What is this plant?

thoetingJuly 13, 2013

Hi...this is a plant I've had for years and have no idea where it came from. I think at one time it used to have small yellow flowers but it hasn't bloomed in over 5 years at least.

the leaves are waxy and the stems grow kind of tendrily, and are very VERY brittle.

I'd love to know how to care for it, as I think it's not doing well

Thanks for your help!

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

It's a Kalanchoe. They are a product of the floriculture business; technology induces their uniform flowering and their short stocky stature. It's done with the manipulation of light and chemical growth regulators.

They are typically very unsatisfactory as a permanent houseplant and most of us think of them as seasonal, temporary visitor, much like poinsettias.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 8:54PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

True 'dat, but after 5+ years this plant could hardly be considered a seasonal, temporary visitor. Wouldn't whatever chemicals that may have been applied have dissipated by now?

To be healthy, upright, growing, this plant needs several hours of direct light per day, moist soil that is also porous and airy so the roots don't rot. It's a tropical succulent. Agree that if that's not possible, it will end up looking like the plant pictured. I think it could be gradually acclimated to more light but am not speaking from experience in that area. Propagating some of the stems might help its' appearance in the short-term.

Are the white spots some kind of mildew?

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 8:57AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Temporary because they outgrow those growth regulators and begin getting leggy and lose their attractive features. Most people don't hang on to a plant once it begins to lose those artificially stimulated characteristics.

There are lots of plants that are basically considered disposable, like an arrangement from the florist (only a lot cheaper) . Let's see, I've already mentioned Poinsettia, but there's florist mums, Easter lilies, Jerusalem Cherry, Amaryllis, forced bulbs, Cycamen, Cineraria, and more.

Granted, some of them can be planted outside in warm climates, and others can be nursed along as houseplants. The Kalanchoe falls into that category. It is truly considered disposable. And not any more of a waste than that bouquet of roses on my anniversary. :-)

If OP wishes, he or she can severely cut back this plant and find a sunny window to place it near. The clippings will root easily if prepared properly and inserted into a porous medium.

That sure does look like powdery mildew! Not surprising as Kalanchoe is quite susceptible to it.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 12:55PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Edited because of darned duplicate post!

This post was edited by rhizo_1 on Sun, Jul 14, 13 at 13:29

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 12:56PM
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Maybe I'm wrong, but the white spots look like residue. My eyesight isn't the best though.

Thoeting. Did you spray the leaves?

Kalanchoe needs sun. The more the merrier.

Your Kal is a spindly.
The good news is, Kalanchoes are easy to root.
One leaf, set on soil will root.
Heck, a couple times while working with my Kalanchoes, leaves fell on the ground. They rooted w/o soil or water.

Since your plant has bare stems, you can either root a few leaves, then place in the same plant w/mom, or cut back stems, root cuttings then add w/mom.

When was your Kal last repotted and/or fertilized?

If it were my plant, I'd first check roots. If roots fill the container, place in a larger pot.
I'd then cut back, root stems in soil. Not water.
Once roots are well-established, I'd then add in the new container w/mom.
Water well, spray leaves. Place, in bright light.

Kalanchoes love the outdoors, so if you have a spot outside, first set in semi-shade, then gradually move to a brighter location.
If you can't set outside, place in a south or west window.

Good luck, Toni

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 1:49PM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

Kalanchoes are no more disposable than an peace lily. They can become alittle leggy but they can have a long, attractive life. So can both pointsettia and especially armaryllis. I have saved my armaryllis for several years

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

I understand the concept of plants that are difficult to keep in a pot, sold seasonally, but with the utmost respect, I just disagree about Kalanchoe. The other plants you mentioned don't seem like the same category/degree of difficulty at all. Seems more like Thanksgiving cactus, only sold near that holiday, but makes a great house plant.

Admittedly, I've only had this plant since March, but it's already had a bout with frost, high temps, blown over on its' side, repotting, brief time inside, in shade, in full sun. After being repotted, it's 3 separate plants in 3 separate pots. After it recovered from the frost thing, all 3 have been blooming and growing new leaves ever since. There are also several baby plants around in various places that have propagated from leaves I picked off.

So far, it seems like a great house plant to me. Of course my idea of a house plant is that it's outside except when too cold. If always kept inside, without enough light to be upright and bloom when appropriate, it might disappoint. Wouldn't a great spot by a window keep Kalanchoe looking great?

If I'm in la-la land, I'm not too proud to come back to admit my plant is dead. Will do that if need be. Coming inside for winter will be the test.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2013 at 11:40AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Theo, I hope these pics can inspire you, and your plant!

Cuttings recently received in trade, from what I was told was a very large, old plant.

Got in March, described above.

Cutting from above plant. All of the tiny leaves are new.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 3:25PM
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Theo, another Kalanchoe inspiration photo.
Leaves are red from a LOT of sun.

The plants in the pot were all started from cuttings. Toni

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 3:43PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hi Purple,

As an indoor grower only, I have seen lots of folks toss these after they bloom.

If indoor grown, they can get really spindly if they only get the minimal light possible from many indoor situations (& look awful). I've seen this more than a few times myself.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 4:08PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

I HOPE you know that I am not disagreeing with anyone! Lots and lots of people hang on to plants like this forever and enjoy them for years. Me, too.

But they are mass produced by the bazillions to be marketed at whatever holiday is appropriate in every grocery and big box store across the land. Usually priced very affordably so that they will be put in millions of shopping carts and taken home to decorate the home at Xmas, Easter, T'giving, Valentine's Day, etc. Since they are so inexpensive, the vast majority of people toss rather than monkey with them when they start to look forlorn and pitiful. And then we do it again and again.

And, that is exactly what the floriculture industry intends for you to do. This category of plant is an endlessly renewable resource for these growers. That's ALL many of the biggest growers do......they will fill entire greenhouse ranges (acres) with poinsettias or lilies or kalanchoes or whatever to grow under the perfect lighting with the appropriate chemical growth regulators, blah, blah.

When it's "time ", the semi trucks come and that crop disappears ...only to make room for whatever the next renewable resource happens to be. It's a multi billion dollar business based on the fact that most people consider these plants temperary.

You are the exception...you have the interest, talent, patience, and skills to keep the plants hanging on.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 4:26PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

PG, I get that, and totally agree. But any plant in too little light can get ugly.

It just seems weird that for 99 other plants folks would just say 'more light' but for this 100th plant, they say throw it away. This one seems so much more worthwhile since the flowers are so likely to *be able* to come back, compared to... Philodendron, Aglaonema, Dracaena, Tradescantias, jade plant. Those rarely bloom ever, in captivity, but as soon as poor Kalanchoe takes a break, it gets binned? These leaves are no less attractive than any other succulent or house plant in the eye of many-a-beholder.

Got 9 Thanksgiving cactus plants covered in beautiful buds in November and have yet to see a bloom. If you start reading, so much disturbance as sneezing on a TC or forgetting to open the blinds for 5 extra minutes one day, or rotating the plant can mess up the buds and one won't get flowers. But that's a normal house plant. We're supposed to stand on one foot in the full moon, chanting secret words, and 'try harder' if flowers don't appear from our efforts.

Pull Kal out of a box from the hot mail, it takes root and starts making new flowers 2 weeks later. Why is TC a 'house plant' and Kal is disposable? If you want flowers, I'd recommend Kal over TC or a lot of other plants any day!

PG, Rhizo, I know you both have infinitely more experience with these, but I just can't get on board with this disposable thing for this plant, no disrespect to vast discrepancy in experience intended. I know not everybody has the opportunity to put plants outside, or choose from various windows, but lots of people *could* put their plants in more light if they knew it would help.

I bring Persian shield inside for winter and man, it's ugly until it goes back out. It's has an off-season. That kind of thing is OK with some people for some plants, even in the house.

It's a shame the BBS's put them on display inside, from what I've seen. They'd make a fine annual, like many other tropical perennials sent to such fates every year.

How long have you had your Kal, Toni? Pretty! I don't have that color... yet.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 4:35PM
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pirate_girl(Zone7 NYC)

Hey Purple,

Well have to stay in disagreement then. I don't think these Kal blossfeldiana (I believe these are) re-bloom indoors anywhere as readily as you seem to think they do.

Offhand you're the only person I know who has done it & I'm certain it's cause your plants live outdoors. Am guessing the bloomers Toni showed live outside as well (as least summer, since I know Toni live in snowy area (Illinois?)).

Don't know why you have such trouble w/TC blooms. Maybe if you neglect them a bit more they'll behave better.

I grew them for abt 8 yrs. before I ever got bloom. Happened by accident when both my kitchen fixtures blew out at the same time. Took a couple of months to get the right replacements, the right color, etc., the consequence of which was my kitchen was w/out overhead light for 2 months one winter & voila, suddenly I had blooms.

Great couple of blooms all by themselves, but I was not happy cooking by refrigerator light alone!!.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 5:04PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

There isn't anything to debate about. The holiday plant market is an enormous one and will continue to get bigger. You are more than welcome to keep yours for as long as you wish.

I wonder what percentage of people plant their E. Lilies outside when they are finished? Of ALL the different 'holiday ' plants, they might be the easiest, as long as they are planted in the garden. Would a big bed of white Easter lilies look sort of odd?

I must have missed that you hadn't had much luck getting the jungle cacti to bloom for you. We've got to get that figured out. As long as I gave mine (grown inside all year) strong light all year, they would oblige me with tons of flowers right on time. All that stuff about buds twisting off....never happened to me.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Rhizo, we were typing at the same time. Since I just started with the TC's in Nov. I'm not that anxious that there's been no flowers yet, but I've been reading about how temperamental they are, and PG's story about the missing kitchen light is another anecdote in that vein. I have read here, and been told, that moving them in/out could be too much weirdness for them to bloom. Thanks for your concern! At this point, it's a "let's see what they do when treated like all of the other plants" thing. Could be no flowers, you know I'll report on it, one way or the other.

I'm looking forward to seeing what 3 Easter lilies do in the ground here. 'Found' them in the weeds at friend's chicken farm this past winter, still in a pot, sad little bulbs with barely any peat still around them, roots going through the holes into the ground below.. They had to have been there for a long time, apparently hardy here. Cool that you happened to mention they are easy. Hopefully by spring, they will be recovered enough to make flowers. Bulbs in the ground just don't have the caché of a house plant, but that's certainly a matter of opinion. Don't know that I'd want a bed of them, but it seems like a perfectly normal thing to have pop up in a garden, as normal as any bulb.

PG, I didn't claim indoor blooms, and said I had yet to see what these plants will do inside for winter. I think we are saying the same thing, really. You can't put your Kal in much lower light and expect it to keep the same appearance and flowers. But if you do have plenty of light, it should be a very attractive, satisfying plant.

Man, I thought I'd said some funny stuff but not even one lower-case lol. Tough crowd! And not trying to argue, just really confused about why this 'easy' plant has this reputation. For people who use plants seasonally with plans to discard, that's fine, I'm all for people making money this way and people enjoying plants according to their whims, which may be most people. I'm not dishing that. But it's so much more rare to discard a holiday cacti. That's what I'm stuck on.

When someone has had a plant for 5 years asks why it's not so great, I found it strange to bring up discarding it right away.

PG's right, I don't know this plant intimately, but know I've read/seen many big old ones around forums over the years. Those don't seem to have anything special done to them, unlike holiday cacti, they just bloom and grow correctly/well *when* they are able to have sufficient light. I think it's a huge distinction, but what I think doesn't always jive with most people. Just trying to figure out why on this one.

Thanks for the inputs via experience!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 9:52AM
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teengardener1888(NY Albany 5a)

TC flower with lower lights and temperatures. Purple if you leave them outside as late in possible in fall im shure you will get flowers

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 9:57AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Thanks for the encouragement, TG! As long as I don't pull the ceiling down trying to hang all of these plants in a few months, we will see, together.

Thoeting, I'm curious what you think about your plant after all of this hullabaloo. Hope it won't be another 6 years before your next post!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2013 at 12:12PM
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