November 6th, 2009
Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-02-26. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

Mother of thousands, Kalanchoe daigremontiana, is described as an annual succulent that will not survive a frost. For years, I kept this native of southwest Madagascar potted and moved it indoors any time we had a freeze warning. Last winter, it got too big for me to carry in and out and I left it outside. Although others in Austin experienced hard freezes, my neighborhood just south of Lady Bird Lake apparently did not. Old stands of mother of thousands bloomed up and down my street.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-10. A well established stand of Kalanchoe daigremontiana in a neighbor’s garden.

When taking photos for GBBD last January, I noticed that buds were forming on my potted plant.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-01-15. Anticipation.

It had never bloomed before and I was excited. It took almost six weeks for the flowers to open fully; however, it remained in flower for months. Flowering does not necessarily happen annually. The conditions must have been just right in Austin last winter because I’d never seen it in flower before, mine had never flowered before, but I suddenly saw it flowering everywhere.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-03-20. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

My kalanchoe tolerated full sun even in this hot, dry year. It was fairly drought tolerant. I watered it when it looked reddish and sunburnt but I didn’t have to baby it. When it began to rain and cool down, the leaves became greener and plumper. I would say that its growing requirements are similar to Aloe vera. It’s tempting to want to plant both because they are great structural plants that can take Austin’s punishing summers. They’ve survived the warmer than normal winters we’ve had in 2007 and 2008. However, 2009 is supposed to be colder than average–plants which have recently thrived may be in for a killer surprise.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-11-06. Kalanchoe daigremontiana. All the green around the pot are baby plants.

Fortunately this kalanchoe is aptly named mother of thousands. The edges of the leaves are covered with plantlets which drop off and root. I got my start by taking a few leaves and sprinkling the plantlets into the pot containing another plant. Sure enough they sprouted and pretty soon took over the pot. Now they’ve sprouted all around the pot

Kalanchoe daigremontiana
2009-02-09. Kalanchoe daigremontiana.

The stems also flop over and root. I’ve read that the cuttings must be kept dry to root but I haven’t tried that yet because when the rains finally arrived this fall hundreds of little plantlets fell from the leaves and took root around the mother plant and even quite far away wherever the rainwater had washed them.

I’m potting them up to take inside over the winter as a backup in case the mother plants freeze. If you’re an Austin gardener and want some, let me know.

Pronunciation: kalənˈkō-ē, that is the “ch” is pronounce like a “k”. “ko-ee”, not “cho”.

by M Sinclair Stevens

18 Responses to post “Kalanchoe daigremontiana”

  1. From KAT:

    Thanks for this! I’ve been looking for succulents my hummingbirds will like.

    I have a Kalanchoe that I can’t resist calling Joey Kalanchoe every time I walk by it….

  2. From Joseph Tychonievich -- Michigan:

    Wow… how lovely! I only know Kalanchoe as insipid house plants here in Michigan. Never knew they could be so gorgeous!

  3. From Sherry Venegas La Verne,CA:

    I am thrilled to see this page about the Mother of Thousands. I had no idea that someday I will get those beautiful flowers. The area where I ended up planting it, next to a Foxtail fern, will look so wonderful when I get flowers. I already have hundreds of plantlets. I enjoyed your write up. Sherry
    Foxtail Fern Bright Green Accent Plant

  4. From Linda Lehmusvirta Austin Texas:

    It’s beautiful! Nice to have a plant that keeps on giving, so to speak.

  5. From Jenny Austin:

    I am so out of it. I saw this plant in Cheryl’s garden for the first time, and she invited me to take some of the seedlings. Then yesterday I was at a friends and she had juveniles all over the place so I brought some home. Now I see the flowers on your post and they are beautiful. I can’t wait for mine to grow up. Thanks for showing me what is to be- if it’s not too cold over here!

  6. From Annie in Austin:

    After reading your post, MSS, I went out to look at my Kalanchoe plants – one of the larger plants against the house near the back door is forming buds. I hope it will get to bloom but just in case, I’ll bring a couple of potted Momma-K’s inside the breakfast room for winter.

    The petal color is so lovely in the right light, isn’t it? And I like to say Viviparous!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  7. From Charlotte UK:

    These are quite lovely – wonder if I could grow them here? Suspect not as we don’t get the temperatures you do in summer.

    Where it freezes, most people grow it as a houseplant. I don’t think it requires hot temperatures in the summer but it can tolerate them. — mss

  8. From Linda/patchwork:

    When our son and family lived off S. Congress (Eva St. @ Monroe), there was a lot of this growing outside the fence, along the sidewalk. It survived untended every winter. They stuck a piece in a pot, and took it with them, when they moved out to Bee Caves. It bloomed around Christmas time and we used it as a Dr. Seuss kind of table decoration.

    That house burned, and they lost the plant. Didn’t see it again, until touring Cheryl’s garden.
    We called it Root Beer plant. Thanks for the real name.

    I live in the same neighborhood that you son did. I never noticed it blooming until last winter although that might be because I didn’t know what it was until I grew it. A hard freeze will turn it to mush but enough bulblets survive that it just keeps coming back. I always though root beer plant was Hoja Santa. — mss

  9. From Nell Jean:

    Great, informative post. I never knew they bloomed.

  10. From Chookie, Sydney:

    Oh, boy… Please be careful with this one!
    Round here it’s known as mother-of-millions. It is a declared noxious weed in the north-east of NSW, across a worrying variety of climate zones (including frosty bits and subtropical). It is poisonous to humans and cattle. Please be especially careful if you live near farmland. I don’t think children would think it looked appetising, but cattle do, especially if they are hungry.

    Someone did tell me it was poisonous to cattle. However, I live downtown so that is not much of a problem for me. We do get freezes over the winter and that will turn it to mush…so I’m not much worried about it getting out of hand. Besides, the roots are not deep (not like most of our deep tap-rooted weeds here), so it is easy to weed out. — mss

  11. From Steve Mudge(Fort Worth):

    Nice to see that Kalanchoe being appreciated—out in California its a bit of a pest (although not as bad as it sounds in Sydney) so one loses sight of its extraordinary qualities.
    When I worked at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden they had one in the greenhouse but it was inside a wire cage to keep it from spreading!

  12. From Marilyn Kircus, Dripping Springs, TX:

    Several years ago, I found Mother-of-thousands growing at Choke Canyon State Park. Here is a link to a picture of it.

    I stole a piece and took it home to Houston, TX and soon had it growing in every pot on my deck. I gave some to a friend to take to Galveston and she was slow in doing so and now still has some coming up in her garden. I left for the summer and came back to find it growing in the cracks in the stairs without soil or much water. This is not a plant I’d like to have any where around. But it is beautiful in bloom.

    Perhaps there is a lesson in your story. I hope I won’t come to hate it someday. If I do, I’ll update this post. — mss

  13. From Corner Gardener Sue:

    As I was reading this post, I was thinking how some of your plants reminded me of mother of thousands, then wasn’t surprised when I read where you said the mother of thousands is a kind of kalanchoe. (I think that’s what you said.) I have two kinds of it, and they do plant themselves in their neighbors’ pots. My larger one bloomed this summer. I didn’t know they bloomed. I don’t think my smaller kind has bloomed, but my memory isn’t good, so maybe it has. We bring them inside during our Nebraska winters. They get leggy, but after being outside when the weather warms up, they get back into shape.

    They do get quite leggy. After they flower you can cut the leggy bit off and root it. Last week I saw one outdoors that was huge and over three feet tall. Kalanchoe is very frost sensitive. I won’t be able to bring my big plants inside as they are now rooted to the spot. But I’ve potted up a lot of babies. Unfortunately, they are forming buds. It’s a race to see whether they will flower before it freezes in Austin. — mss

  14. From Steve essex england:

    Have just come across this plant and fallen in love with it, but have been reading in a few places that all parts of the plant are in fact poisonous, which can be fatal if ingested by small infants or pets. Is this right ?

    I have neither small infants nor pets so I have no way to test whether Kalanchoe is poisonous. However, if you’ve read that it is, then I would treat it with caution. I think it’s generally a good idea to err on the side of suspecting a plant is poisonous unless you know for certain it isn’t. — mss

  15. From Miranda:

    Nice meeting you today! And thanks for tweeting about me, (whatever that means, haha).
    You have some beautiful roses, and i do have some of those mothers of millions- they even reproduce in the compost heap, the scamps!

    Let’s keep in touch.

  16. From shirley betts, new boston, tx.:

    Please send info as to where I may purchase these plants. Do you sell them?

    No. I don’t sell plants. I just write about them. The ones I have were passed along to me. If you’re ever in Austin, let me know and I’ll pass some along to you. — mss

  17. From Lynn, Florida:

    i have had these plants for years. got them in sacramento, calif.6+ years ago. they have survived 2 moves. i have had them bloom last winter and now this winter. total surprise last year! hadn’t seen them bloom before. never had them get big enough to do so. they got about 4 ft. high with the flower spike another foot higher. they are planted right by my front door….totally awesome!

  18. From Marnie:

    I grew up with this plant here in South Florida and I am now in my 60’s. Most people won’t tolerate it as it does spread like wildfire if not controlled. When planted in the ground it blooms beautifully. We grow and sell both this “mother of 1000’s” and the “pinnata”. While the pinnata is considered medicinal, the daigremontiana is poisonous to cattle, goats, horses, small pets (cats) and children. So one should be careful when planting outside. They did survive 28 degrees last winter even though they do not like frost. This plant is a survivor and mass producer.