Kalanchoe daigremontiana - Mother of Thousands

Kalanchoe daigremontiana - Mother of Thousands

Kalanchoe daigremontiana, or Mother of Thousands, is an interesting plant from Southwest Madagascar. The plant will reach up to 3 feet (1 m) tall with opposite, fleshy oblong-lanceolate "leaves" that reach 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long and about 1.25 inches (3.2 cm) wide. These are medium green above and blotched with purple underneath. The most remarkable feature is that the margins of these organs have spoon-shaped bulbiliferous spurs that bear young plants. The plantlets will form roots while on the plant and can become very weedy if allowed to drop on fallow soil in either the greenhouse or home. Of course anyone who has taken botany knows that leaves don't normally form leaves--not to mention plants--so what is going on here. The "leaves" are actually short, determinate, leaf-like branches that can be termed phylloclades or cladodes. In other words, they are really leaf-like stems. The plantlets are amazingly easy to grow. All plant parts should be considered poisonous and not grown where small children; plants and plantlets are toxic.

Blooming: In the greenhouse, the plants bloom sporadically in late winter. The compound cymes have 1 inch (2.5 cm) long purplish flowers.

Culture: Kalanchoe daigremontiana needs full sun to partial shade with a well-drained soil mix. In the greenhouse, we use a soil mix consisting of 1 part peat moss to 2 parts loam and sand. The plants are watered and allowed to dry slightly before watering again. We fertilize them only once during the season with a balanced fertilizer. During the winter months, water is somewhat restricted, but the plants are not allowed to dry out completely. As stated before the plants can become very weedy, so these plants should not be used around other plants. Plantlets are drought resistant, root readily, and if allowed to establish, can easily create a plant epidemic wherever the plantlets land (hence their common name).

Propagation: Kalanchoe daigremontiana is easily propagated from plantlets formed on the edges of leaves or from cuttings. Cuttings must be kept very dry to root.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana was featured as Plant of the Week September 15-21, 2006.

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