HOW TO CULTIVATE KALANCHOE

7 deg C/45 deg F

There are several kalanchoes of considerable importance as houseplants. They are succulents, generally of a very easy nature, yet most rewarding. Some types are grown primarily for their flowers. while others are cultivated for their interesting leaves. K. pumila makes an excellent hanging-basket plant with small, toothed and elongated leaves borne on trailing stems. the whole being covered with a pinky-white farina. Pink flowers are produced freely in January and February. Far more popular, and the more frequently seen, is K. blossfeldiana. This is now rarely grown as the original species, except in conservatories and greenhouses where it can reach cJ0cm I 3ft) in height and bear very large and flatfish heads of brilliant scarlet flowers from late winter to spring, the seed having been sown the previous spring. Much more useful as houseplants are the more recent hybrids – particularly the F, hybrids – which are much more compact and lower-growing, and have a wide range of very attractive colours. The foliage is thick, succulent, oval in shape, and slightly toothed around the edges, and generally smaller, so that the plants rarely need supporting like /. blossfeldiana. For some years. ‘Vulcan’, a sturdy dwarf bushy hybrid, has been very popular. It reaches 15cm (bin) in height and bears a profusion of scarlet flowers as bright as. but much smaller than, the original species. More recently, an F, hybrid strain of seed has been introduced called ‘Melody’. This gives taller plants, reaching 30-45cm (1- ½ ft) in height but still sturdy and self-supporting. The unusual feature is the range of flower colours. which include rose red. dark red. orange and yellow shades, as well as scarlet. The (lower-heads are also large and showy. Two attractive hybrids are ‘Annette’ (red) and ‘Christina’ (orange). It is very easy to raise the flowering kalanchoes from seed on a window-sill. Pot the seedlings into 13cm (5 in.) pots. keeping the plants steadily growing during winter at the recommended minimum temperature. The compost should be slightly moist. A position in good light produces sturdy plants. Flowering time can be erratic and depends on lighting conditions. Commercially, kalanchoes are often induced to flower at unnatural times of the year by adjusting the amount of light the plants receive. Plants from a January sowing are given restricted day length for about ten weeks, beginning in June.

This is done by blacking-out frames to reduce daylight to nine hours each day. By the end of that time, flower buds should have normally begun to form. Old plants sometimes tend to get straggly. but good colours can be propagated from cuttings, taken any time from late spring to summer. They usually root easily.

Seed, which is very line, is best germinated at 21 deg C (70 deg F). At first the seedlings are slow to grow, but leave them in the original seed-tray to attain a manageable size before attempting to prick them out. F, hybrid seed must be purchased each time from a reputable seedsman.

Many plants which at one time were known as bryophyllums are now called kalanchoes.

A species of special interest is K. daigre-montiana (syn. Bryophyllum daigremon-tianum), for some unknown reason called good luck plant. The succulent leaves are often packed in polythene and sold to tourists and holiday visitors of warm resorts, such as Hawaii, to take home. The leaves, if placed flat on any potting compost and kept warm and humid, soon form plantlets around the edges. When rooted, these can be separated and individually potted. It is an easy species to grow on most window-sills in a bright position, and may reach 90cm (3ft) in height. The leaves are irregularly edged and little plantlets readily form along them. The tubular flowers vary in colour from yellowish, through pink to purplish.

Similarly packed for tourists are the leaves of K. fedtscherikoi, K. pinnata (syn. Bryophyllumpinnatum) and other species that freely form plantlets along their leaf edges. These have pendent orange-red. reddish, or cream to greenish tubular flowers.

Rather different in appearance is K. tubiflora (syn. Bryophyllum tublflorum) which has cylindrical leaves spotted reddish-brown and bearing the little plantlets at the tips. The flowers are very pretty and usually coloured rich-salmon to scarlet.

Kalanchoes rarely have problems. Piratic watering may cause browning of the leaf edges, and mealy bugs are a possibility on the leaves. Should it become necessary to treat the plants with an insecticide, check with the label that kalanchoes are not likely to be damaged.

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