Panda Plant Care: How to Grow Kalanchoe Tomentosa

The panda plant, or Kalanchoe tomentosa, is a unique-looking and simple succulent to care add it to your collection!

Panda plant

Looking for an indoor succulent that’s perfect for any room? The gorgeous panda plant is your answer. It’s an interesting houseplant that makes a statement with its fuzzy, soft, succulent leaves covered in fine hairs.

Originally from Madagascar, panda plant is botanically known as Kalanchoe tomentosa. There are more than 100 varieties of kalanchoe that grow wild in areas of Africa, but Madagascar is specifically known to produce massive Kalanchoe tomentosa plants that have strong, woody bases and grow as large as 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide.

The Kalanchoe tomentosa panda plant requires minimal maintenance, making it easy to grow indoors. It can live on less water and can thrive in direct and indirect light as well can make use of some shade. All you need to do is have the right cactus potting soil to plant this perennial, and you’re in business.

Quick Care Guide

Panda plant
Panda plant. Source: el cajon yacht club
Common Name(s) Panda Plant, Pussy Ears, Donkey Ears, Chocolate Soldier
Scientific NameKalanchoe tomentosa
Height & SpreadUp to 2′ by 2′ (0.6m x 0.6m)
LightBright light, a mixture of direct, indirect and shade
SoilWell-draining cactus mix
WaterPrefers dry soil, watering only when needed
Pests & DiseasesMealybugs and root rot

Panda plants have a velvety appearance with tiny white silvery, fine hairs covering them. There are brownish-red markings on the leaf’s edges with white and silver hair. The Latin word “tomentosa” means velvety, referring to the appearance of the plant leaves. Kalanchoe tomentosa also goes by these “unique” common names: pussy ears, donkey ears, and chocolate soldier.

The kalanchoe panda plant is easily grown indoors without much need for you to water it. Its succulent leaves do most of the water storage for you.

In its natural habitat, it can grow up to several feet, but when you plant it indoors, chocolate soldier succulent grows up to 1.5 to 2 feet and has a thick stem. When maturing, it produces several groups of leaves and can be pruned to achieve a bush-like look.

You can also grow panda plants in hanging baskets, as they can produce branches that trail down below your hanging pot.

It can flower in its natural wild habitat, but it’s very rare and uncommon to see panda plants blooming indoors. You may see tubular-shaped flowers at the tips of the branches if your chocolate soldier plant ever blooms. The bloom time is in the spring and summer…so keep your eyes peeled!

Panda Plant Care

Panda plant Kalanchoe tomentosa
Panda plant, Kalanchoe tomentosa. Source: ToastyKen

Ideal as ornamental houseplants due to their low maintenance, you can grow panda plants easily in pots and basket. Here are the requirements you need to look out for when growing this African native succulent.

Light and Temperature

Panda plants love bright light but can also tolerate indirect light or even a bit of shade. So, if you want to achieve healthy growth for your panda plant, provide the plant a good balance of direct and indirect sunlight. 2-4′ away from a south-facing window should be just fine. The recommended temperature for optimal panda plant growth is between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Water and Humidity

Chocolate soldier succulent doesn’t require a ton of water. You only have to water the plant when the soil is bone-dry. It can survive long periods without water, so if you’re a neglectful plant parent like I sometimes am, it’s a great addition to your collection.

Humidity is not an issue for the panda plant, but overwatering can affect the plant growth. Water every 5 to 7 days, and reduce the frequency in winter and fall dormant periods.


The soil mix you use should be well-draining so that there is no standing water. The recommended soil for planting is a high-quality cacti or succulent potting mix. You can also use a standard potting mix and add a bit more perlite to it. Ideal pH for panda plants ranges from 5.5 to 6.0.

Fertilizing Panda Plants

The fertilizing season for panda plant starts from spring until the end of summer. You can fertilize the plant using a diluted fertilizer once after every 4 weeks. You can also use a balanced houseplant food that is mixed at half-strength. Do not fertilize when your panda plant is dormant.

Kalanchoe Tomentosa Propagation

Panda plant can be easily propagated and can give you more plants to grow in different areas. You can take the leaf cuttings and plant them in new potting soil in spring. Make sure to allow your leaf cuttings to dry for at least a week before potting them again. The rooting will begin in the next four weeks. It’s a slow process, so exercise patience! Lay them on the surface of the soil, mist, and wait.

You can propagate stem cuttings as well, much as you would a pothos or philodendron. Simply snip above a growth node, and remove all but the top leaves. Dip the stem tip in rooting hormone, and plant it in succulent mix. Rooting should take a while but will occur.

Pruning Panda Plants

If you want to keep your panda plant short and retain dense foliage, pruning can help you achieve the goal. You can use special plant scissors and trim the stem of your indoor panda plant and remove the long leaves. This will allow new leaves to grow.

However, you need to prune the leaves regularly if you want to maintain the shape. I personally don’t prune this plant often, preferring to let it grow naturally.


Kalanchoe tomentosa
Kalanchoe tomentosa. Source: Bennilover

When it comes to pests or diseases, panda plants don’t experience too much of either, but you should keep an eye out for a few things that might go wrong. Watch for these to keep your succulent plant collection healthy!

Growing Problems

Succulent plants and their leaves have a specific life span. They die once they’ve reached a natural cap on their useful life. If you see leaves starting to turn brown in color and dry at the stem, remove them. This will allow new leaves to take their place. You can even try propagating these leaves to make more babies!

If you see too many leaves drying out at the same time, it means your plant is under-watered. Try to water more frequently and relocate the pot to a place with more humidity.


Avoid watering the leaves directly. It will cause rotting. Move the plant out of dry place to allow it to recover. If you find yellow and mushy leaves, it means you’re overwatering. Stop watering the plant and allow the soil to dry out. Make sure that your soil has good drainage.

Black spots appearing on stem and leaves are also an indication of root rot, caused by overwatering once again. Let the soil dry out before you start watering again, especially if you’re caring for a panda plant indoors.


Mealybugs love panda plant, if not most house plants. If you see a web-like white substance appearing on the succulent plant leaves, it means it is attacked by these tiny parasites. These pests usually live in the nooks of indoor succulents, where they are hard to notice.

Make sure to keep a close eye on them to avoid letting them propagate and get out of control. You can use pesticides to kill the mealybugs, but I don’t recommend it. It’s best to clean the affected leaves using alcohol applied to a cotton ball. Do a scan every couple of days until they’re completely gone, and your plant should be fine.

Frequently Asked Questions

A pair of panda plants
A pair of panda plants. Source: 澎湖小雲雀

Q. Is Kalanchoe tomentosa toxic?

Yes, you should keep these house plants out of reach of pets, especially cats and dogs. Also, this goes without saying…but don’t eat it yourself!

Q. Some of my panda plant leaves have turned brown. Is it because of sunlight?

A. Usually, the leaves of this plush plant turn brown because they have lived their life. it’s best that you pluck them off. New leaves will replace them soon. Not all plant “problems” are bad – sometimes, it’s just getting old!

Q. Do pussy ears plant bloom?

A. The furry plant blooms in its natural habitat. If you’re lucky, you may find small, tubular-shaped flowers on the edge of branches in spring and summer.

Q. Which fertilizer should I use for panda plant?

A. You can use any houseplant fertilizer on panda plant kalanchoe to half its strength. A diluted fertilizer can serve the purpose, too. There are fertilizers for succulents that work quite well, too.

Q: Is panda an indoor plant?

A: While it doesn’t have to be, many indoor conditions are perfect for panda plant kalanchoe. That’s what makes panda plants great houseplants.

Q: How fast does panda plant grow?

A: Panda plants are slow growers and don’t require annual up-potting. Most of the time they’ll need to be repotted every couple of years.

Q: How often should I water a panda plant?

A: Once or twice a week is a great watering schedule for panda plant kalanchoe, depending on the season. If you’re within the growing season, more often is better.

Q: Do panda plants need direct sunlight?

A: Not necessarily. The panda plant kalanchoe can survive in full sun but thrives with some shade or bright, indirect light.