Flowers

Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana: Fantastic Flaming Katy


Kalanchoe blossfeldiana

Madagascar-native Flaming Katy is a real treasure. Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is a perennial, seasonal bloomer with vivid umbels of bright flowers. These succulent plants with scalloped leaves form a backdrop for the bursts of red, pink, yellow or salmon. And, for a houseplant, their blooming time is quite long!

You’ll find that this perennial plant’s a perfect addition for an indoor garden. Those in warm climates can grow them as outdoor plants, too. And best of all, it doesn’t require constant attention. It’ll keep doing its thing, indoors or out, with only minor care.

Curious about this stunning kalanchoe plant? Read on for a complete care guide!

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Overview

Gorgeous pink Kalanchoe blossfeldiana at the Hong Kong Flower Show
Gorgeous pink Kalanchoe blossfeldiana at the Hong Kong Flower Show. Source: KHQ Flower Guide
Common Name(s): Flaming katy, florists kalanchoe, Christmas kalanchoe, widow’s thrill
Scientific NameKalanchoe blossfeldiana
Family:Crassulaceae
Zone:10-12 outdoors, but often grown as a houseplant in other zones
Height & Spread:0.5-1.5 feet tall and wide
LightFull sun to partial shade, can grow in bright indirect lighting
SoilSandy soil, or light, well-drained soils
Water:Sparingly, let dry between waterings
Pests & Diseases:Scale, mealybugs, mites. Susceptible to root rot, stem rot, & some mildew.

All About Madagascar Widow’s-thrill

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana
K blossfeldiana is a lovely, drought-tolerant flowering plant. Source: kaiyanwong223

A winner of the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, this plant’s got it all. All members of the kalanchoe genus have fleshy green leaves with delicate scalloped edges create a medium base layer. From there, long stalks with flower clusters rise.

Kalanchoe blossfeldiana often blooms in the late fall and early winter. It’s earned the name “Christmas kalanchoe plant” because of this. The “flaming Katy” name comes from the vivid flowers. It’s also called Madagascar widow’s-thrill or florist’s kalanchoe.

The blooming period of these florist kalanchoe plants lasts an astonishingly long time when compared to other houseplants, and even other kalanchoe species. Where most christmas kalanchoe plants will last for a week or so, these will last for multiple weeks. These are bright, four-petaled flowers in many colors – scarlet, salmon, pink, or yellow.

It’s not limited to a winter bloom. Growers may find their florist kalanchoe sending up flowers at other times of year as well, especially if they provide the right “forced” conditions. Cheery and bright, those flowers can really liven up a bright window!

When in full flower, the entire top of the plant can look like a tapestry of color. The rest of the time, the fleshy, succulent leaves are a nice, calming green. The edges on some cultivars can sometimes be tinged with red.

Kalanchoe Blossfeldiana Care

Kalanchoe foliage
When not in flower, the foliage is a lovely, vibrant green hue. Source: Henryr10

These lovely florist kalanchoe plants make an excellent gift. Easy to care for, they’re a great option for new gardeners and experienced ones alike. Let’s talk about their super-easy care regimen!

Light and Temperature

Native to a very warm climate, this plant won’t thrive without it. Once the temperature dips below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too cold for it to survive. This is partially why it’s such a popular houseplant.

Indoors, provide either full sun through a sunny window or bright, indirect light. The more light it gets, the better. It’s a sun-worshipper!

Planted outdoors, full sun is fine in warmer climates, but it does like a little partial shade during hot weather. Providing afternoon shade gives the plant a little break from scorching heat.

Flaming katy should be brought indoors in the fall. Once temperatures consistently drop below 50 degrees, it needs to be kept warm. You may be able to extend its outdoor time by providing a cold frame to keep it warm. In its native zones, it’s succulent perennial.

Water

Red florist's kalanchoe
Sometimes called florist’s kalanchoe, it makes a beautiful houseplant. Source: CRLSE

Dry conditions are better than wet for these kalanchoe plants. When you do water, water kalanchoe plants deeply, allowing the soil to suck in as much moisture as it can hold. Ensure any excess drains off. Too much moisture is no good for kalanchoe. Wait until the soil has dried out before watering again.

Those succulent leaves provide more than just good looks. Thick leaves like this can store a lot of water for a plant. Keep an eye on your plant’s leaves. If they look withered or saggy, you’re likely underwatering. If they seem firm and full, your plant’s fine.

Ensure your soil has excellent drainage, as too wet conditions can promote rot.

Soil

Extremely well-draining soil is a must for these kalanchoe plants. Plant kalanchoe outdoors in a sandy, loose, and lightweight soil blend. Hard-packed clay is too difficult for the roots to penetrate.

An interesting note about this plant is that it’ll tolerate saltier soils. For people along California’s coastline, this makes it a nearly perfect choice. It should grow along that coastline year-round.

While some moisture-retaining material is welcome in the soil, try to avoid excess. Your potting soil should remain light and fluffy. This is one of those times at which coconut coir makes a perfect addition, as it remains light even when wet. Even then, be sure it drains excess water freely. Perlite is a great addition if you don’t have coarse sand to add. If you don’t want to build your own soil, a cactus mix is perfectly suitable.

Fertilizer

A balanced fertilizer is fine for these kalanchoe plants during their active growing season. If you wish to promote flowering, opt for something a smidge higher in phosphorous for lots of kalanchoe blooms.

If you opt for a slow-release fertilizer, follow the manufacturer’s directions for frequency. Fertilize kalanchoe with diluted liquid fertilizers applied at the base of the plant on a biweekly basis.

Propagation

Flaming katy
Flaming katy flowers grow in a variety of fiery colors, such as this orange. Source: KHQ

Propagate kalanchoe through seeds or stem cuttings of a mother plant.

Seed germination takes place in moist, well-draining soil which is 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. If necessary, use a seed starting mat to maintain the right temperature. Ten days later, you should start to see the seedlings pushing up through the soil.

Cuttings should be pieces of the plant that are not flowering. Select a piece that’s at least three inches in length and which is vigorous. Once cut, set it into an empty pot for a few days. This allows the cut end to dry and form a callous.

Once the callous has formed, blend together equal parts of perlite, sand, and peat moss to make potting mix. Or use some cactus mix. Pre-moisten the mix before adding it to the pot. Make a hole in the center of the mix, and insert your cutting. Firm the potting soil around the cutting to keep it in place.

Mist your cutting several times a day to keep it humid, and keep it out of direct sunlight. After a couple of weeks, very gently tug on the plant to see if it’s forming roots. If it is, there should be some resistance to being tugged. Let the roots reach at least one inch in length before you plant kalanchoe outdoors.

Pruning

As flowers fade on these kalanchoe plants, it’s important to deadhead them. Deadheading dead or wilting flowers encourages further blooming. Pinch off the spent flower just below the flower’s base.

After the plant finishes flowering, you’ll want to remove the old flower stalks. Cut them back to the second or third leaf on the stem with good pruning shears. You can trim back other tall growth as well to shape it.

Remove any dead stalks or leaves when you prune. Be sure to never remove more than a third of the plant’s height at any time. Consistent pruning will encourage bushier growth habits.

A couple of months before blooming, pinch-prune the tips of the plant. This will encourage it to set flower buds. Once there are buds forming, leave them alone until after flowering.

After pruning, reduce the amount of water you normally give your plant. It won’t need as much to stay lush. As it regrows, you can gradually increase the water amount again.

Troubleshooting

Leaves and flower buds
The leaves are slightly scoop-like, and the buds develop on flower stalks. Source: Starr

Now that you know how to care for your Madagascar widow’s-thrill, let’s move on to problems. There are a few annoyances that might appear, but we’ll cover how to handle them!

Growing Problems

Once a kalanchoe blossfeldiana has finished flowering, people start to encounter problems. You see, when the bloom ends, your plant enters a rest period. It may not look as full and lush as it does when in flower. Many people report their plants look like they’re dying back.

It’s essential to prune back your plant once it’s done flowering to ensure future growth. This also makes it easier for the plant to survive its rest period. The visual “dying back” is the plant’s way of eliminating excess foliage so it can relax. Pruning will simulate that.

Another problem people often encounter is that their plants don’t flower. There’s a very specific set of circumstances that the plants receive in the wild. To force flowering, you’ll need to simulate those very closely!

Your plant will need at least 14 hours of dark per day, with 10 hours of bright light. This lighting regimen needs to start about six weeks before it’s supposed to bloom. Once it’s had its ten hours of lighting, place a box over the plant, and remove it the next day to repeat. Make sure it’s in a warm location, too.

Once you start to notice buds are forming at the tips of leaves, slowly increase the amount of lighting. Your plant should then flower on schedule.

Pests

Sucking pests are the cause of many kalanchoe plants’ problems. There are a few specific ones who are usually to blame.

Mealybugs and other scale insects are by and large the most common. These little annoyances attach along the base of leaves and on stems. Insecticidal soaps are a good way to get rid of them. Neem oil can repel them.

Mites, particularly the spider mite, are also common. These too will suck the moisture out of your plant, but they also feed on the tissue. Neem oil is the most common remedy for these pests.

Diseases

If it’s properly cared for, your kalanchoe plant will have very few disease issues. But if you care for it incorrectly, these can appear.

Most common is root rot. In conditions with too much water, flaming katy is very susceptible to fungal rot issues. Plants turn yellowish and occasionally develop signs of blackish mold around the base. This is usually a sign that you’re watering too often or the soil isn’t draining enough. It can be fatal to these drought-resistant plants.

Other problems which may arise include powdery mildew and botrytis. Both of these develop from humidity surrounding your plant. With this plant, dryer is better!

Treating powdery mildew is relatively simple. A good spritzing of neem oil will take this out. Botrytis may need to be treated with a more potent fungicide. In this case, prevention is easier than the cure, so avoid humidity and over-watering.

Frequently Asked Questions

Pink kalanchoe
This salmon-pink kalanchoe plant produces beautiful pastel blossoms. Source: jpto_55

Q: Why is my kalanchoe dropping leaves?

A: Often, this is a sign of over-watering. If the leaves are turning yellow before dropping, your plant may be suffering from rot. You may be able to repot into a better-draining potting mix. If you do choose to repot, trim off any visible signs of rot on the roots, but be sure there are still lots of roots on the plant.

Q: How often should I water flaming Katy?

A: A good rule of thumb is to stick a finger in the pot. If it comes out damp, don’t water. If it comes out dry, you can water. Be sure that at least the upper two inches of the soil is completely dry.

Q: Can you grow kalanchoe blossfeldiana under a grow light?

A: Absolutely! Make sure it’s not too close to the plant, as that can cause burning of this succulent plant’s foliage. Bright, indirect light or direct but not scorching sunlight is ideal. When you can’t provide one of those types of lighting, a grow lamp provides good supplemental lighting.

Q: How do you care for a Kalanchoe blossfeldiana?

A: Check out the care section of this piece for specifics. Most of the time, keeping them in pots in cactus mix in correct temperatures and watering them infrequently and deeply is enough!

Q: Is a kalanchoe plant indoor or outdoor?

A: It depends on where you live. In the subtropics, it lives easily outdoors. In most other areas, bring it in when temperatures dip below 50° F.

Q: Can kalanchoe take full sun?

A: Yes! While bright indirect light or partial shade will also work, full sun is best.

Q: Do kalanchoe come back every year?

In conditions where their roots are protected from frost, they can act like succulent perennial plants.

Q: How do you make Kalanchoe blossfeldiana bloom?

A: Keep it in the right conditions and fertilize it properly, and your kalanchoe will bloom annually.


Maintain it correctly, and this is truly a trouble-free plant. It doesn’t take long to do the necessary care to keep it alive and thriving. You’ll love your flaming katy whether it’s indoors or out!

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