Saturday, September 15, 2007

Mother and Babies

Kalanchoe daigremontiana

“Mother of Thousands” is an apt name for the species, Kalanchoe daigremontiana. The little plantlets that form on the edges of the leaf-like stems easily root to become new plants, and then the cycle continues. The plant in the photo is a fifth generation descendant of an original plant I had years ago.

It seems that every gardener in the world has some species of Kalanchoe. Several species in the genus are regularly used as houseplants. The Kalanchoe genus has over 130 species that are found in areas of Africa, India, Madagascar, and Malaysia. K. daigremontiana, native to Madagascar, is considered a perennial. Succulents in the Kalanchoe genus can also be annual or biennial.

This succulent is relatively care free. Since it does not do well in Phoenix in direct sun, I keep mine in light shade all year. It cannot take frost, and needs moderate water year round. This is definitely a container plant. If left to its own devices in the garden, it will become invasive. Every time one of the little plantlets drops, there is the likelihood of another plant! In the course of a year, the plant can produce hundreds of the plantlets. This plant is also called Maternity Plant for good reason.

The grandmother of the plant in the photo was a spectacular specimen, with curved stems that were three feet long. The plant was in a plant stand, and the stems formed a dipper-shape downward and then upward, ending with the “leaves” and all the babies. (The leaves are not really leaves, but part of the stem.) Unfortunately, the grandmother plant succumbed to last winter’s hard freeze. It was of an age that it would have soon produced flowers, and afterwards, would have died.

I’m sorry I didn’t get to see the flowers as they are said to be a gorgeous purple-orange with some yellow tinges. I would have rather lost it to a natural death and had a chance to see the flowers rather than see it go because of frost. No one I know who has the K. daigremontiana species has ever seen a flower. One of the reasons may be that this plant likes to be root bound, which seems to bring on flowering.


This is not a good plant to have around small children or certain pets. They are tempted to eat the tiny plantlets, which are toxic, along with the stems and "leaves". It certainly isn’t a plant for a chicken yard!

19 comments:

Julie said...

I've only seen these in books...they are so frilly looking...love it!!!

kate said...

I had one of these plants in a pot until it died from frost last year. (I had it covered, but the frost was too severe). That was sad, although I was constantly finding little plantlets growing among other plants sitting nearby.

I hadn't given a thought to its flowers. They sound like they would be amazing. Oh well ...

sisah said...

May be you have seen on my blog one of my "mother of thousands" , it´s the species K. prolifera, which is not as invasive as K.daigremontiana. That one is everywhere in my pots meanwhile. It becomes a real pest! But I tolerate some of them as a company of other plants.A few years ago one was even showing blossoms, but I am afraid they weren´t in such a bright colour as the one I have seen on photos at Google!
I don´t understand, what you mean by " the plant seems to be root-bound"? Is it possible to explain?

No Rain said...

Sisah,
Regarding the my comment about the plant likes to be root-bound; Most plants don't do well when they grow to a size in pots where they've developed so many roots that there's nowhere else for them to grow and they need to be repotted--long before this happens. This plant seems to like to be in that state, and something triggers the plant to produce flowers when it is overgrown and tight in the pot. This does not happen with plants that are placed directely in the garden. Hope this helps.

No Rain said...

Note: According to Peter at Cactus Blog, this plant has been reclassified into the genus Bryophyllum. Who knows how long it will stay in this genus! So, it will soon be found in nurseries as K. daigremontianum or B. daigremontianum.

k said...

I currently have 2 maternity plants in one pot. They are 6-7 feet tall and blooming peach/pink flowers. I was wondering what to do with it, or how to care for it after it is done blooming.

No Rain said...

Hi K,
This plant doesn't need any different care when blooming. Just treat it like you have been--with obvious success since your plant is so large. After all the flower stalks are spent and the stalks dry, you can cut them off if you desire. Watch out for the latex sap--it is poisonous and very irritating.

Palisades Plantguy said...

I've got some of these "guys" blooming right now, if anyone wants a picture. I live near the ocean in LA.

sharles art said...

i have grown this plant for many years. i have even had it bloom (blooms second year outside with full sun) yes flowers are spectacular. a color combo best described as orange juice mixed with clotted blood. clusters of bell florets hang from stunning purple-blue cups and stems.

Eugenia said...

I have grown these maternity plants outside in Phoenix for years, both in pots and directly in the ground. They will grow in direct sunshine but seem to prefer direct sun only about half of the day. Mine didn't flower until they were about three years old and around four feet high. They had clusters (rings) of bell-shaped salmon pink flowers. When the blossoms dried, a much larger baby plant a couple of inches in diameter and with several leaves grew from each blossom site. Soon after, the mother plant wilted and died. Moved to the Atlanta area a couple of years ago and brought three or four plants with me. Have to keep them in pots and bring them inside when the weather gets cold. They don't tolerate freezing temperatures. Eugenia

Anonymous said...

My maternity plant is almost 3ft tall and I was just wondering if I am supposed to just let it grow and tie it to a stick or I heard to pinch the top leaves off and it will stop growing? The plant I got mine from was not even a foot tall so I just want to know if I'm growing her right. Thanks

Aiyana said...

Hi,
This plant can be pinched back as it grows--it's a little late to pinch back at 3 ft. but you can cut it back. Even if that stalk dies off, there should be plenty of little plantlets that have fallen off the mother and rooted, starting new plants to replace the mother plant. Or, you can break the plantlets off and pot them in barely-moist cactus potting mix. The best time to propagate is in spring and summer.
Aiyana

Anonymous said...

I let mine grow tall and they eventually flower. If you were to cut the top off, it will "bush" out. Give it lots of sun! Once it flowers, the stalk will eventually die, but new stalks and babies will be on it. so you can keep plants going all the time.

kaye said...

After the flowers die cut it off and the plant will not die..

Anonymous said...

My plant just flowered and put the smaller plants out at the top. It looks healthy, is it definitely going to die? It's approximately 2-3 feet tall.

Aiyana said...

Sometimes part of it will live, but over the years, each time my plants put out flowers, they are spent. They wilt and then dry up. I've had a couple that didn't die off completely, but I think they were actually separate plants and just appeared to be attached to the flowering plant.
Good Luck! Hope that is your situation and you get to keep part of such a large specimen!

Kelly Stacey said...

I received a cutting in a Dixie cup at Christmas, so I put it in a terra cotta planter and set it in a south-facing window. I'm in Portland Oregon, and I knew it would be too cold to take outside. Now it's about 6- or 7" high, and the top set of leaves are getting babies! Since it will need to stay indoors here, will I ever see these fabulous blooms I've been reading about? I'm just in love with this plant!

Aiyana said...

Kelly,
You may see a stalk as it grows. Only time will tell if that would happen indoors, which is more unpredictable than an outdoor plant. You may want to experiment with one of the babies--put it in another pot--just let it rest on the top of the soil and it will root. As it grows, take it out in the summer and let it stay there until it gets cold and rainy. Perhaps you will eventually get a stalk. The good thing about this plant is that you will have an endless supply of babies to experiment with.
Aiyana

K said...

It may take a year or two to see flowers, but well worth it. Good luck!