How to Plant, Grow and Care For Paddle Plants

Thinking of adding a new succulent to y our garden? Why not give the paddle plant a try? Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora is an easy to care for plant if grown in the proper conditions. In this article, gardening expert Paige Foley walks through everything you need to know about paddle plants, includding their maintenance and care.

paddle plants

Contents

Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, better known as the paddle plant, is named for its flat, paddle-like leaves. They also go by flapjack, red pancake, or desert cabbage. Like most succulents, these drought-resistant plants are easy to care for and can be grown outside in zones 10 and 11 and indoors in all other zones. 

Paddle plants are quick-growing succulents that form wide clusters that look great in containers, rock gardens, or any other location that is too dry for other species. They are an excellent choice for beginner succulent owners because they don’t require a strict watering schedule or high sunlight requirements. 

Like most succulents, these plants are low-maintenance and happy to be left alone. Proper growing conditions will help keep them happy and thriving for years. In this article, we’ll cover all the details of proper care for paddle plants.

Paddle Plants Overview

Two Kalanchoe thyrsiflora
Plant Type Perennial
Native Area Africa
Hardiness Zone 10-11
Family Crassulaceae
Sunlight exposure Full to Partial
Maintenance Low
Genus Kalanchoe
Plant Height 1 to 2 feet
Soil Type Sandy, well-draining
Species Thyrsiflora
Water requirements Medium
Pest Mealy bugs, aphids
Plant Spacing 3 feet +
Plant Depth Soil Surface
Diseases Fungal Diseases

About Paddle Plants 

Several paddle plants shown have thick, paddle-shaped leaves that are green in color. Clusters of small, orange flowers grow at the top of erect, fleshy, green stalks.
Native to dry areas of southern Africa, paddle plants are drought-tolerant succulents with rosettes of round, flat leaves.

Paddle plants are drought-tolerant succulents native to arid regions of southern Africa. This unusual-looking succulent grows in rosettes of round, flat leaves. They are commonly grown indoors with other beautiful succulent plants, but they also look amazing on their own. 

They have gray-green leaves and, in time, will develop a tinge of red from the sun. Once the plant matures, it will create a stalk with yellow, fragrant flowers. This species can grow up to 24 inches, which is rather tall for a succulent. It can also grow as wide as 3 feet under ideal conditions. 

Like many succulents, they produce offsets through underground lateral roots. The paddle plant is monocarpic, which means that once the plant blooms, it will die. Only the plant from which the stalk rose will die, and the offsets will continue growing. 

The plant is often confused with Kalanchoe luciae, which is very similar to Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. K. thyrsiflora has shorter, broader leaves and darker yellow, more fragrant flowers.

It is also much rarer than K. luciae. Both species are commonly marketed as paddle plants, flapjacks, red pancakes, or desert cabbage. 

Propagation

There are two common methods to propagate paddle plants: leaf cutting or offset. Be cautious, as the plant can cause skin irritation. When working with Kalanchoe, always wear gloves to avoid skin irritation or other problems. It is best to propagate the plant in the late spring or early summer while it is actively growing. 

Offsets 

Offsets (also known as “pups”) are the baby succulents that appear at the base of a parent plant. Pups can be used to grow new succulent plants.

Begin by selecting a healthy stem and cutting it with shears or scissors. Cut a 2 or 3-inch piece that has a few leaves on it. Strip the bottom of the stem so there are no leaves on the bottom half of the stem. Be sure not to strip all the leaves from the stem. 

Allow the stem to dry out and form a callus. This can take a few days. Gather your containers and fill them with succulent soil or a homemade mix of sand, gravel, or other gritty material. Moisten the soil and poke the cutting into the soil so the leaves are just above the soil surface. 

Place a plastic bag or dome over your cutting to create a greenhouse effect. Place the pot in indirect light and water when you see the soil is beginning to dry out. Once the cutting has shown new growth, you can care for them just like a mature succulent. New growth should appear within 15 to 20 days

Leaf Cuttings

A plant's trimmed green leaves are pushed down to the brown soil, showing just half of their size. They are all contained in a yellow pot, spaced apart from one another. A potted plant is next to it.
To propagate via leaf cutting, remove a whole leaf from the rosette.

You can propagate paddle plants by leaf cutting, but this will take longer than growing from offset pups. The leaves should easily snap from the rosette. If not, you can cut them with a knife or sharp scissors. You want to remove the entire leaf for propagation. 

Prepare containers or trays with well-drained soil designed for succulents or cacti. Be sure your containers have proper drainage holes to allow excess water to leave the container. Press the leaf into the soil, and be sure the end that was attached to the rosette is below the soil surface. 

Moisten the soil just enough that it’s damp but not soggy. Soggy soils can lead to the development of diseases. Place the cuttings in a location that receives adequate lighting. Maintain continuous moisture. You should see roots forming within 6 to 8 weeks. If you touch the leaf and it is firm and stays upright, it is forming roots. 

How to Care for Paddle Plant

This attractive succulent does not ask for much in exchange for its household beauty. Beginner gardeners enjoy this species because it is so easy to care for.

Light 

Close-up of paddle plant with large and flat leaves, resembling paddles, and are green in color with a slight reddish tint on the edges.
Paddle plants thrive in sun, but can handle partial shade.

Similar to most succulents, paddle plants love the sun but can tolerate partial shade. In hotter months, this species will benefit from afternoon shade. The afternoon tends to be much hotter, and the sunlight is more intense. Providing shade in the afternoon will protect it from sun damage. 

If growing indoors, south and west-facing windows are best because they provide bright, indirect sunlight. Place the succulent near the window on a table, shelf, or countertop. Avoid placing it directly on the windowsill because the light might be too bright. Additionally, winter air drafts can kill it. 

Paddle plants grown outdoors can tolerate full sun to partial shade. However, the full sun will promote more red tints on the leaves. Six hours or more of sunlight produces the best results. If your region has extreme summer heat and sunshine, it’s best to provide shade to prevent leaf scorching.

Leaf burn is common in succulents in intense sun. This condition is no different than humans getting sunburn, except the leaves will turn brown, red, or black at the tips. This is treatable by providing more shade. 

Water 

A gardener with orange gloves sprays water using a garden hose. Some plants in the garden can be seen in the blurred background.
Properly watering succulents at the right time is crucial for their survival.

The proper amount of water at the right time is the secret to successful, healthy succulents. Succulents are similar to cacti and aloe and don’t need large amounts of water to grow. Paddle plant stores much of their water in their leaves for dry conditions. This is what makes it drought resistant. 

If growing in containers, regularly stick your finger in the container. When the soil feels dry, water until you see water flowing from the drainage holes. If your containers are outside during periods of hot and dry weather, you may need to water them a couple of times a week. 

You shouldn’t have to spend much time watering when growing succulents directly in the ground. Many times, rain or sprinkler systems provide enough water. If you have just established your Kalanchoe, consider watering more frequently. This will help it develop healthy roots. 

During the winter, it needs little to no water. During the spring and summer, only irrigate in the mornings. Morning is best because it allows the leaves to dry before nighttime. Excess water on the leaves can lead to foliar diseases. 

Soil

Two huge gray pots contain dark, rich potting soil.
If cultivated in a container, succulent and cactus potting soil is suggested.

Succulents prefer soils that are well-draining and coarse. A sandy or loamy soil is ideal because they drain water away more quickly. If growing in a container, use potting soil designed for succulents and cacti. Most garden centers will carry this type of potting mix. 

Kalanchoe will develop problems if planted in poorly draining soils. If your soil struggles to drain water, consider amending it with a bit of sand, gravel, pumice, or other gritty material to increase drainage. 

Temperature 

Close-up of paddle plant leaves, which are paddle-shaped and grouped in a rosette pattern. Leaves have a powdery coating and are green with red edges.
Avoid humid climates to ensure the survival of succulents.

Since paddle plants are native to arid regions of Southern Africa, they enjoy higher temperatures. They are not cold-hardy and will only survive outdoors year-round in zones 10 or warmer. They can be grown indoors as a houseplant year-round in colder regions of the United States. 

Succulents aren’t suited for humid climates since their natural environment is arid. Temperatures below freezing can cause extreme damage or death. If your region is experiencing low temperatures, keep your succulents indoors.

When grown indoors, succulents prefer temperatures between 60 to 90 F for best growth. If growing near a window or door, notice where air drafts come through in the winter. A cold draft can damage the leaves, but they will likely recover once moved to a warmer area. 

Fertilizer 

A man holds a slow-release fertilizer in his hand. The fertilizer is composed of tiny, round pellets that are black in color.
A balanced, slow-release fertilizer is required every few months.

Paddle plants aren’t heavy feeders but they appreciate a balanced fertilizer during the spring and summer. Once every few months should be enough to keep it happy. Slow-release fertilizers are a good option because they release the proper nutrients over time. Slow-release fertilizers last about 3 months. 

Overfertilization can lead to problems such as root rot and the growth of powdery mildew. You can find a balanced fertilizer online or at your local garden center. Do not fertilize in the winter months. 

Flower and Fragrance 

A close-up of a cluster of small, bell-shaped orange blossoms. They sit atop paddle-shaped green leaves that form a rosette pattern.
In early spring, mature paddle plants produce a small, yellow flower with a strong perfume.

Once a paddle plant is mature, it will send out a bloom. This happens in early spring, typically April through May. A thick, small, yellow flower will rise from the foliage on a stalk that is 18 inches high. The flower will emit a strong perfume that will flood the area they are grown with a decadent scent. 

This succulent is monocarpic and will die shortly after flowering. Fortunately, offsets will continue growing once the parent plant dies. You can leave offsets in the pot and cut away the dead leaves and flower stalk. The offsets will take their place.

Potting And Repotting 

A gardener is filling a little white pot with dark, rich soil while wearing white gloves. On the table, there are soil and young paddle plants.
When repotting, select a container at least 2 inches larger than the previous one.

This fast-growing succulent needs to be repotted every 12 to 24 months. If you notice that the roots are growing out of the bottom of the container, it’s time to repot. Begin by removing any dead leaves, flower stalks, or pups. 

Choose a container at least 2 inches bigger than the previous one. You can choose a larger container if you’d like. Fill that container with a little succulent soil or a mix of your own. Fresh soil mix can decrease the chance of diseases and pests and increase drainage. 

Remove the paddle plant from the old container and remove all the soil from around the roots. Place it into the new container and thoroughly cover the roots. Avoid watering for a week after transplanting so it uses its water reserve. Resume routine care a week after repotting. 

Proper Containers 

Large, thick, and slightly curved paddle-shaped leaves of a paddle plant, seen from above. The leaves are green in color, with a reddish tint at the tips, and have a somewhat waxy texture. The plant is grown in a ceramic pot.
Getting the right container is critical for the longevity and wellness of your plant.

Choosing the right container will help keep this succulent happy and thriving for years. Containers are made of many different materials, such as plastic, ceramic, terracotta, wood, and metal.

Many succulents grow best in either ceramic or terracotta pots. These types of materials promote proper airflow and drainage for succulents. It’s very important to choose a pot with drainage holes because they allow water to flow out of the soil. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, water can collect at the bottom and cause root rot. 

You will also want to choose a container at least 2 inches bigger than the original. This will allow for proper growth and prevent overcrowding.

Common Problems

Succulents are mostly care-free, but they will still tell you when something is off.

Drooping Leaves 

A paddle plant planted in a white pot is seen up close. The plant is thick and green, with reddish borders. One of the leaves is drooping.
Drooping leaves could be caused by insufficient sunlight, overwatering, or underwatering.

If you are noticing drooping leaves on your paddle plant, this can mean several things. It can mean a lack of sunlight, overwatering, or underwatering. 

You will have to inspect the soil of your plants to determine if they are too soggy or too dry. If soils aren’t the problem, pay attention to how much light the plant receives. Move the plant to a brighter location if the leaves look pale.

Brown Spots 

A close-up of a paddle plant's huge, paddle-shaped, pale-red leaves. The leaves have brown spots on them.
Position them in a location with filtered or indirect sunlight.

Brown spots on a succulent can mean many things. The most common is too much sun exposure. When the plant receives too much direct sunlight, the leaves will develop brown spots known as sunburn or sun scorch. To prevent this, place your plants in an area that receives filtered or indirect sunlight throughout the day. 

Yellowing Leaves 

Potted paddle plant with tiny, green leaves that cluster closely together in a rosette arrangement. Some of the have turned yellow and died. It is grown in a brown pot.
Immediately repot the plant to save it from early root rot.

If you notice yellow leaves that begin to droop, turn brown, and then die. This can be a sign of root rot. Root rot is hard to identify until it is too late. If you notice these symptoms, it’s best to repot the plant immediately. Use extra well-drained soil. The plant may regenerate if the rot hasn’t progressed too far. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is Paddle Plant Toxic?

Paddle plant contains toxins in its sap that are poisonous to cats, dogs, and humans. Be sure this succulent is placed high on a shelf to avoid contact with pets and children. When working with a paddle plant, it is best to wear gloves to avoid any skin irritation.

How Long Will My Paddle Plant Live?

A paddle plant will live up to seven years when provided the proper care. Bright indirect sunlight, moderate moisture, and well-drained soil will help it live longer. A breathable, properly-sized container can prevent overcrowding or disease issues.

Do I Need To Prune My Paddle Plant?

Paddle plant does not need pruning. It naturally drops its leaves once they have died. You can remove leaves if the plant is struggling to drop them. Once the flower has finished and the stalk begins to wither, you can cut it. Cleaning dead leaves from around the plant is always a good practice. This helps prevent the development of diseases.

Final Thoughts 

Paddle plants are low-maintenance succulents that can thrive in dry conditions. So, if you forget to water your paddle plant, don’t panic! Check the soil and let the plant do its thing.

Grow this species indoors in a small pot, succulent arrangement, or terrarium. In zones 10 and warmer, you can also plant outdoors in rock beds, clay pots, or wall crevices.

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