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Featuring massive, paddle-shaped leaves with bright red tips, the Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora, better known as the paddle plant or Kalanchoe ‘Flapjacks’, is an amazing addition to any home garden. For plant parents looking for a more hands-off experience, this beautiful succulent can grow up to 2.5 feet tall over the course of three to four years. To learn more about how you can help this beautiful succulent thrive in your home, read on:
Before we begin, it is important to note that succulents in the Kalanchoe family are toxic, and the Kalanchoe Flapjacks are one of the most dangerous members of the family. All parts of the Kalanchoe Thyrsiflora are toxic to humans and animals, especially the flowers. This plant's light poisoning signs include drooling, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. For severe cases, watch for difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness.
To stay safe while handling this delicate succulent, always wear gloves and keep it out of reach from pets and children.
In general, the Kalanchoe Flapjacks are relatively easy to handle, as long as you have the proper tools and environment. Since this plant hails from Madagascar, you’ll need to create an environment similar to its home for best results.
Like all succulents, your flapjacks need at least six hours of sunlight per day. For this one, bright, direct sunlight in the mornings works best since the Flapjack’s leaves are quite delicate and can burn easily under the hot afternoon sun.
In its natural habitat, the Kalanchoe Flapjacks sit in darkness for up to 14 hours during the winter. To keep them growing, make sure they get plenty of sunlight!
In terms of water, this is where the “hands-off” approach comes in for your Kalanchoe Flapjacks. These plants can survive a while without water and live best with a sparse watering schedule and lots of drainage. In addition, it’s important to avoid getting your Flapjacks’ leaves wet when you do water, so we recommend bottom-watering this succulent when the time comes. When you water, only do so when the soil is completely dry to the touch.
With drainage as a high priority, you’ll need sandier soil for this succulent. A traditional cactus mix works best here, but you can also modify a standard potting mix using sand and peat to improve drainage.
The Kalanchoe Flapjacks need warm temperatures, specifically within USDA agricultural zones 10 through 12. For indoor gardens, a temperature of roughly 65 to 85 degrees is fine, but you cannot let this plant get cold. All members of the Kalanchoe family do not handle cold temperatures well and will go dormant if temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, exposure to frost will instantly kill them, so they are best kept indoors.
Another aspect of this plant's “hands-off” nature, the Kalanchoe Flapjacks don’t require fertilizer to thrive. Instead, light exposure plays a larger role in the succulent’s growth and blooming. However, if you want to fertilize your flapjacks, a light layer of compost on top of the soil each spring is perfect.
Most succulents feature a fine layer of wax called farina or epicuticular wax, which protects the succulent’s leaves from drying out or burning under harsh sunlight. In many Kalanchoe plants, including the Kalanchoe Flapjacks, the epicuticular wax is vital in keeping the plant healthy. This wax often appears powdery and whitish– when you handle your plants, consider wearing gloves to avoid rubbing off too much of the wax!
Since we recommend bottom watering for your Flapjacks, it’s best to choose a pot with drainage holes to allow for the bottom watering process. Typically, metal and glass pots don’t have drainage holes, so we recommend pots made from concrete, terracotta, or unglazed ceramic. In addition, these pots are made of porous materials, which can help further improve drainage.
When you repot your Flapjacks, it’s best to wear gloves to avoid getting any of the succulent’s toxic sap on your skin or damaging the plant’s layer of farina. When you repot, be sure to use a pot at least 10% larger than the previous pot. To improve drainage when you repot your succulent, consider placing a layer of gravel at the bottom before your potting mix.
The Kalanchoe's fascinating blooming cycle revolves around its winter dormancy period. In its natural habitat, the Kalanchoe Flapjacks only receive a few hours of sunlight during the winter– they spend 14 hours in darkness! About four months after the winter period, sunlight is far from scarce, and this is when the Kalanchoe blooms. Your Flapjacks will need 8 or more hours of bright sunlight per day to encourage blooming. However, during its dormancy period in the winter, it will need near-total darkness.
As we’d mentioned before, the Kalanchoe Flapjacks go dormant during the winter months, when temperatures drop, and sunlight is scarce. To care for your Flapjacks during the winter months, continue providing them with water when the soil dries and minimal sunlight. If you’re looking to encourage blooming, however, keep your Flapjacks in the dark for most of the day.
When propagating your Flapjacks, it’s best to do so using leaf cuttings. Since these succulents have such delicate leaves, any healthy, fallen leaves make for a great opportunity to propagate! When you propagate from leaf cuttings, let the leaves dry and callous over before placing them in a small pot with some soil and compost. Mist the soil to keep it moist, and roots will begin to grow over time! Once your original leaf dries up, and the baby succulent is about half an inch in diameter, you can remove the parent leaf.
The best part of growing the Kalanchoe Flapjacks is how hardy they are! However, there are some common problems to watch out for. Pests include mealybugs, aphids, and red spider mites. Infection-wise, your Flapjacks are susceptible to mold and mildew growth on the leaves, especially if you don’t bottom-water them.
Another common problem that many Kalanchoe parents run into is mushy, discolored leaves, either from overwatering or underwatering. Typically, an overwatered succulent will have bloated, mushy leaves, while an underwatered succulent will have shriveled leaves. If your Flapjacks are overwatered, repot them in dry soil and wait a few days before watering again. If underwatered, monitor your succulents’ soil to develop a regular watering schedule.
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