-tolerant flowering plant. Source: kaiyanwong223

A winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, this plant’s got it all. Fleshy, thick leaves with delicate scalloped edges create a medium green base layer. From there, long stalks with clustered umbels of flowers rise.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana often blooms in the late fall and early winter. It’s earned the name “Christmas kalanchoe” because of this. The “flaming Katy” name comes from the vivid flowers. It’s also called Madagascar widow’s-thrill or florist’s kalanchoe.

The blooming period lasts an astonishingly long time when compared to other houseplants. Where most will last for a week or so, these will last for multiple weeks. These are bright, four-petaled flowers in many colors – scarlet, salmon, pink, or yellow.

It’s not limited to a winter bloom. Growers may find their kalanchoe sending up flowers at other times of year as well, especially if they provide the right “forced” conditions. Cheery and bright, those flowers can really liven up a bright window!

When in full flower, the entire top of the plant can look like a tapestry of color. The rest of the time, the fleshy, succulent leaves are a nice, calming green. The edges on some cultivars can sometimes be tinged with red.

Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana Care

Kalanchoe foliage
When not in flower, the foliage is a lovely, vibrant green hue. Source: Henryr10

These lovely houseplants make an excellent gift. Easy to care for, they’re a great option for new gardeners and experienced ones alike. Let’s talk about their super-easy care regimen!

Light and Temperature

Native to a very warm climate, this plant won’t thrive without it. Once the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for it to survive. This is partially why it’s such a popular houseplant.

Indoors, provide either full sun through a sunny window or bright, indirect lighting. The more light it gets, the better. It’s a sun-worshipper!

Outdoors, full sun is fine in warmer climates, but it does like a little partial shade during hot weather. Providing afternoon shade gives the plant a little break from scorching heat.

Flaming katy should be brought indoors in the fall. Once temperatures consistently drop below 50 degrees, it needs to be kept warm. You may be able to extend its outdoor time by providing a cold frame to keep it warm.

Water

Red florist's kalanchoe
Sometimes called florist’s kalanchoe, it makes a beautiful houseplant. Source: CRLSE

Dry conditions are better than wet for this plant. When you do water, water deeply, allowing the soil to suck in as much moisture as it can hold. Ensure any excess drains off. Wait until the soil has dried out before watering again.

Those succulent leaves provide more than just good looks. Thick leaves like this can store a lot of water for a plant. Keep an eye on your plant’s leaves. If they look withered or saggy, you’re likely underwatering. If they seem firm and full, your plant’s fine.

Ensure your soil has excellent drainage, as too wet conditions can promote root rot.

Soil

Extremely well-draining soil is a must for this plant. It prefers a sandy, loose, and lightweight soil blend. Hard packed clay is too difficult for the roots to penetrate.

An interesting note about this plant is that it’ll tolerate saltier soils. For people along California’s coastline, this makes it a nearly perfect choice. It should grow along that coastline year-round.

While some moisture-retaining material is welcome in the soil, try to avoid excess. It should remain light and fluffy. This is one of those times at which coconut coir makes a perfect addition, as it remains light even when wet. Even then, be sure it drains excess water freely. Perlite is a great addition if you don’t have coarse sand to add.

Fertilizer

A balanced fertilizer is fine for this plant during its active growing season. If you wish to promote flowering, opt for something a smidge higher in phosphorous for lots of blooms.

If you opt for a slow-release fertilizer, follow manufacturer’s directions for frequency. Liquid fertilizers should be diluted and applied at the base of the plant on a biweekly basis.

Propagation

Flaming katy
Flaming katy flowers grow in a variety of fiery colors, such as this orange. Source: KHQ

Propagation for flaming katy is through seeds or stem cuttings.

Seed germination takes place in moist, well-draining soil which is 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, use a seed starting mat to maintain the right temperature. Ten days later, you should start to see the seedlings pushing up through the soil.

Cuttings should be pieces of the plant which are not flowering. Select a piece that’s at least three inches in length and which is vigorous. Once cut, set it into an empty pot for a few days. This allows the cut end to dry and form a callous.

Once the callous has formed, blend together equal parts of perlite, sand, and peat moss to make potting mix. Pre-moisten the mix before adding it to the pot. Make a hole in the center of the mix, and insert your cutting. Firm the potting soil around the cutting to keep it in place.

Mist your cutting several times a day to keep it humid, and keep it out of direct sunlight. After a couple weeks, very gently tug on the plant to see if it’s forming roots. If it is, there should be some resistance to being tugged. Let the roots reach at least one inch in length before transplanting.

Pruning

As flowers fade, it’s important to deadhead them. This encourages further blooming. Pinch off the spent flower just below the flower’s base.

After the plant finishes flowering, you’ll want to remove the old flower stalks. Cut them back to the second or third leaf on the stem with good pruning shears. You can trim back other tall growth as well to shape it.

Remove any dead stalks or leaves when you prune. Be sure to never remove more than a third of the plant’s height at any time. Consistent pruning will encourage bushier growth habits.

A couple months before blooming, pinch-prune the tips of the plant. This will encourage it to set flower buds. Once there are buds forming, leave them alone until after flowering.

After pruning, reduce the amount of water you normally give your plant. It won’t need as much to stay lush. As it regrows, you can gradually increase the water amount again.

Troubleshooting

Leaves and flower buds
The leaves are slightly scoop-like, and the buds develop on flower stalks. Source: Starr

Now that you know how to care for your Madagascar widow’s-thrill, let’s move on to problems. There are a few annoyances that might appear, but we’ll cover how to handle them!

Growing Problems

Once a kalanchoe blossfeldiana has finished flowering, people start to encounter problems. You see, when the bloom ends, your plant enters a rest period. It may not look as full and lush as it does when in flower. Many people report their plants look like they’re dying back.

It’s essential to prune back your plant once it’s done with flowering to ensure future growth. This also makes it easier for the plant to survive its rest period. The visual “dying back” is the plant’s way of eliminating excess foliage so it can relax. Pruning will simulate that.

Another problem people often encounter is that their plants don’t flower. There’s a very specific set of circumstances that the plants receive in the wild. To force flowering, you’ll need to simulate those very closely!

Your plant will need at least 14 hours of dark per day, with 10 hours of bright light. This lighting regimen needs to start about six weeks before it’s supposed to bloom. Once it’s had its ten hours of lighting, place a box over the plant, and remove it the next day to repeat. Make sure it’s in a warm location, too.

Once you start to notice buds are forming at the tips of leaves, slowly increase the amount of lighting. Your plant should then flower on schedule.

Pests

Sucking pests are the cause of many kalanchoe plants’ problems. There’s a few specific ones who are usually to blame.

Mealybugs and other scale insects are by and large the most common. These little annoyances attach along the base of leaves and on stems. Insecticidal soaps are a good way to get rid of them. Neem oil can repel them.

Mites, particularly the spider mite, are also common. These too will suck the moisture out of your plant, but they also feed on the tissue. Neem oil is the most common remedy for these pests.

Diseases

If it’s properly cared for, your kalanchoe plant will have very few disease issues. But if you care for it incorrectly, these can appear.

Most common is root rot. Caused by too much water, flaming katy is very susceptible to fungal rot issues. Plants turn yellowish, and occasionally develop signs of blackish mold around the base. This is usually a sign that you’re watering too often or the soil isn’t draining enough. It can be fatal to these drought-resistant plants.

Other problems which may arise include powdery mildew and botrytis. Both of these develop from humidity surrounding your plant. With this plant, dryer is better!

Treating powdery mildew is relatively simple. A good spritzing of neem oil will take this out. Botrytis may need to be treated with a more potent fungicide. In this case, prevention is easier than the cure, so avoid humidity and over-watering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pink kalanchoe
This salmon-pink kalanchoe produces beautiful pastel blossoms. Source: jpto_55

Q: Why is my kalanchoe dropping leaves?

A: Often, this is a sign of over-watering. If the leaves are turning yellow before dropping, your plant may be suffering from root rot. You may be able to repot into a better-draining potting mix. If you do choose to repot, trim off any visible signs of rot on the roots, but be sure there’s still lots of roots on the plant.

Q: How often should I water flaming Katy?

A: A good rule of thumb is to stick a finger in the pot. If it comes out damp, don’t water. If it comes out dry, you can water. Be sure that at least the upper two inches of the soil is completely dry.

Q: Can you grow kalanchoe blossfeldiana under a grow light?

A: Absolutely! Make sure it’s not too close to the plant, as that can cause burning of the plant’s succulent foliage. Bright, indirect light or direct but not scorching sunlight is ideal. When you can’t provide one of those types of lighting, a grow lamp provides good supplemental lighting.


Maintain it correctly, and this is truly a trouble-free plant. It doesn’t take long to do the necessary care to keep it alive and thriving. You’ll love your flaming katy whether it’s indoors or out!


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:


Kevin Espiritu
Founder

Lorin Nielsen
Lifetime Gardener



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