Kalanchoe Pinnata – Everything You Need To Know

FamilyCrassulaceae
GenusKalanchoe
SpeciesK. pinnata
Other NamesGoethe plant, cathedral bells, air plant, Mexican love plant, miracle leaf, life plant, curtain plant, good-luck leaf, and more.
Sunlight Partial sunlight
Temperature Minimum of 10°C
Growth SeasonFall
ClimateTropical, sub-tropical  
PropagationEasily propagated from cuttings
Height1 meter (5 feet)
Water Moderate watering schedule. Different watering schedules depending on the season. 
Blooming SeasonSpring
OthersOrnamental succulent. Popular houseplant. Traditional (herbal) medicine

A massive welcome to all succulent lovers and enthusiasts as we discuss a long-time favorite of the succulent community – from amateur gardeners to professional landscapers alike. Coming from the Crassulaceae family and the Kalanchoe genus, we are talking about the Kalanchoe pinnata succulent- as some of you may have no doubt guessed.

Kalanchoe pinnata has quite a laundry list of aliases compared to its peers.

Depending on where you are, the K. pinnata succulent may be referred to as the Goethe plant, cathedral bells, air plant, Mexican love plant, or the miracle leaf, to name a few. 

kalanchoe pinnata in a pot
Kalanchoe pinnata in a pot @Pinterest

NATIVE REGION, DISTRIBUTION, AND GLOBAL SPREAD

The Kalanchoe pinnata species is native to the Southern tip of Africa and the island of Madagascar, just off the coast of South Africa. But, one thing you need to understand is that the Goethe plant is very good at multiplying or self-propagation.

Due to this ability, the K. pinnata species, which started as a popular houseplant in South Africa, was able to multiply and spread quite aggressively.

K. pinnata species can now be found all around the globe; Australia, Philippines, Hawaii, Brazil, Polynesia, Galapagos, and more!

This uncontrollable self-propagation led certain countries like Hawaii to list the Kalanchoe pinnata as an invasive species – a far cry from its previous perception as a gentle houseplant.

Invasive or not, it is still a lovely succulent, and most succulent lovers wouldn’t mind it taking over the backyard.

kalanchoe family
Kalanchoe Family @Pinterest

LEAVES, STEMS, AND FLOWERS

The K. pinnata has greyish-green, fleshy stems approximately 0.5 to 1 cm in diameter. The stems are erect and cylindrically shaped.

The leaves of this succulent have colors from a dark green to yellowish-green color. Leaves are serrated along the margin of each leaf, and the serrated edge is highlighted a red or maroon color which contrasts beautifully with the rest of the green/yellow leaf.

The leaves are large and fleshy, with three to five leaflets on a single limb. Each leaf can reach anywhere from 20 to 20cm in length.

Enjoy the K. pinnatas bell-shaped flowers, which begin to peek out during spring. The flowers are vibrant, to say the least – alive with deep yellow, purple, and red hues.

DID YOU KNOW?

Kalanchoe pinnata made a name for itself as a kind of herbal, holistic medicine. This is due to the highly concentrated presence of steroids, alkaloids, lipids, and other compounds found in K. pinnata plant extracts. It is used to treat wounds, skin ulcers, external infections, and more.

HOW TO GROW AND CARE FOR THE KALANCHOE PINATA

LIGHT

Kalanchoe pinnata adapt perfectly to naturally sunny regions. These plants love partial sunlight, and you can tell by their deep vibrant yellow and purple color scheme.

However, it is essential to note that K. pinnata does not acclimatize well to overly intense sunlight or prolonged exposure to scorching sunlight. Extreme sun and hot temperatures end up burning off the top layer and tips of K. pinnatas leaves.  

For a succulent that enjoys daylight, give K. pinnata a few hours in sunlight and a few hours in the shade. We recommend a location with access to at least 4 to 6 hours of daylight every day.

TEMPERATURE

K. pinnata, like most succulents of the Kalanchoe genus, does not do well in a challenging frost environment. Remember, the Kalanchoe pinnata is native to South Africa and can be found in regions of Hawaii, the Philippines, and Micronesia islands, so you can probably guess this succulent prefers warm temperatures.

Anything below 10C (50F) is detrimental to the wellbeing of this particular succulent, and anything below 0C will most likely be fatal.

You will have to bring your Kalanchoe pinnata indoors during the winter season – so be prepared for that.

WATER

Just like most other succulents, Kalanchoe pinnata thrives on a minimal-to-moderate watering schedule. K. pinnata is pretty drought resistant, surviving by storing water in its fleshy stem and leaves.

Do not water the Kalanchoe daily. Opt instead for what is referred to (somewhat informally) as the soak-and-dry technique. Only water the plant if the soil/earth is completely dried out – you can take a pinch of the soil to be sure. If the ground is parched, then give the Kalanchoe a healthy fill of water.

Key points are not to have your K. pinnata growing in swamp-like conditions with stagnant water and not to over-water it. Excess moisture leads to root-rot disease, which is the bane of succulent lovers and growers worldwide.

SOIL

The preferred growing medium for your Kalanchoe succulent should possess two essential qualities:

  • The soil should be well-draining
  • The ground should encourage proper aeration

Pre-packed cactus potting mix is recommended not only for the Kalanchoe pinnata but for most succulents in general. You can easily find the succulent or cactus potting mix at your local gardening store.

If you’re a hands-on type of guy, you can prepare your soil mix from the comfort of your backyard. All you need for this venture is clay, sand, and peat moss; the rest is detailed in this informative article by Succulent City:

Learn how to DIY your planting soil at home: How To Make Your Succulent Soil At Home.

PROPAGATION

The Kalanchoe pinnata is a reasonably straightforward plant to propagate using both the stem and leaf cuttings.

  • Firstly, snip off a healthy leaf – or a stem – from the main plant.
  • Then, place the new cuttings on a flat surface and leave the ends to dry and heal. Check back in a few days (2 or 3), and if the snipped ends have dried and calloused, you can proceed onto the next step.
  • Carefully place the cuttings on damp soil (cactus soil-mix is preferred) and give them a slight misting should the soil start drying up. You mustn’t overwater the soil. A slight misting is all we need for this particular part of the propagation process.
  • Lastly, place the cuttings in a fantastic location, with proper airflow and away from direct bright sunlight.

Due to these limitations, we recommend you conduct the propagation indoors, in a controlled environment. Compared to propagating outdoors, leaving your new Kalanchoe pinnata cuttings at the mercy of the elements.

Continue with your usual watering schedule once the newly propagated K. pinnata has sprout roots and is firmly established in the soil.

well propagated kalanchoe
Well propagated Kalanchoe @Pinterest

FERTILIZATION

Okay, whether you want to fertilize your Kalanchoe pinnata, succulent is totally up to you. 

Generally, succulents from the Kalanchoe genus grow perfectly to maturity without the need for fertilization. Cactus-soil-mix has all the nutrients necessary for your succulents to thrive from the onset.

However, should you need to give your Kalanchoe pinnata an extra boost of nutrients, you can opt to fertilize your plants.

The best way to fertilize Kalanchoe pinnata is routinely using a balanced ratio fertilizer – every 30 to 60 days.

Balanced ratio fertilizers contain equal amounts of phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. The phosphorus helps the flowers blossom well, while the potassium ensures the roots grow strong.

You can also try out organic fertilizers, which are non-toxic if you don’t want to use chemicals on your plant.

REPOTTING

Most species from the Kalanchoe genus benefit significantly from repotting. You should repot Kalanchoe pinnata at least once every two years.

Repotting replenishes the depleted nutrients in the succulent’s growth medium.

PESTS & DISEASES

Kalanchoe pinnata is vulnerable to attacks from a couple of opportunistic parasites such as scales, aphids, mites, and mealybugs.

The presence of aphids will show up in the form of a sticky, sooty deposit on the plant. At the same time, dull-looking leaves are caused by spider mites that are known to suck the water out of the plant’s leaves.

Do not panic, though, as only a tiny percentage of K. pinnata succulents get attacked by these pests.

If your plant is one of the unlucky few, you can easily and quickly get rid of these bothersome pests in one of three ways:

  1. Apply 70% isopropyl alcohol on the plants’ leaves, stems, and flowers.
  2. Give your succulent a healthy dose of neem oil spray.
  3. Insecticide spray (non-toxic) is also effective against these parasites.

Apart from living-breathing pests, root rot and other root diseases are usually the most common diseases within the Kalanchoe family and succulents.

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