Kalanchoe Beharensis: How to Grow and Care For Velvet Leaf Plant

Are you thinking of adding a velvet leaf plant to your indoor or outdoor garden? These popular succulents are easy to grow and are quite famous for their textured leaves. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares all you need to know about the Velvet Leaf plant, including maintenance and care.

velvet leaf plant

Contents

Kalanchoe Beharensis is an evergreen shrub that is commonly known by the names Velvet Leaf Plant, Elephant’s Ears Kalanchoe, Teddy Bear, and Napoleon’s Hat. These names all stem from the texture and general shape of the leaves.

It is a succulent perennial that is hardy in zones 10-12 and is elsewhere kept predominantly as a houseplant.

If you’ve decided that you’d like to add a low-maintenance succulent plant to your indoor or outdoor garden, the Velvet Leaf plant is a fine selection.

Let’s look at everything you need to know about this spectacular succulent, including it’s maintenance and care needs.

Quick Care Guide

Plant Type:
Succulent
Genus:
Kalanchoe
Height:
3’-5’ tall in cultivation,
larger in nature
Season:
Spring and Summer
Plant Spacing:
24”
Plant with:
Succulents
Pests:
Aphids, Mealybugs,
Spider Mites
Maintenance:
Low
Hardiness Zone:
10-12 (Houseplants elsewhere)
Family:
Crassulaceae
Planting Depth:
Surface Level
Watering Needs:
Low
Exposure:
Full Sun to Part Shade
Soil Type:
Well Draining, Sandy
Exposure:
Full Sun, Partial Sun
Diseases:
Root Rot
Native Area:
Madagascar
Attracts:
Hummingbirds, bees,
butterflies, birds

About Kalanchoe Beharensis

Close-up of a Kalanchoe beharensis plant in a sunny garden against a pinkish fence. This succulent has a tall, thick trunk, at the top of which a rosette of large, wide, pale green, velvety leaves with serrated edges forms.
Kalanchoe Beharensis is a large succulent shrub known for its texturally interesting leaves.

Beharensis is a texturally interesting species of Kalanchoe, which gets its name from its native region of Behara. This is located on the southern end of the island of Madagascar, where many species of Kalanchoe are native and endemic.

Beharensis is one of the largest species of Kalanchoe, growing as tall as 15’-20’ tall in the wild. Where most Kalanchoe are small flowering plants, Beharensis is considered a small tree, as it can grow quite large and has a woody trunk. It has a shrublike shape, with a native spread of up to 12’.

These plants grow quite a considerable amount larger than most of the kalanchoe species. They are slow growers, however, and outside of their native zones, they will be a considerably smaller, more manageable plant.

Keeping beharensis in a container will help to inhibit its growth, making it more suitable as a houseplant.

Classification

Close-up of a Kalanchoe beharensis plant in a garden. This succulent plant has a rosette of large, oblong, somewhat triangular, silvery-green leaves with serrated and slightly lobed margins.
Kalanchoe, including the popular Blossfeldiana variety, is a member of the Stonecrop family.

Kalanchoe Beharensis is classified as part of the genus Kalanchoe in the Crassulaceae family of plants, which is commonly known as the Stonecrop family. Some of the more floriferous varieties are very popular for their long-lasting, brightly colored clusters of flowers.

The most popular variety of Kalanchoe, Blossfeldiana, can be found readily in nurseries and even in grocery stores, particularly in the winter during its blooming season. Kalanchoe plants are very tolerant of heat and sun, and they can flower for a long period of time. 

Nearly all species of Kalanchoe are flowering plants. Although they are not all known for this characteristic, many of them will not bloom if kept as houseplants.

Beharensis is not known for doing much flowering in captivity, but it does produce flowers in nature and is capable of producing them if given the right conditions.

Keeping Beharensis outdoors for a significant portion of the year will make for the happiest plant. These plants are sun and heat lovers and can tolerate quite a bit of neglect. Like most succulents, a fair amount of neglect is actually necessary to keep them healthy.

Leaf Formation

Close-up of leaves of Kalanchoe beharensis against a blurred garden background. The leaves are large, oblong, wide, velvety, with slightly serrated edges, pale green.
Beharensis is best known for its velvety-textured, olive-green leaves.

Beharensis is best known for its leaves, as the nickname Velvet Leaf Plant would indicate. The leaves of this plant are typically olive green, and they blush with a faint reddish-brown color when happily stressed by lots of sunlight. They have a triangular shape, and they grow in pairs at right angles to one another.

The distinguishing characteristic of these leaves is their texture. A fine, pale velvet coats the lanceolate leaves on top and bottom.

This coating is a sun protectant, making Beharensis exceptionally tolerant of full sun exposure, although it can be perfectly happy in partial shade or bright, indirect sunlight.

The margins of the velvety leaves are ruffled, adding a delicacy to their appearance. They grow on tall, slender, knotted stems, up to 5’ tall in captivity. Some varieties and hybrid varieties of Beharensis will have variegated leaves, and some have darker margins. There are lots of possibilities from these pretty plants.

Flowers

Close-up of Kalanchoe Beharensis flowers on a black background. Kalanchoe beharensis produces small, tubular, bell-shaped flowers that are yellowish green with purple veins.
Beharensis usually does not flower when grown indoors but will produce attractive flowers outdoors in zones 10-12.

When this succulent is kept indoors as a houseplant, Beharensis rarely produces flowers. This is a result of lighting conditions and temperature shifts, which cause the plant to initiate the process of setting buds. However, there are generally ways to induce the process if you are able to keep the plant outdoors for a significant portion of the year.

When grown outdoors in zones 10-12, Beharensis will produce flowers that are attractive to pollinators as well as nectar-loving birds.

The blooming season for these plants in spring and summer, when they will send up large, branching inflorescences. These branches hold many small urn-shaped blooms that are typically an orange color and occasionally have a greenish tint.

Propagation

Kalanchoes are typically an easy group of plants to propagate. In fact, most of them do it themselves on a regular basis. There are three simple ways to propagate this plant.

The difference between them is how long it takes to get a resulting mature plant. One method ensures a plant that produces new leaves almost immediately. Other methods require some patience.

From Offsets

Close-up of Kalanchoe Beharensis Drake Offsets in black plastic pots in full sun. Plants form rosettes of oblong velvety leaves of gray-green and copper hues. The leaves have serrated edges and deep grooves that give them a characteristic texture.
Kalanchoe Beharensis regularly produces offsets that can be planted separately in their own container.

Kalanchoe Beharensis regularly sends out offsets, or baby plants, from the base of the parent plant. These offsets can be left intact, which will result in a clustering effect, with many plants growing together in a clump. They can also be removed and planted in their own space or container if you would like to use these to propagate and produce more plants.

This is the easiest method of propagating these plants. The offset is already technically its own separate unit and will grow its own root system quite quickly once removed from the parent plant.

Removing offsets should be done in spring and not while the plant is in bloom. Cut the offset away from the parent plant at the root level, allow the end to cure for a day or two, and then plant in moist potting soil.

From Cuttings

Closeup of Kalanchoe Beharensis cutting in a pot. The plant has a short stem and three small, round, silver-green leaves covered with many fine white hairs, creating a velvety texture.
Propagating Beharensis by leaf cuttings takes longer than offset propagation.

Although it will take a bit longer to get a mature plant, it is perfectly possible to propagate a Beharensis by leaf cuttings. The process is very similar to that of propagating by offset. It just takes a little longer for the cutting to root and then produce additional leaves.

Take your cuttings in spring when the plant is actively growing but not in bloom. Let the cut leaves cure for a day or two, and then plant them, cut side down in moist potting soil. Rooting hormone can help to kickstart growth. Try to cut the leaf as close to the central stem as possible for the best result.

From Seed

Top view, close-up of germinated seeds of a Kalanchoe plant in a pot of potting soil, on a white background. The sprouts are small, have small rosettes of oval dark green leaves with scalloped edges.
Growing Kalanchoe from seed is a good option for producing a larger number of plants.

Kalanchoe grows quite well from seed as well. While this also will take some time before you have a mature plant, this is the best way to produce a larger number of plants. 

Kalanchoe seeds germinate quickly, which has some bearing on the container used. If you don’t want the hassle of repotting before your Kalanchoe are ready to go in the ground or their final container, seed trays can be a bit inhibiting. Sowing Kalanchoe seeds directly into a small pot will result in the least amount of work.

Kalanchoe likes a porous potting mix, so combining 25% potting mix with 75% of another mineral, perlite, vermiculite, or sand all work well. Water the potting medium and allow it to drain, then place seeds on top of the soil. Very gently press the seeds into the soil, only slightly. They do not need to be buried deeply.

Covering the pot with plastic wrap is helpful for maintaining moisture and humidity. Keep the pot in partial to full shade until the seeds germinate, and then gradually introduce it to a sunnier spot. Once your seedlings are used to getting at least part sun, transplant them and treat them as any succulent.

Growing Kalanchoe Beharensis

Kalanchoe are wonderfully easy and low-maintenance plants to grow. Providing them with the right environment will ensure the health and attractiveness of your plant.

Planting Depth and Potting Needs

Close-up of several Kalanchoe beharensis plants in brown pots. The succulent forms rosettes of elongated, slightly bent inward grey-green leaves with a velvety texture, with serrated edges.
For best results, plant Kalanchoe in succulent/cactus potting soil with good drainage.

Kalanchoes are succulent plants, and as such, they do best in succulent/cactus potting mediums. These potting soils will typically have coarser particles which allow for maximum drainage.

Drainage is very important when potting a succulent, as they rot quickly if their roots sit in soggy soil. Succulent potting mixes are commercially available, but you can make your own by mixing in sand, perlite, or other larger particles that help with proper drainage.

Beharensis does not need to be planted deeply. It will do well if planted just below the surface of the surrounding soil. Dig a hole that is as deep as the root ball and just wide enough to situate the plant in the container. Then fill in around the plant with potting medium and water deeply.

If you are potting cuttings, make a small hole in the potting mix with your finger and set the leaf cutting stem side down in the hole. Press the potting mixture around the cutting to secure it in place.

Light

Top view, close-up of the leaves of the Kalanchoe beharensis plant in a sunny garden. The leaves are large, pale green, velvety, triangular in shape, slightly cupped, with serrated edges.
Beharensis kalanchoe can tolerate full sun due to the velvet hairs on its leaves, which act as a sunscreen.

Kalanchoe like bright light in general, but not all species appreciate full direct sunlight. Beharensis likes all the light. The velvety hairs that cover the leaves of this plant act as a type of sunscreen.

Make sure to provide adequate sunlight as outlined in this video.

They help to filter the light and prevent the leaves from burning, so you can give this plant plenty of sun, and it will be quite content.

While these plants like and can tolerate full sun, they are also surprisingly adaptable to lower light conditions. Bright indirect light is perfectly fine for most kalanchoe species, and Beharensis is no exception. If you want to spice up your plant’s colors a bit, try more sun. If you prefer to bring out the cool tones, more shade.

Water

Close-up of a Kalanchoe beharensis plant covered in water drops The leaves are large, with tapering tips, silvery green in color with a velvety texture.
To avoid root rot, kalanchoe should be watered thoroughly, with enough time to drain and dry out before the next watering.

Kalanchoes are succulents and should be watered that way. Traditionally, that means that they like a good drenching, with enough time for their roots to absorb lots of water. After which, they like to drain completely and dry out before the next watering.

If watered too frequently, kalanchoe runs the risk of rotting roots. Their roots are made to absorb water when it is available. If there is too much water, the roots will saturate and begin to break down and deteriorate from being waterlogged. This makes them more vulnerable to bacteria and fungi.

The container and location of your plant will dictate how often to water. In a pot with excellent drainage and lots of light, you may be watering once per week.

If the container holds more moisture or isn’t getting as much sunlight, limit watering to only when the soil is dry for the top 2”. Outdoors, kalanchoe can be watered every 3-4 days as long as the container drains completely between waterings.

Climate and Temperature

Close-up of a Kalanchoe beharensis plant in a garden. The plant forms a rosette of large elongated lobed silver-green leaves with pointed edges.
Beharensis is native to Madagascar and prefers consistent temperatures between 73-90°F.

Beharensis is native to the island of Madagascar. While the climate varies on the island in terms of elevation and rainfall, the temperatures are relatively consistent and range between 73°-90°F. Generally, room temperature is fine for kalanchoes as long as they get adequate light and airflow.

If Beharensis doesn’t get adequate light, there is little to no chance of it blooming. Moving them outdoors during the warmer months will make them happy. I live in a humid part of zone 8, and I leave most of my Kalanchoes outside, under cover, unless the temperature is going to drop below 30°, and I have yet to kill one entirely.

Even the Kalanchoe I’ve forgotten and allowed to freeze simply lose their leaves, and by the next summer, they grow right back. This is great for potted kalanchoe; however, they don’t create many as offsets this way, and I don’t see many flowers either.

Fertilizing

Close-up of a Kalanchoe beharensis plant in a sunny garden. The plant has large, elongated pale green leaves with a velvety texture and jagged and broken edges.
Beharensis can be fertilized every few months with a balanced, all-purpose, or cacti/succulent fertilizer.

During fall and winter, Beharensis, and all kalanchoe, for that matter, have no need for fertilizer. They absorb very little water during this time, so fertilizer would be wasted on them. During the growing season, you can fertilize every few months. 2-3 times per year should be plenty.

A balanced, all-purpose fertilizer or a fertilizer made for cacti and succulents are both good options. If using an all-purpose fertilizer, dilute by half. Kalanchoe are good at utilizing nutrients, so if you forget to fertilize, don’t worry too much.

Pruning and Maintenance

Close-up of three tall Kalanchoe beharensis plants in a potted garden with a wooden fence in the background. The plant has a high dense trunk and a beautiful lush rosette of elongated, wide, velvety leaves, silver-green leaves with wavy edges.
Kalanchoe requires minimal pruning and care except for the removal of dead foliage.

Kalanchoe, in general, and Beharensis, in particular, need very little pruning and are very low maintenance. Aside from pruning to maintain a preferred shape and size, it’s really not necessary to prune this plant.

Removing dead or unhealthy-looking foliage is helpful to the plant in general. This helps the plant to redirect energy and nutrients into new growth.

If your plant looks spindly, you can trim it down to one of the large leaves in the spring. This will encourage your Beharensis to thicken up and fill in a bit. Leaves that need to come off because they are dead or unhealthy can simply be pinched off.

Toxicity

Close-up of Kalanchoe beharensis leaves against a blurred background. The leaves are large, pale green, velvety, covered with small white hairs, with slightly wavy and jagged edges.
Kalanchoe is toxic to humans and animals and can cause harm if ingested.

All species of kalanchoe are cardiotoxic to humans and animals. They have been known as the culprit in killing off livestock in times of food scarcity. You will want to keep this plant out of the reach of animals that like to snack on plants, as well as small children.

There are several popular varieties of Beharensis, and all are adaptable to a variety of living conditions. Let’s look at some of the most popular options you’ll come across.

Fang

Close-up of a young plant Kalanchoe beharensis 'Fang' in a pot on a sunny windowsill. The leaves of Kalanchoe are large, elongated, triangular in shape, with serrated edges resembling fangs, and are covered with soft, velvety hairs, giving them a greyish-green appearance.
This variety is known for its large, bronze-colored leaves with small fang-like protuberances on the undersides

Scientific Name: Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Fang’

  • Bloom Time: Spring-Summer
  • Geographical Location: Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Plant Zone: 9-12

Fang is one of the most popular varieties of this species. This one is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Fang has large (4”) leaves that are bronze on the top and a silvery green underneath. The underside also features many small fang-like protuberances, which is where it gets its name.

This makes a lovely container plant and as a lot of textural interest with its fangs, coloration, and velvety covering. It mixes well with other varieties of succulents and adds a fun element to a rock garden.

Oak Leaf

Top view, close-up of Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Oak Leaf’ plant against blurred background. The leaves are large and thick, with a pronounced oak leaf shape and deep, serrated lobes. The leaves are covered with a soft, velvety texture, giving them a unique look and feel.
Oak leaf is a smaller version of Beharensis and is ideal for indoor planting because of its size.

Scientific Name: Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Oak Leaf’

  • Bloom Time: Spring-Summer
  • Geographical Location: Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Plant Zone: 9-12

Oak leaf is a dwarf version of Beharensis, which makes it great as an indoor plant because it will not outgrow its space as quickly as a full-sized variety. This variety grows to about 2’-3’ tall at the most. It’s pale green color fades to a grayish silver-tone with bright sun exposure and deepens with more shade.

If you’re able to encourage this variety to bloom, it’s quite attractive. It produces coral-colored flowers which complement its pale green leaves beautifully.

Brown Dwarf

Close-up of Kalanchoe beharensis 'Brown Dwarf' in a small plastic pot against a white background. It is a dwarf variety, with deeply dissected leaves with twisted edges and covered with soft brown velvet.
Brown Dwarf has soft brown velvet and deeply bisected leaves.

Scientific Name: Kalanchoe beharensis ‘Brown Dwarf’

  • Bloom Time: Spring-Summer
  • Geographical Location: Madagascar
  • Sun Exposure: Full Sun to Part Shade
  • Plant Zone: 9-12

This is another dwarf variety that is perfect for container gardening. Called Brown Dwarf, this variety has soft brown velvet as opposed to the typical silver velvet of most varieties. Also known as Nana, Brown Dwarf has very interesting leaves, they are deeply bisected with contorted margins.

The rosettes are small on this variety, at 6” or smaller, which is much smaller than the full-sized tree, like Beharensis varieties.

Pests and Diseases

There are a handful of things to watch out for in terms of maintaining the health of your Beharensis and defending against pests and diseases. Kalanchoe have juicy leaves that sap-sucking insects find particularly appealing.

Aphids

Close-up of an aphid swarm on Kalanchoe leaves. Aphids are tiny soft-bodied green insects with thin legs and proboscises, with which they suck the juices from plants.
Aphids can damage kalanchoe plants by eating their sap and leaving behind a sticky substance called honeydew.

Aphids are a common type of insect that are found in most gardens. Outdoors, they are usually controlled by predatory insects like ladybugs and wasps, but indoors they can make a real mess out of a juicy succulent plant.

Aphids eat plant sap and leave behind a sticky excrement called honeydew, both of which can be factors in the destruction of a kalanchoe.

Aphids can have wings or be wingless, and they can typically be taken care of without harsh insecticides. Neem oil works well, or simply setting your plant outside for a few days and allowing nature’s pest control agents to come in and have a snack.

If you notice curling and yellowing of leaves, check under the leaves for these little guys. Another sign of aphids is mold which grows as a result of their excrement. This can be wiped off with a soft, damp cloth.

Mealybugs

Close-up of a mealybug leaf on a green stem against a green background. Mealybugs are small, soft-bodied insects that have a white, cottony, or mealy appearance.
Mealybugs drain plants of nutrients, causing stunted growth and shriveled leaves.

These little pests can do a considerable amount of damage to a kalanchoe. They are also sap feeders, and they reproduce quickly. They drain the plant of nutrients, shriveling leaves and stunting the growth of their host plant.

Mealybugs look like little white, fuzzy spots and are usually found in clusters under leaves. They also leave behind honeydew, which causes black sooty mold, and that is not great for your plant either.

70% isopropyl alcohol is the most effective treatment for mealybugs. There are two ways to do this. One is to soak a cotton swab and wipe them off with it.

For a minor infestation, this is a good path as it causes minimal damage to the plant. For a severe infestation, it may be more effective to mist them with alcohol in a spray bottle.

Make sure to remove the excess alcohol if misting, as this can damage the plant by drying out the already damaged tissues.

Spider Mites

Close-up of a leaf of a plant infested with spider mites on a green background. Spider mites are tiny insects that spin thick webs.
Spider mites are spider-like sap-sucking pests that can damage plants by piercing their skin.

These sap suckers are more closely related to spiders than insects. They pierce the skin of the plant and drain the nutrients, leaving the plant looking dull and listless. They can cover a plant with their fine webs, where they lay and protect their eggs, which will hatch and further damage the host.

You might notice pale or yellow spots on leaves or see the webbing itself. These are indicators of spider mites. Neem oil and insecticidal soaps are very effective in getting rid of spider mites and keeping them away. Neem oil is safe for humans and animals and gentle on plants, so this is the most popular solution to many plant-destroying pests.

Root Rot

A close-up of the yellowing leaves of Kalanchoe Beharensis due to rotting roots. The leaves are large, velvety, have a characteristic shape with a rounded base and pointed tips.
Overwatering or poor drainage can cause root rot in kalanchoe.

As with most succulent plants, kalanchoe are particularly susceptible to root rot. This is typically the result of overwatering or poor drainage, and it can be deadly. When succulents can’t absorb the water around their roots, their roots start to soften and deteriorate.

When the roots begin to break down, they become more susceptible to fungus and bacteria. If this happens, you may notice the stem or lower leaves turning black. If your kalanchoe is experiencing root rot, the best solution is to repot.

Remove the plant from its damp soil and give it a few days to dry out in the shade so that the roots don’t get burned by the sun. Once the roots have had some time to dry out, replant the kalanchoe in a new, well-draining pot, and adjust your watering habits.

Final Thoughts

Kalanchoe Beharensis is a beautiful and easy-to-grow, evergreen, succulent plant. This larger species of Kalanchoe adds a great deal of interest to the home and garden with its lovely, fuzzy leaves. The ease of care makes this a great plant for a beginning plant owner or anyone who has struggled with fussier plants.

Whether you are just starting out, looking to add a succulent element to your garden, or need a new texture for your established garden, this is a wonderful plant. Beharensis, and Kalanchoe in general, are wonderful plants that can live for decades and produce many wonderful offsets.

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