​​How to Plant, Grow and Care For Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’

Thinking of adding a new and unique succulent to your indoor or outdoor garden? Kalanchoe 'Dragonfire' can be an eye-catching option for any succulent enthusiast. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss examines all you need to know about growing Kalanchoe 'Dragonfire' as well as their care!

Kalanchoe Dragonfire Growing low to the ground in garden with red and green foliage

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For a quick-growing plant with a pop of color, look no further than the Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire‘. This succulent plant is a fairly new hybrid that has grown in popularity thanks to its bright colors. Vivid apple-green leaves with red margins are displayed in rounded clumps that grow reliably.

With such an appealing aesthetic, one may assume these plants are precarious to grow. However, that is far from the truth! These succulents are very low-maintenance and can thrive in just about any home under the proper care.

These firey plants grow to be only about 6 inches tall, making them an excellent option for a windowsill or atop a table. Under the right conditions, Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ will easily become one of your favorite houseplants. Read on to find out how to plant, grow, and care for this fascinating hybrid.

Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ Plant Overview
Red leafed succulent growing in garden in the sun.
Plant Type Succulent
Season Winter and Spring
Family Crassulaceae
Genus Kalanchoe
Hardiness Zones 8-10 (Houseplants elsewhere)
Exposure Full Sun
Watering Needs Low
Plant Spacing 6-12 inches
Maintenance Low
Planting Depth Surface Level
Soil Type Well-Draining, Sandy
Native Area Madagascar
Height 4-6 inches
Plant With Succulents
Diseases Fungal Root Rot, Powdery Mildew
Attracts Hummingbirds, Bees, Butterflies
Pests Scale, Mealybugs, Spider Mites
Foliage Color Red and Green

About Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’

Close up of succulent with rounded leaves that are slightly curved growing in a rosette pattern. Clumps of the succulent surround the main one. Leaves are Apple green in color with red margins. The outer leaves have more red than green. Small water droplets are on all of the leaves. The background is natural and blurry.
This brightly-colored hybrid succulent is fairly new to the plant world.
Image courtesy of @magnificadesigns

Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ is a relatively new cultivar of kalanchoe and is the result of the cross-pollination of K. luciae with an unnamed hybrid species. This variety was first bred in California in 2015.

Over the years since its origination, it has been shown to breed true through asexual reproduction, making it a reliably attractive and hardy cultivar.

This pretty kalanchoe is known for its apple green and bright red leaves, as well as for its habit of producing offsets from a young age. This habit means that early on, this kalanchoe will create a very nice clumping effect, filling in a container quickly. Dragonfire offsets much sooner than its parent plants.

Kalanchoe plants are native mainly to the Island of Madagascar, but in recent years they have become very popular as houseplants. Some species are especially treasured for their long-lasting, winter-blooming succulent flowers.

They are known for their hardiness and ease of propagation, in addition to their flowers. They also make great starter plants for novice succulent gardeners.

Classification

Close up of a small container garden. The container is round and red. Grass grows next to a garden wall in the blurry background. There are two Haworthia aloe succulents that have triangular deep green leaves with tiny raised white stripes that grow horizontally up the leaves. Yellow-green sedum growing in short vines with long thick leaves grow next to the haworthia. Another succulent with thick green leaves with pinkish tips grows in the center. The tallest and biggest succulent growing from the center of the container has rounded leaves that have a slight curve to them that are bright apple green in color with light red margins.
Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ makes a great option for a thriller piece in a succulent container garden.
Image courtesy of @thesmashingsucculents

Dragonfire is classified as a hybrid species of the Kalanchoe genus. There are more than 250 species of kalanchoe and many hybrids, as its ease of care and propagation makes it a popular plant to breed and hybridize. Dragonfire is a single-variety hybrid species.

As a perennial succulent, Dragonfire can live for many years in the right environment and will bloom yearly if kept in the right conditions. However, it is less common for this type of Kalanchoe to bloom when kept indoors. Its attractive foliage is colorful and eye-catching, even without flowers.

Leaf Formation

Close-up of succulent plant growing in a round terra-cotta pot. The plant grows against a white wall with shadows being cast onto it from the evening sun. The succulent grows in a rosette pattern with rounded apple green leaves with red margins that have a slight point at the tips. The outer leaves are longer and hang lower than the inner leaves that grow in a tighter formation.
The brightly colored leaves of the Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ grow in a loose rosette formation.
Image courtesy of @devoted.rosette

Dragonfire is best known for its brilliantly colored leaves. The leaves are oblong and lightly pointed at the ends. They form a loose rosette and are glowing, apple green in the center, with bright red margins. The red color will deepen and spread when the plant is stressed by heat or cold.

This plant strongly resembles the larger Flapjacks variety but only grows to about 6 inches tall at maturity and the leaves are pointed at the ends rather than rounded. Dragonfire’s smaller size makes it a nice houseplant, as it can be easily contained.

Flowers

Close up of three tiny flowers. Each of the flowers has four petals that form the shape of a star with four tiny yellow stamen coming from the center. The stems are light green in color and meet toward a central stem. The background is very blurry with tall green plants growing against the s
Similar to other kalanchoes, Dragonfire blooms in the right conditions, usually outdoors, with small, star-shaped white flowers with four petals.

The Dragonfire species is not known for its flowers, although this succulent does sometimes bloom. While some kalanchoe blooms spectacularly and in bold, bright colors, Dragonfire’s flowers are less conspicuous. It does bloom if given enough light, and the flowers are delicate and attractive.

The Dragonfire inflorescence is a clump of green buds that open to delicate, white blooms with a starlike quality. It blooms from winter to spring, making it a nice addition to a houseplant collection as it brings cheer in those colder months.

Unlike some species of kalanchoe, Dragonfire will repeatedly bloom from the same plant. The parent plant does not die after blooming.

Propagation

Close up of several rounded thick petals with a slight point at the center. Each leaf is apple green in color with red margins. Some of the leaves have more red than green. The plant grows in a round white container. There are several succulents growing in the blurred background.
Propagating this succulent is fairly easy and can be done through several methods.

Kalanchoes are notoriously easy to propagate. In fact, when planted in the ground in their native zones, they have a tendency to become invasive, forming lots of offsets and crowding out other plants. The three most common methods of propagating kalanchoes are from offsets, cuttings, and seeds.

From Offsets

Close up of small succulent plant growing in a round black plastic container. The soil is moist with reddish brown material in it. The succulent has rounded leaves that are bright green in color with red edges. Two larger leaves grow toward the outside of the plant that are mostly red. The leaf on the left has a piece of the leaf that has been taken off, leaving a jagged hole. Shade is cast on this leaf. There are three smaller baby succulents growing from the main one in the soil.
Tiny offsets can be removed and placed into a new container to propagate the plant.

The simplest way to propagate a kalanchoe is by offsets. Dragonfire has a habit of producing these offsets plentifully and at an early age. If left to their own devices, these offsets will form an attractive mound of colorful rosettes, and if left entirely unchecked, they can become invasive and may be seen popping up in neighboring planters.

The offsets are simple to remove and repot. All you have to do is cut them away from the parent plant and pot in a succulent potting mix.

Offsets can be taxing on the parent plant, so removing them to grow independently is the best idea for all parts of the plant but leaving them to clump will not kill the parent plant, but it will slow its growth.

From Cuttings

Gardener using both hands to press lightly on soil in a small round terra-cotta pot that has a new plant cutting in the center of it. The plant has rounded leaves that are dark green and slightly scalloped toward the edges. The outer leaves are darker and the inner leaves are lighter, signifying youth. There is a black plastic bag covering the surface of the table. The edge of a green watering can peaks out to the left.
Cuttings are an easy way to propagate most plants, including Kalanchoes of any variety.

Every bit as simple as propagation by offsets, Dragonfire can also be propagated by leaf cuttings. These cuttings don’t even need to be propagated in water. Simply cut mature leaves from the base of the plant and allow the end to cure for 24 hours.

Once the end has dried, the cutting can be placed, cut end down, into a moist potting mix. The leaf will create roots and quickly become its own plant.

Some additional helpful tools in this process are rooting hormone, which will help your cutting to root faster, and a clear plastic bag to cover the cutting. The plastic creates a tiny greenhouse, which holds in moisture and keeps the cutting from drying out before it puts down roots. This should happen in a matter of weeks.

From Seed

Flowering plant growing near the edge of a dirt road, which is in the blurred background. A plant grows from a long central stem that starts off dark purple in color but then turns to light green. the light green part of the stem is where the leaves grow from. The leaves are rounded and green with slightly scalloped edges. Three stems that are lighter in color grow from the end of the plant with white flower clusters that have small white flower buds about to bloom.
Using seeds is the slowest method of propagation.

Growing Kalanchoe from seed is a bit more time-consuming but no less simple. Spring is the best time to plant kalanchoe seeds. Surface sow the seeds into a container with moist potting soil. The seeds do not need to be covered by soil. Place a plastic bag over the top of the container and place it in a sunny spot.

The seeds should germinate between 1-2 weeks. The seedlings should be ready to transplant into their own containers within two months. Planting in winter can be difficult because of a lack of daylight hours, so it is best to wait until mid-spring to give your kalanchoe seedlings the best start.

Growing Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’

Close-up of the tops of two tall round container gardens against a stucco wall with a stone pillar. The container on the right has tiny white vining plants spilling over the side. Coming from the center is a larger succulent plant with rounded leaves that have a slight curvy texture to them that are bright apple green with deep red margins. Several clusters of this succulents grow, making it look much larger than it actually is. The container on the left has several succulents growing at the base of the garden that grow in tight rosette formations. One of the succulents is purple in color, but the rest of them are different shades of green. The central succulent is taller and grows in a loose rosette formation. The leaves are rounded with slight points at the ends and are bright apple green with deep red margins. The sun shines on both of these container gardens.
These quick-growing succulents are fairly simple to grow and care for.
Image courtesy of @thesmashingsucculents

Kalanchoe Dragonfires are truly easy plants to grow. They like to be treated like typical succulents, and as long as you don’t mind things getting a little crowded, they make a beautiful addition to a succulent garden.

They do reproduce quickly, so they will need to be thinned out over time to prevent them from overtaking the container, which makes them a great space filler if that’s your aim.

Planting Depth and Potting Needs

Several terra-cotta pots on the surface of a wooden table. The ones to the left are smaller and stacked upside down. A larger one is upright into the right of the image. In the center, a small pot contains a small green plant that has round shaped leaves with slightly scalloped edges that are growing in a loose rosette formation.
The pot you choose to grow Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’ should have a drainage hole at the bottom.

In terms of potting needs, kalanchoes are not picky. They like well-draining soil and containers. A mixture of peat moss and perlite is a good potting medium. They will also do just fine in a standard tropical potting mix with some larger particles to help with drainage.

As we discussed earlier, kalanchoe seeds and plantlets do not need to be covered in soil, they merely need to be set on top of the potting medium, and they will root in no time at all. For a mature plant, plant it only as deep as the root ball. Kalanchoes do derive most of their nutrients from the soil in which they are planted, so it is a good idea to repot every couple of years.

Light

Four succulents growing in tight clusters in soil that has bits of wood on the surface. Each succulent has thick rounded leaves that curve and grow in a loose rosette formation. They are bright green with red edges. The sun shines brightly on the plants.
As with most other kalanchoes, Dragonfire needs lots of sunlight to thrive.

Dragonfire can tolerate full, direct sun, but bright filtered light will keep it quite happy as well. This species is one that will show if it is stressed by changing color. The edges of the leaves will take on more of the red color if the plant is getting more sun than it needs and also in cooler weather.

This shift in color does not necessarily indicate that the plant is suffering, but rather, it can mean that the plant is happily stressed. Kalanchoe, as many succulents do, get prettier when happily stressed by temperature or sun exposure.

The only cause for concern is if you notice your Dragonfire’s leaves looking bleached, this means that they are getting too much of that hot afternoon sun and should be placed in a more sheltered spot or given a filter such as a sheer curtain.

Water

Close up of a succulent plants wet with water droplets. The plant has bright apple green leaves that are oblong in shape with a slight point at the end, where the leaves turn to a red color. The leaves grow in a loose rosette formation. The succulent grows in a succulent garden. There are several yellow orange succulents growing at the base of the plants in tight rosette formations. The background is the rest of the succulent garden. Large round smooth black rocks cover the ground of the garden. The garden grows along a bamboo fence.
Perform a finger test to make sure that the soil is dry before watering your succulents.
Image courtesy of @thesmashingsucculents

If you have your kalanchoe in a pot with good drainage, it will be much easier to avoid overwatering. Since kalanchoes are succulents, they don’t like to have wet roots.

Soggy soil will lead to root rot, that’s typically a plant killer. In spring and fall, Dragonfire will need less water, and you can increase watering slightly in summer.

A single plant needs about 6 ounces of water every 9-10 days when it is placed in indirect sun. If your Dragonfire gets a lot of sunlight, increase watering to once per week.

If your kalanchoes live outdoors, they will need a bit more water. As a general rule, let them dry out between waterings. Depending on their sun exposure, that can be as little as two and as many as ten days.

Climate and Temperature

Close up of a small container garden with various succulents. The background is grayish tan tiles. The succulents range in shades of green with most of them growing in rosettes closer to the soil. Some are dark purple. The main succulent grows larger than the others with rounded leaves that are slightly curved and pointed. The leaves are bright apple green with deep red margins.
Being succulents, kalanchoes prefer mild temperatures and cannot tolerate frost.
Image courtesy of @thesmashingsucculents

Kalanchoe plants typically like mild temperatures, and Dragonfire is no exception. These plants can be quite happy indoors, as their ideal temperature is around 65°F. They can tolerate temperatures down to 45°F if left outdoors. Below 45°F, they should be brought indoors to avoid leaf damage.

Kalanchoes are not frost tolerant and will die off in a freeze. I will say, though, that I have left one out and it died back in a freeze, but came back the following year, so they are quite resilient in this way.

Kalanchoes will also tolerate lower humidity levels than many houseplants. They will survive at 40-50% humidity, however, they will thrive with slightly more humidity than the average succulent.

50-60% humidity is ideal and will keep your Dragonfire’s foliage happy. In very high humidity, problems with leaf spot and rotting leaves can become an issue.

Fertilizing

Gardener wearing orange shorts, a green and white striped shirt, and black plastic gloves uses a hand shovel to pour fertilized soil into a small black round plastic container that sits on a small white plate. The gardener's left hand holds a green plant that is being inserted into the container. A large white plastic bag holds fertilized soil that will be put into the container. Clear plastic covers the surface of the table.
Like other kalanchoes, Dragonfire is a resilient plant that does not need much fertilizer to thrive.

Kalanchoes don’t typically need much fertilizer. They are very good at utilizing nutrients that they get from their soil and sunlight. They do not need any fertilizer during the dormant periods of little growth.

During their growing season, a standard fertilizer can encourage more growth and vigor but should not be applied more than once per month. Fertilizing this plant is entirely optional, as Dragonfire will be fine without any fertilizing at all.

Pruning and Maintenance

Bright red succulent growing in the garden. There are many other green leafed succulents growing next to it.
Be sure to prune your Kalanchoe ‘Dragonfire’, as it can grow out of hand quickly.
Image courtesy of @thesmashingsucculents

Pruning your Dragonfire should take place after blooming or, in the case of no blooms, in the spring. As with most plants, this is the ideal time to do any pruning such that the plant has as much time as possible to regain strength and set buds again in the next year.

Prune by trimming off the spent flowers and cutting down some of the top leaves. Kalanchoe can tend to get a bit leggy and will fill in nicely if you cut off any portions of overgrown stems.

Doing this also allows air to circulate through the interior of the plant, which will help to prevent root rot and interior leaf decay. Any dead or ailing leaves should be removed when the damage is observed.

Leaf damage can be a simple dying off of old foliage or a symptom of a larger issue, so always inspect the damaged or dying leaves and try to determine the cause.

Toxicity

Close up side view of a succulent with rounded leaves that have a slight curve to them that are bright apple green with bright red edges growing in a loose rosette formation. Other plants and a brick garden wall are in the blurred background.
Be sure to keep your Dragonfire away from pets or small children, as it is toxic and can be harmful.

All parts of plants in the kalanchoe family are toxic to people and pets. Exercise caution around children and animals. They contain cardiac glycosides, which affect the heart.

Wild kalanchoes have been known to affect livestock in their native habitat, especially during times of drought or food scarcity, but they are unlikely to result in harm to humans unless ingested in significant amounts.

Pests and Diseases

Close up of succulent with rounded leaves that are slightly curved growing in a loose rosette pattern. Leaves are Apple green in color with red margins. Small water droplets are on all of the leaves. The background is a white wall with shadows.
Though it is not common, it is possible that these plants can encounter pests or diseases.
Image courtesy of @devoted.rosette

Kalanchoes are not especially vulnerable to pests and diseases. They are resilient and hardy. However, there are a handful of issues that they can face, so it’s good to know what to be on the lookout for if your Dragonfire looks less than robust.

For indoor plants, the main culprit of pest infestation is bringing in infected plants. It is always a good idea to inspect any new plants you bring into the house for signs of insect or disease damage.

Scale

Close up of a brown stem with green leaves growing from it. The stem and leaves have tiny bugs that look like they have a shell over them. The two bugs on the stem are whitish gray in color. The bugs on the green leaf are darker in color.
Thankfully, scale is a treatable pest if you can catch it early enough.

Scales are very small, brown insects that enjoy feeding on the sap of plants. They specifically like new, tender growth, so it is not uncommon to see the newer growth of an infested plant beginning to shrivel and look dehydrated and pale.

Scale is a very common issue, but it is treatable. They reproduce very quickly, so if you don’t catch and eradicate them early on, they can do significant damage. If you notice shriveling new growth, take a look under the leaves. Scales usually appear in clusters.

It is important to isolate any infested plants to prevent the spread to other plants. Scale can be successfully treated with neem and other horticultural oils. The oils will suffocate the scales and should be sprayed directly onto the infected leaves.

Mealybugs

Close up of a brown stem with bright green leaves growing from it. The brown stem has small white hairs growing along it. There is a white fuzzy bug crawling on the stem.
These pests are small, white, fuzzy, and typically gather in clumps.

These fuzzy little sap suckers would love to make a meal of your juiciest kalanchoes. Mealy bugs are small, pale pink to white, fuzzy bugs that feed on the sap of those thick, fleshy leaves. They also leave behind a sticky excretion called honeydew, which, if left on the plants, can lead to a type of sooty mold, which will further deteriorate the health of the plant.

Mealybugs can be quite difficult to get rid of, as the juveniles are very small and difficult to see. They are great at hiding in tight spaces that can’t be easily reached by insecticides. With a mild infestation, you can rinse these guys off with a stream of water.

If the infestation is more advanced, you can use a cotton swab soaked in alcohol and wipe away both the insects, as well as the sticky, moldy mess they leave in their wake.

In general, prevention is the best way to avoid a mealy bug issue. Check new plants for clusters of these little guys that congregate on the stems and leaf junctures.

Spider Mites

Tiny red insect with eight long legs and a larger round central body crawling on a gray rock that has tiny yellow spores growing on it.
These pests are so tiny you usually don’t see them on the plant.

Spider mites are less like mites and more closely related to spiders. You may find their fine webbing on the underside of your kalanchoe’s leaves where they lay their eggs and drain leaves of their sap. Small brown spots will be the next sign as they attack newer growth.

Spider mites are very small and difficult to detect. In fact, they look like tiny specks of dirt on the underside of leaves, so they go undetected in many cases for quite a long time.

To check for spider mites, spray the underside of the leaf with water and then wipe it with a clean white cloth. The mites will leave brown streaks on the cloth if present.

The best way to treat spider mites is by using a miticide. These mites do not like humidity, so misting plants and raising the humidity will help deter them, but don’t overdo the humidity, as this can cause secondary issues.

Fungal Root Rot

Close up of roots that are rotting. The roots are light brown in color with many holes in them. It rests on a concrete surface that is blurry.
Cool, wet conditions are ideal for fungal root rot to take over your plants.

Thielaviopsis root rot is the most common fungal disease that affects kalanchoes. It also goes by the name Black Rot, and it can be a problem. The effects are a badly rotted root system and stunted growth of newer tissue. If left untreated, it will cause whole plant death.

The issue of fungal rot is worse in cool, wet conditions. The disease shows up as a black central stem that eventually cracks, followed by leaf die-off.

Overwatering is the primary cause of most fungal diseases. Establishing good watering practices will help greatly reduce the occurrence of fungal infection. If you end up with infected roots, the best action is to repot and treat with benzimidazole fungicide.

If the problem is advanced, there is little chance of recovery, and to avoid spreading the fungus, it is best to dispose of the plant.

Powdery Mildew

Close up of a green leaf with several veins that are light green. The leaf is covered in a white powdery substance.
Proper watering methods should be used to avoid fungal diseases such as powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew is another fungal disease that is typically the result of too much moisture, but the cause is a humidity issue rather than a watering issue. Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that many succulents will encounter, including Dragonfire.

This fungal disease is not as severe a threat to the life of the plant as other types of fungal disease. However, if the conditions aren’t adjusted, it will continue to come back.

Kalanchoes prefer a lower humidity level than many houseplants, so they don’t thrive as well in bathrooms and kitchens. Choose a room for your kalanchoe with a brightly lit window, away from sources of humidity.

Bacterial Soft Rot

Gardner wearing a navy blue short sleeve shirt and blue nail polish using both hands to hold a small square white plastic container with loose dry potting mix. The cactus that once grew in it is brown and mushy with small white spikes still visible in the mess.
Unfortunately, bacterial soft rot cannot be reversed.

Soft rot caused by bacteria is not as serious an issue as fungal rot in kalanchoes. However, it does need to be managed as early as possible when it happens. The fleshy parts of the plant are the first to be affected. The bacteria feed on these parts of the plant and turn them into mush.

All infected plant parts should be discarded, and if the roots are affected, the entire plant needs to go. This disease cannot be reversed, but it is fairly uncommon, so it doesn’t tend to be much of an issue for most gardeners.

Final Thoughts

Dragonfire Kalanchoe is a stunning addition to any plant collection or succulent garden. It brings a bright pop of color and interesting texture in a very hardy little package. This low-maintenance succulent is resistant to pests and diseases, although not impervious, and is resilient and easy to care for.

With little more than a sunny window and bimonthly watering, this pretty plant will be quite happy and produce loads of colorful foliage for years to come. Dragonfire is a great plant for novices and expert gardeners alike.

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