These succulent houseplants create drama from both flower and foliage


Houseplants are on a wave of popularity at the moment. Among those enjoying the attention are kalanchoe; evergreen, succulent plants of incredible diversity, both in flower and foliage.

Kalanchoe comprise about 125 species found in tropical to southern Africa, more than half in Madagascar, with some in south-east Asia and China, all of which have succulent leaves and woody stems, making them drought tolerant, a useful feature of any houseplant. The most familiar is flaming Katy, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, originally from Madagascar, now bred for its clusters of long-lasting, brightly-toned flowers.

Kalanchoes are generally easy to grow, needing a minimum of 10C (50F) and bright, even light.

When growing it’s preferable to use loam-based John Innes No 1 or No 2 compost, with some extra grit or Perlite added to improve drainage, especially important in winter when plants should be kept just moist, as roots are liable to rot if kept constantly wet. From Spring increase the water and feed every month with a balanced liquid fertiliser. In summer they can be displayed outdoors in pots and containers, or planted in summer bedding schemes, where the species grown for colourful foliage will create a dramatic focal point. When in active growth bright sunlight encourages the strongest leaf colours, particularly if the plants aren’t over fed.

Propagation is easy from 5-7.5cm (2-3in) long tip, stem or leaf cuttings from spring to mid-summer. Let the cut surfaces dry off before inserting them in well-drained seed and cutting compost. There are few regular ‘go to’ sources for kalanchoe, but flaming Katy is frequently for sale from garden centres, florists and shopping malls all year round.