Mother of Millions vs. Mother of Thousands: What’s The Difference?
Trying to decide between the Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands succulents, but aren't quite sure how they differ? These popular succulents share both differences and similarities. In this article, gardening expert Madison Moulton compares these two succulents, including what similarities they share, and how they differ.
The clash of the mother Kalanchoes starts with these two popular succulent plants, known for sporting baby plantlets that drop off the plants and grow into adults: Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands. Each has its own unique traits, but luckily, both are hardy and easy to care for.
Mother of Millions (Kalanchoe delagoensis, previously known as Bryophyllum delagoensis) are succulent plants originating from Madagascar. They grow fast with little plantlets that grow at the ends of thin fleshy leaves. Each of these is able to start a new plant and any babies that drop off the ends can find a spot to grow nearby, spreading quickly.
Similarly, Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana, previously Bryophyllum daigremontianum) has large green leaves with little baby plantlets forming on the margin of the leaves, also able to drop off and grow even in the harshest environments. Let’s dig more into each to see where they differ.
Mother of Millions vs. Mother of Thousands
Mother of Millions
Up to 3 feet
Multi-colored, Green Burgundy
Orange to Burgundy
Full sun to part shade
Min. 2 hours a day
Poisonous to animals and humans
Mother of Thousands
Up to 3 feet
Wide with toothed edges
Gray to Pink
Full sun to partial shade
Min. 2 hours a day
Poisonous to animals and humans
These two plants are similar in that they produce tiny plantlets on the tips of their leaves. However, each plant is unique in its own way. Let’s take a closer look at each plant’s botanical characteristics to see how they differ.
Also called Mother of Millions, Chandelier Plant because of its drooping flowers, or Devil’s Backbone for its shape, Kalanchoe delagoensis is a fascinating plant. This succulent from the Crassulacea family has an upright growth habit and captivating leaves.
Kalanchoe delagoensis will have the name Eckl. & Zeyh behind it to reference the botanists who first identified the plants. Eckl. refer to Christian Friedrich Ecklon (1795 –1868) a Danish botanist who collected many samples from Southern Africa together with Zeyh, which refers to Karl Ludwig Philipp Zeyher (1799 –1858) who was born in Germany and spent many years collecting plants and insects in South Africa.
Kalanchoe daigremontiana is also known as Mother of Thousands, Mexican Hat Plant, and sometimes Alligator Plant. It’s a succulent like Mother of Millions from the Crassulacea family.
This species was named by French botanist Raymond Hamet (1890 – 1972) identified by Raym.-Hamet behind the name and Joseph Henry Alfred Perrier, identified with H.Perrier behind the plant name who specialized in plants from Madagascar.
Both these plants are native to Madagascar. Kalanchoe delagoensis is found in the central and southern regions and Kalanchoe daigremontiana can be spotted more to the west. They grow in desert environments in a dry subshrub biome. The locals will use these plants as poison for their toxicity.
The appearance of Mother of Millions vs. Mother of Thousands is quite different. The flowers, however, are very similar. The leaves are the best way to tell the two plants apart.
Leaf Shape and Color
The leaves of Mother of Millions are smooth, narrow, and oblong-shaped, set opposite each other on long stems. They have a grey to silver sheen with splotches of red to reddish brown marks. These leaves are around 1-6 inches long and under an inch thick at their tallest.
There are 3-9 small teeth on the ends of the leaves where groups of plantlets form in whorls along the edges. This is what this plant is most famous for.
Mother of Thousands differs wildly from Mother of Millions in leaf shape and color. It has wide blue-green leaves with toothed margins where the little plantlets form. Just a little knock and the babies will fall off and anchor into the soil to grow.
Mother of Millions produces chandeliers of bell- or tubular-shaped flowers on the ends of tall stems in colors that range from yellow to orange and red. They dangle in clusters each about an inch long and bloom from late winter and into spring.
Mother of Thousands also produces tubular flowers, but in grey to pink and purple, similar to the other Kalanchoes.
They are grouped together in clusters on long stems and hang down like chandeliers – often confused with Mother of Millions. But if you can’t quite tell which flower is which, the color should help you tell them apart.
These species are known for the plantlets they produce on the margins of the leaves. But there are other differences in growth habit that you can spot when the plants are large enough and in the right environment.
Mother of Millions has an upright growth habit and is considered a medium grower in terms of growth rate. With its bigger leaves, Mother of Thousands tends towards a bushier habit to make space for the wider leaves.
In general, succulents appreciate rather hot, dry, and sunny conditions. Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands are no different. These two Kalanchoes will thrive in conditions that mimic their homeland of Madagascar. They have higher success when grown as houseplants, but could survive in hardiness zones with a desert climate.
Both these plants prefer hot sunny temperatures and full sun to partial shade position outdoors. Indoors It needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sun a day.
Both can also grow (although not as well) in a partially shaded area. If you don’t have the right amount of light, you can always supplement with grow lights for those committed to growing them indoors.
They enjoy a bit of afternoon shade in hot climates as too much sun may scorch the leaves. Once that happens the leaves the damaged leaves will need to be removed.
Both plants have low water needs, only requiring additional watering when the soil just dries out. They also have the ability to tolerate periods of drought with ease thanks to their native habitats.
Mother of Millions and Mother of Thousands will grow better with regular watering. But it’s important to never let them stand in water or become waterlogged. Like any succulent, this will quickly lead to rot. If the plant’s leaves begin to crinkle, it’s a sure sign that they need more water.
Make sure to inspect the plants regularly as any browning of the leaves may be a sign of root rot and overwatering. Cut off the damaged leaves and repot the plant in fresh soil with better drainage. Check the roots first and cut off any that are mushy and damaged.
Change the watering schedule and wait for the plant to recover. Otherwise, you can discard the plant and propagate new ones from the babies.
These plants will grow in almost any soil conditions, from well-composted loam to dry sand, as long as the soil drains well. For the best result in pots, plant in well-draining succulent and cactus soil mix with large particles and a gritty texture.
Make sure the container you choose has enough drainage holes so the soil can drain freely when watering.
These plants are very light feeders and will only need an annual feed with a very weak fertilizer used for cacti and succulents. Too much fertilizer will burn their roots, so it’s best to keep the strength weak.
Temperature and Humidity
Although both these plants will grow in wide temperature ranges, they must be protected at temperatures below 40°F. They need little to no humidity and can actually struggle if humidity is too high.
In colder climates, grow these succulents indoors or grow them in pots that you can move indoors when the cold hits. Keep away from extremes in heat, especially from indoor heat sources like radiators.
Both these plants have shallow root systems, so they do not need re-potting very often. They also like to be tight in their pots, but if the roots are growing out of the drainage holes, you can give them a new home with fresh succulent and cactus mix. Do this in spring and choose a pot one size up only.
The biggest benefit of these succulents is that they are so easily propagated from the plantlets that form on the leaves. Just falling off the plant will begin the cycle of growth, as long as the plantlet touches the soil. Growing them indoors controls the spread of the plantlets so that they do not become a problem.
It’s important to know that in some countries, these plants have become invasive, and declared noxious weeds. They are also poisonous for grazing livestock like cattle. All parts of the plants need to be kept away from children and pets. The plants contain chemical compounds called Bufadienolides that cause cardiac arrest and heart failure.
It has been said that Mother of Thousands has lost the ability to produce seeds, but with the literally thousands of plantlets clinging to the leaf margins ready to spring into action should they fall onto the soil, the lack of seeds has little impact.
If you want to propagate little plantlets yourself, pick a few off from the leaves. They will come away easily if they are ready. Then simply drop these plantlets into moist soil to replicate how they spread naturally. Once they have rooted, transplant them into their own pots with a well-draining soil mix to continue growth.
These fascinating plants are interesting to watch grow while they desperately try to increase their own numbers by producing thousands and even millions of smaller plants on their own, without the intervention of humans. They are also both easy to care for and will grow with little maintenance or interference.