Panda Plant Care: How to Grow Kalanchoe Tomentosa

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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.

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.

It 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 potting soil to plant this perennial and you’re in business.

Quick Care

Panda plant's fuzzy leaves make a real statement
Panda plant’s fuzzy leaves make a real statement. Source: Fox & Thomas
Common Name(s): Panda Plant, Pussy Ears, Donkey Ears, Chocolate Soldier
Scientific NameKalanchoe tomentosa
Family:Crassulaceae
Zone:9b to 11
Height & Spread:Up to 2′ by 2′ (0.6m x 0.6m)
LightBright light, a mixture of direct, indirect and shade
SoilWell-draining cactus mix
Water:Prefers dry soil, watering only when needed
Pests & Diseases:Mealybugs and root rot

Its leaves have a velvety appearance with tiny white-silvery 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 too 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 several feet but when you plant it indoors, chocolate soldier succulent grows up to 1.5 to 2 feet and has a thick stem. It produces several groups of leaves when maturing, and can be pruned to achieve a bush-like look.

You can also grow pussy ears 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 the plant 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

The top of a Kalanchoe tomentosa plant
The top of a Kalanchoe tomentosa! Source: Rafael Peñaloza

Ideal for an ornamental houseplant due to its low-maintenance, you can grow the chocolate soldier plant easily in pots and basket. Here are the requirements you need to look out for when growing this African native succulent.

Light

This species of kalanchoe loves 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

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.

Soil

The soil mix you use should be well-draining so that there is no standing water, ever. 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.

Fertilizing

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.

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 the leaf-cutting to dry for at least a week before potting it again. The rooting will begin in the next four weeks. It’s a slow process, so exercise patience!

Pruning

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 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.

Troubleshooting

When it comes to pests or diseases, panda plants don’t experience too much of either…but there are a few things that might go wrong you should keep an eye out for.

Succulent plant 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.

Pests

Mealybugs love panda plant. If you see a web-like white substance appearing on the plant leaves, it means it is attacked by these tiny parasites. These pests usually live in the nooks of the plant where they are hard to get noticed.

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.

FAQs

Q. Is Kalanchoe tomentosa toxic?

Yes, you should keep this 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 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. They bloom in their 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 half to its strength. A dilute fertilizer can serve the purpose, too. There are fertilizers for succulents that work quite well, too.


The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:

Kevin Espiritu
Founder

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