Kalanchoe species (kal-un-KOH-ee) belong to the Crassulaceae family. Most members of the Crassula family are characterised by having tick, fleshy leaves typically arranged in symmetrical, opposite pairs of neat rosettes. The flowers usually have four or five petals or multiples thereof and the fruits are made up of four or five separate parts. An interesting feature is the prominent nectar glands within the flowers.
Kalanchoe species are widely distributed in the Old World, especially Africa and its associated islands. They are easily grown from cuttings, off-sets or from seeds. Grow them in well-drained soil in a full sunny position.
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi (Lavender scallops). Plants are small dense shrublets about 50cm tall with distinctively toothed leaves. The leaves are smooth and usually a metallic greyish colour but variegated leaf forms are also known. The sparse, nodding flowers are an un-usual purple-red colour. Plants grow very easily from cuttings. Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi originates from Madagascar.
Kalanchoe pumilla (Flower Dust plant) is native to Madagascar. It is a spreading, dwarf succulent subshrub growing to 20cm tall and 45cm wide, with arching stems of frosted grey leaves with clusters of purple-veined pink flowers in spring.
Kalanchoe sexangularis. Plants are erect shrublets up to 1 m in height. The leaves are large and broad, folded lengthwise and usually have numerous rounded teeth along the margins. Leaf colour is variable (green to purple) but usually dark ruby-red in cultivated forms. The flowers are greenish yellow. This species is indigenous to Zimbabwe and the adjoining northern and eastern parts of South Africa. In warm regions with summer rainfall, this plant is exceptionally easy to grow.
Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (paddle plant). This very attractive leaf succulent forms large rosettes that eventually develop into a single erect flowering stem up to 1.5m high. After flowering, the rosette dies back but the plant increases by off-sets. The soup plate sized leaves are often intensely tinged with broad, bright red margins. The flowers are yellow and sweetly scented. Indigenous to South Africa.
Source: Guide to Garden Succulents – Gideon F Smith and Ben-Erik van Wyk
Photographs: Esther Townsend