Calandiva kalanchoe is simply irresistible
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Poinsettias are terrific and cyclamen are beautiful seasonal plants, but if you want sizzling holiday color and a plant you can enjoy for years, then get yourself a kalanchoe.
This succulent plant has colors so vivid and foliage so tough it can grow in almost desert-like conditions -- yet be one of the best buys for your holiday decorating dollar.
Most of us think of the kalanchoe as a Christmas houseplant or a warm-weather potted plant for the deck or patio. One company that has risen above the rest in kalanchoe breeding is Fides from the Netherlands. They are breeding kalanchoes with the goal of getting consumers to use them as annual garden border plants like the petunia. Their low water requirement just might make this a possibility in some areas of the country.
My regular readers know I mention varieties that are in the market place. I find kalanchoe most often sold generically, but perhaps in your area it’s different. Fides now has more than 50 named varieties.
One particular group that is just absolutely stunning is the Calandiva series. Fides considers these decorative, and it would be hard to argue that point. The flowers, however, are boldly colorful and perfectly double. A lot of double flowers simply aren’t that big of a deal, but such is not the case with the Calandivas.
A new selection making its debut is the Calandiva Birken. These flowers are iridescent hot pink and fully rose-form. What you will like about them for indoor decorating is their branching habit. The branching is strong and sturdy, and the flowers form an almost solid carpet of color on top. You see practically no foliage when looking down on the plant.
Others in the group that deserve consideration are the flashy purple Calandiva Leonardo and the fiery red Calandiva Tylo, which is perfect for holiday decorating.
Whether you have the double-flowered Calandiva or a showy, traditional, single-flowered form, know that the kalanchoe’s bloom time is incredibly long for a houseplant. These bright flower clusters last for weeks, even months. They are ideal for sunrooms or bright windowsills and can be grown on the porch or patio. I once had a garden-style tub with skylights directly overhead, and I clustered groupings of kalanchoe around it for an enjoyable display.
Protect kalanchoes from freezing temperatures and gusty winds. The plant is easily capsized by winds hitting the thick, large leaves, so avoid lightweight plastic pots. You’ll be thrilled if you plant them in old, European-style containers.
Water regularly from spring through autumn, and start cutting them back a little after September. Take care not to overwater as the stems will rot, but don’t let the leaves reach the wilting point, either. The soil should be very light and drain rapidly.
Around Oct. 1, place your kalanchoe where it will have darkness for about 12 hours from evening until morning. You can cover the plant with a box to provide this darkness. Buds should begin to form in November.
Buy a kalanchoe today, and you’ll find this plant will keep on giving for years to come.
Released: December 17, 2009
Contact: Norman Winter, (601) 857-2284
Editor's Note: Ideal publication dates of Southern Gardening columns are within one month of their release. Editors should examine older columns carefully for any information that could be time sensitive.
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