Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is a visually unique houseplant. Further adding to its popularity is the fact that it is pleasingly easy to care for.
Best described as a forgiving plant, Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is an ideal choice for inexperienced and nervous plant parents. In return for just a little care it produces lots of rich, green serrated leaves. Sometimes known as the Mother of Thousands, these plants are also easy to propagate.
If you want to learn more about caring for Kalanchoe Daigremontiana, this guide will take you through everything that you need to know.
These low maintenance plants are popular for their green foliage. Source: Kalanchoe-Mother-of-Thousands by PINKE / CC 2.0
What is Kalanchoe Daigremontiana?
Native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Madagascar, Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is a warm weather loving succulent. A tender plant, it is considered hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11. While growers in hot areas such as Hawaii and Florida can cultivate the plants outside, for most of us Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is best cultivated as a small, indoors pot plant.
Mature Kalanchoe Daigremontiana plants reach a mature height of around 3 ft. When planted in a pot it is a more compact specimen. The plant’s green leaves and stems grow from a central stalk. As the leaves grow they develop serrated edges.
Devil’s Backbone is a slow growing member of the Kalanchoe family. It can take 2 to 5 years for a young plant to mature enough to produce plantlets. These, miniature versions of the larger Kalanchoe Daigremontiana plant, form along the serrated edges of the leaves. They are easily separated and planted on to create new plants.
As plants grow, plantlets form on the edges of the leaves.
A succulent, Devil’s Backbone plants are mainly grown for their foliage. However, in some conditions, flowers can be encouraged to form. These pink-gray blooms are small and tubular in shape. Typically blooming in spring or summer, the plant commonly declines once flowering has finished.
This plant has a number of common names including Mexican Hat Plant, Devil’s Backbone or Alligator Plant.
Warning, Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is considered toxic if consumed. Keep your Mexican Hat Plant away from pets and children.
Where to Grow Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
This is a hardy, drought-tolerant plant that is capable of handling intense heat. The plants struggle in colder or temperate regions. Here, they are best cultivated as houseplants.
Devil’s Backbone is best placed in a bright spot that enjoys several hours of light every day.
Place your plant in a light position.
Avoid placing the plants in the direct glare of the afternoon sun. The intense heat of the afternoon sun can cause leaf scorch, turning otherwise lush, green foliage brown and crispy. Instead place the plant slightly back from the window so that it can bask in lots of indirect light.
Kalanchoe Daigremontiana plants do best in temperatures of 65 to 75 ℉. During the summer months you can move the plant outside to a warm, sunny spot. Just remember to bring it back inside before temperatures hit lows of 40 ℉.
When exposed to colder temperatures, growth slows or ceases completely.
Avoid placing your plant close to heating vents. This can dry the foliage out, harming the plant.
When it comes to humidity levels, the Mexican Hat Plant is an unfussy plant. Average household humidity levels are fine.
These are easy going houseplants. Source: Kalanchoe by PINKE / CC 2.0
Potting and Repotting
It is always a good idea to repot a houseplant as soon after purchase as possible. This ensures that the plant is sitting in appropriate potting soil and a suitable pot. It also gives you a good opportunity to inspect the stem, foliage and root system for any problems.
You should also repot your Devil’s Backbone plant when it starts to show signs of outgrowing its pot. These include:
- Growth slowing,
- Potting medium drying out more quickly than normal,
- Roots sticking out of drainage holes in the bottom of the pot.
To repot your Devil’s Backbone carefully remove it from its old pot. If it is a plastic pot, use scissors to cut away the pot from the plant. This helps to avoid accidental damage to the root system.
After removing the plant, brush away any remaining soil and check the roots for signs of disease or infestation. Soft, mushy or black roots are probably rotten. These should be cut away before replanting.
Your new pot should be at least 4 to 6 inches wide. While you can use a smaller pot, don’t be surprised if your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana quickly outgrows it.
All types of succulents do best in porous pots and well-draining potting mediums.
Use a pot that is made from either clay or terracotta materials. Planting in pots made from porous materials such as these means that any excess moisture in the soil is better able to drain. Plastic pots do not promote drainage as well as porous pots meaning that succulents planted in these are more prone to developing root rot.
If you are unsure, our guide to choosing the best succulent plant pots highlights some great options.
Fill the pot with fresh, well draining, succulent appropriate potting medium. A cactus or succulent potting mix, such as those highlighted in our Best Succulent Soil article, is fine. You can also make your own potting medium by working sand and perlite into fresh potting soil.
When you are ready, make a hole in the center of the pot and plant your Devil’s Backbone to a similar depth as in its old pot. Gently firm down the soil and water lightly.
Caring for Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
Like many succulents this is a low maintenance houseplant. Sharing similar care requirements to other members of the Kalanchoe family, Daigremontiana plants require minimal care in order to thrive. This makes the Devil’s Backbone an ideal choice for new or nervous houseplant parents.
When to Water
Knowing when and how often to water succulents can be difficult. While the Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is a drought tolerant plant, it can not survive without water for as long as other types of succulents. However, if you occasionally forget to water the plant it won’t be a major problem.
Changes in the condition of the foliage can indicate if you are incorrectly watering your plant. Source: Kalanchoé-de-Daigremont by Olive Titus / CC 2.0
Give your plant a little regular drink of water during the spring and summer growing season. Once every two weeks is fine.
Water when the top few inches of soil are dry to the touch. When watering, do not soak the soil. Instead gradually water with a watering can or driew Plant Mister Spray. This helps to prevent oversaturating the roots which can lead to root rot.
During the fall and winter months when your Devil’s Backbone is not actively growing it requires less water.
Be careful not to overwater your plant. This can lead to serious issues such as root rot developing. Visible signs of overwatering include limp or yellowing foliage. If you notice these signs, allow the soil to dry out before watering again.
If the soil is very wet you may need to repot the plant in a clean pot filled with fresh, well draining succulent or cactus soil.
Do I Need to Fertilize?
This is a slow growing succulent that doesn’t require regular fertilization.
If your plant has flowered a dose of well-balanced or succulent appropriate fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro Succulent Plant Food, can be applied to boost fresh growth.
How much fertilizer you need to apply depends on the product you are using. Check the information on the fertilizer packet before applying. Liquid fertilizers are easily incorporated into your watering routine.
How to Encourage Flowering
While flowering is rare for Devil’s Backbone plants that grow indoors, you can try to encourage flowers to form. This is done by slowly decreasing the amount of water you give the plants.
At the same time limit the amount of light exposure the plants receive. Placing the plant in a dark space with no natural light such as a closet for 14 hours a day is an easy way to achieve this. You can begin this process around 6 weeks before you want the plant to flower.
Even when growing as a houseplant, you can encourage flowers to form.
Once flowers start to form, return the plant to its usual indirect sunlight positions and resume watering as usual.
Pruning Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
A low maintenance plant, only minimal pruning is necessary.
Remove dead stalks and deadhead spent flowers as and when necessary. This helps to keep your plant looking neat and tidy.
Dropped plantlets should also be removed as soon as you notice them. If allowed to settle on the soil they can easily set roots and start competing with your larger plant for moisture and space. Apart from this there is no need to prune the plants.
Overwintering Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
If you have placed your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana outside to enjoy some summer sunshine, make sure that you return it inside before the temperature dips below 40 ℉. These are not cold hardy plants.
Do not place the plant close to a heater. Direct heat can dry out the plant more quickly than it would like, damaging the leaves in the process.
How to Propagate Kalanchoe Daigremontiana
Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is easily propagated by separating and potting on the plantlets that it produces on the edges of its foliage.
Small plantlets form along the edges of the leaves.
Once the plant is mature, around 2 to 5 years old, plantlets start to appear along the edge of the serrated leaves.
Allow the plantlets to develop on the leaves. Towards the start of winter or the end of the growing season the plant starts to become dormant. At this stage plantlets are easily removed by hand. They also fall off naturally when they are ready.
To propagate, lay the plantlets on the surface of a pot filled with a well draining or succulent appropriate potting medium.
Use a spray mister bottle to keep the soil damp but not soggy.
To further help the process, you can place the pots in an EarlyGrow Domed Propagator. These have built-in humidity vents enabling you to maintain an even temperature and constant humidity levels around the developing young plants. However, even without this assistance, the plantlets should soon take root.
While some people like to plant their plantlets immediately, other people allow them to dry out for a few days first. During this period a callus forms over the area where the plantlet was joined to the parent plant. Once a callus has formed the plantlet can be placed on top of a pot filled with succulent soil. Roots soon form.
Young plantlets develop quickly. Source: Brutblatt by Maja Dumat / CC 2.0
Common Kalanchoe Daigremontiana Pests and Diseases
This easy going houseplant rarely suffers from any major issues.
Be careful not to overwater your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana plant. Allowing the plant to sit in soggy or wet soil for a prolonged period can lead to root rot developing.
Regularly check the foliage for signs of disease or infestation. Source: Kalanchoe-daigremontiana-1 by Scott Zona / CC 2.0
The most obvious sign of root rot is yellow, wilting leaves. If you notice this or any other signs of root rot, lift the plant from the pot and inspect the roots. Rotting roots are mushy and dark in color. Cut away any diseased roots and brush away as much old, infected soil from around the plant and remaining root system as possible.
Once you have removed all the diseased parts of the root system, repot your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana in a clean pot filled with fresh, succulent appropriate potting soil.
In future water your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana only when the soil shows signs of drying out. Remember, this is a resilient succulent that can cope well with periods of drought. A soil moisture sensor is a good investment if you struggle with knowing when to water houseplants.
Regularly inspect the foliage of your Kalanchoe Daigremontiana for signs of infestation such as sticky honeydew, sooty mold or small webs. Common pests include:
- Spider mites.
Pest can also damage the foliage of your plant.
Should you notice any signs of infestations wipe the affected leaves with cotton swabs soaked in rubbing alcohol. Neem oil can also be used. Larger infestations can be treated with either neem oil or horticultural oil. Again this can be rubbed onto the foliage with a cotton swab.
These plants are both easy to grow and propagate. Source: Kalanchoe-“Mother of Thousands”by PINKE / CC 2.0
Kalanchoe Daigremontiana is an easy to care for, attractive houseplant. A reliable succulent, this low maintenance plant is suitable for adding both color and interest to almost any room of your house. Now that you have seen how easy they are to care for, why not add a Kalanchoe Daigremontiana to your plant collection?
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.