By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is a paddle plant? Also known as flapjack paddle plant (Kalanchoe thyrsiflora), this succulent kalanchoe plant has with thick, rounded, paddle-shaped leaves. The plant is also known as red pancake because the leaves frequently take on a reddish or deep pink tint during the winter. Read on for tips on growing paddle plants.
Growing paddle plants outdoors is possible in USDA plant hardiness zones 10 and above, but gardeners in cooler climates can grow kalanchoe as an indoor plant.
Water kalanchoe only when the soil is dry. When watering indoor plants, allow the pot to drain completely before replacing the plant on its drainage saucer. Never overwater, as kalanchoe, like all succulents, is prone to rot in soggy soil. Water kalanchoe sparingly during the winter months.
Outdoors, kalanchoe plants do well in full sunlight or light shade. Indoor plants perform best in bright light. However, avoid direct light during the summer months, as too much intense light may scorch the plant.
Paddle plant prefers temperatures between 60 and 85 F. (16-29 C.). Avoid temperatures below 60 F. (16 C).
Outdoor plants require well-drained soil to prevent rotting. Indoor plants need a well-drained potting mix. A handful of sand is helpful, or you can use a potting mix formulated specifically for cacti and succulents. Alternatively, create your own mix by combining peat moss, compost and coarse sand.
Fertilize paddle plant lightly during the growing season. Withhold fertilizer during fall and watering for both indoor and outdoor plants.
The easiest way to propagate kalanchoe is to plant leaves or leaf cuttings in spring or summer. Set leaves or cuttings aside for a couple of days, or until the cut end develops a callus. You can also remove offsets that grow on the side of a mature paddle plant.
Plant the leaves or offsets in a small pot filled with lightly moistened potting mix for cacti and succulents. Keep the potting mix evenly and lightly moist but never soggy. Bright, indirect sunlight is best for paddle plant propagation.
Once the plant is established and shows healthy new growth, you can treat it as a mature plant.
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Botanical Name: Kalanchoe delagoensis
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Beach bells plant produces fleshy green round leaves that can turn red in full sun. During spring. red-orange to bright red, urn-shaped flowers enhance the beauty of this succulent!
Botanical Name: Kalanchoe uniflora
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Botanical Name: Kalanchoe ‘Calandiva’
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Botanical Name: Kalanchoe ‘Wendy’
‘Wendy’ is a semi-erect, evergreen perennial with ovate succulent foliage and bell-shaped, purple-pink blooms tipped with pale yellow. Its leaves also have uneven edges.
Botanical Name: Kalanchoe scapigera
It is a small perennial succulent with thick, round-shaped green leaves and scapiform spikes carrying salmon-red tubular blooms.
Belonging to the family of succulent plants, this particular plant is best known for the dramatic appearance it flaunts that can put anyone into a stunning mode easily. The plant carries greatness with it as it has been the recipient of the Award of Garden Merit that is given by the Royal Horticultural Society to exceptionally unique plants. Having said that, we believe that there remains no doubt that having this plant in your house can give a boost to the beauty quotient of the chosen space significantly.
The scientific name of this evergreen plant is kalanchoethyrsiflora and it belongs to the plant family called Kalanchoe. Many names have been given to the plant due to the mixture of looks that it carries and some of the popular titles include Desert Cabbage, Red Pancakes, and Flapjacks. The plant especially attractive when it’s not blooming and that is the interesting part unlike most of the plants that look better when they are blooming fully.
This plant is native to South African regions and grows really well in the Mediterranean regions too. The areas with other succulents growing on them or the coastal gardens are also good growing grounds for the paddle plant.
Fun fact: The closest resembling of this plant is with another succulent plant called the kalanchoe luciae where the very slight difference occurs in the color of the flowers where the latter has lighter yellow flowers. A lot of people confuse one with the other and this confusion primarily emerges because of the ease with which these names are used interchangeably even by the gardening experts. Still more succulents that share close relations with this plant are K. tetraphylla and K. fantastica.
As with all succulents, the paddle plant doesn’t need a lot of attention to thrive. It’s hardy, remember. This makes it an easy jewel to care for.
Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll need to have the best of the flapjack paddle plant.
This succulent light requirement will depend on whether you’re to grow it as a houseplant(indoor) or outside.
As an indoor gem, be sure to reserve the best bright spot for it. And while at it, make sure the light from the sun is not coming through directly through a glass window, as this will scorch the plant.
Outdoors, full sun or partial shade are both ideals for your plant. But make a point of shielding the plant from the intense summer rays.
Generally, you don’t need to be heavy-handed with the watering. A few sessions far in between will do just fine in. As a general rule, only water your succulent paddle plant when the soil has completely dried out.
That’s for the seasons when the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora plants grow actively.
In winter, when the succulent plant is dormant for a larger part, you’ll have to cut back significantly on watering. Of course, one reason is that the potting mix is drying out at a much slower rate. But most importantly, is that the water intake isn’t as upbeat as the other seasons.
When it comes to dry conditions, the Kalanchoe thyrsiflora Plant is well-adapted to handling them. But braving the cold? Not so much.
If your USDA hardiness zone isn’t ten and above, you’re better off to grow this succulent as a houseplant. Or you can still have it outside, but then it must be potted. That way, you can whisk it inside as soon as temperatures start getting uncomfortably low.
Your paddle plant will need to stay in dry soil most of the time. That means you need to get a mix that doesn’t retain water for prolonged periods. Soggy soils will have the same effect as overwatering… rot.
You have two options here for well-draining mediums:
To create your ideal planting medium, all you’ll need is the regular potting mix, coarse sand, and pumice – and a little of your time. If pumice is not readily available, perlite will fit in perfectly.
Paddle Plant (Kalanchoe luciae) (Hamet): An eye-catching soft succulent with a unique form that grows in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland. Its wide, round leaves fan out like clam shells and can grow wavy over time. Moderate stress from direct sun and cool temperatures (around 40F) will induce the pink color of the leaf edges to deepen and spread.
With time the leaves can grow up to 6.0" wide and rosettes produce new offsets at their bases. Paddle Plant is a monocarpic plant after several years it will produce a bloom stalk up to 3.0' tall with pale yellow, tubular flowers. The flowering rosette will die but its offsets will live on. The offsets can be transplanted or left to form dense clusters.
K. luciae grows best in hot, sunny areas with great drainage. It can take a bit more water than other succulents, particularly in hot summers. As a soft succulent, it needs protection from frost, but can overwinter indoors near a sunny window or under a grow light. Plant in containers with drainage holes and gritty, well-draining soil. Water deeply, but only when the soil is completely dry.
After trials by the Royal Horticultural Society, K. luciae won the Award of Garden Merit for cultivation performance in 2012.
Generally, Flapjack Kalanchoes don’t require pruning. Pruning should only be done when it is needed otherwise, they will do fine without pruning at all.
In some cases when the plants have diseased or damaged leaves, it is necessary to remove those leaves. If you don’t remove the diseased leaves, they will further increase the spread of disease to other parts of the plants. The removal of spent blooms or flower buds will ensure more blooming next season.
Pruning will encourage better growth of the plant. But make sure to avoid excessive pruning it will weaken your plants and their general health will also decline.
Use clean scissors sterilized with 70% alcohol to cut the unwanted plant parts and make sure you don’t damage other parts of the plants.
Should you let your flapjack plants (Kalanchoe luciae) bloom? I’m recommending no…but it’s not that cut-and-dried (no pun intended).
Flapjack plant is a succulent that’s popular mainly because of the color of its leaves. (Shown above at Waterwise Botanicals nursery.)
Like other succulents with overlapping leaves along a single stem, when Kalanchoe luciae blooms, the entire plant elongates. This is how those in my window box looked in March of last year.
If your goal is to have a lot of new little plants, one option is to let the mother plant bloom. Providing it survives the effort (they usually do, but not always), you’ve hit the jackpot. Harvest each cluster with several inches of stem attached to anchor it, and start it as a cutting. Roots will grow from leaf axils (where leaves are attached to the stem).
I didn’t want awkwardly tall plants in my window box, so when the flapjacks started to elongate in March, I snipped off the bloom spikes. The mother plants seemed determined to flower regardless, and buds grew from leaf axils beneath the cut. I was just as determined they weren’t going to flower, so I pinched out the buds.
Within a month, the plants’ topmost leaves turned beige and crisp along the edges. I’m not sure why this happened, but I trimmed them to keep the plants tidy.
By June, new little leaves concealed the truncated stems, indicating that the plants had been gearing up to produce offsets. When they couldn’t do it along a bloom spike, they did so closer to the core.
Here’s how one of the plants looked in August.
And again in October. Other plants in the window box are blue echeverias and Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’.
Update: I wrote the above post two years ago. This is how the same windowbox looks now. It has been wonderfully low-maintenance. The aeoniums have grown more, I’ve pruned the ‘Sticks on Fire’, and I switched out the echeverias. But all I’ve done with the Kalanchoe luciae is to remove dry leaves and any new flower stalks…which I’m about to do right now.