If you are looking for an eye-catching succulent plant to use as a focal point in a certain part of a room, you cannot go wrong with the Mother of Thousands. This plant has truly unique foliage which makes it the prime focus in the garden of any succulent lover. It belongs to the Bryophyllum family in the Kalanchoe genus.
This mesmerizing succulent is native to Madagascar and it goes by many names, including Mother of millions, the piggyback plant, the panda plant, the maternity plant, alligator plant, Mexican hat plant, or The Devil’s Backbone.
Like most succulents, it is very low-maintenance, and due to the nature of its foliage which features countless plantlets on each leaf, this succulent is very easy to propagate. It can make for a great gift for a beginner gardener. But overall it is a nice addition to any garden, and if you put its exotic foliage in the spotlight, it can be perfectly integrated into an eclectic or an ethnic interior design.
Read on to learn more about growing and caring for ‘Mother of Thousands’ succulents.
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About the Mother of Thousands Succulents
- Due to their ability to easily adapt to extreme environmental changes, members of the Kalanchoe family were among the first plants to be sent to space, as part of a space gardening experimental program. The results of the program were top secret and were never made public.
- All parts of this plant contain a dangerous toxin, more specifically the cardiac glycoside daigremontianum. Depending on the dosage, this toxin can even be fatal for pets and even children.
- Despite its high toxicity, this plant has been intensively used in traditional medicine throughout the years. It is commonly used in tropical countries for the treatment of a wide variety of illnesses including but not limited to burns, ulcers, hypertension, infections, diarrhea, diabetes, or cancer.
- The treatments are not meant for periods exceeding one month and the plant is not indicated during pregnancy, since it can stimulate the uterus. However, some people also use it to treat infertility. In high dosages, this plant can also lead to heart and kidney failure.
- This evergreen succulent is not prone to diseases or pests. However, if you grow it outdoors, or if you leave the plant containers outdoors, it can be attacked by snails who consider its leaves a delicacy.
- While the Mother of Thousands can be grown outdoors, it is rarely seen in outdoor gardens since it is extremely invasive. Moreover, outdoors it is hard to control its appearance and you cannot highlight its unique foliage.
Mother of Thousands Succulent Features: An Overview
- This plant features slim and long green leaves with a slight blue shade and a touch of red around the edges. The leaves grow up to 20 cm long and 3 cm wide. The plant grows multiple plantlets on the edges of each leaf.
- The leaves have a fleshy texture and as it goes with most succulents, the leaves serve as a water reservoir for the plant. Upper leaves can sometimes grow larger than the rest of the leaves causing the main stalk to bend under their weight.
- It is not uncommon for this plant to develop lateral leaves, which sometimes grow above the ground.
- When grown outdoors in a temperate climate, this plant can grow up to one meter tall.
- Mother of Thousands succulents never flower indoors.
- Outdoors, they sometimes flower in late winter. The plants develop stalks that grow taller than the rest of the plant and produce clusters of flowers on top.
- However, their pink bell-shaped flowers are not very spectacular. Furthermore, since they are seedless, they cannot be used for propagation. As such, Mother of Thousands succulents propagate solely through the plantlets that develop on their leaves.
Growing Mother of Thousands Succulents
This plant enjoys full sun exposure. However, when you first bring it home, allow it a few days of partial shade to adapt to its new home before exposing it directly to direct sunlight. For optimal development, it should get about 6 hours of sun per day, so it is best to place it in a southern-facing windowsill.
Mother of Thousands thrives in temperate climates, more specifically in the 10th zone. As such it can tolerate minimum temperatures of 0° C. It is not recommended to leave it outdoors in the winter months, but if you do so, make sure to cover it with a cloth to keep it warm. Make sure to keep it sheltered from winds as much as possible, especially when the temperatures drop.
Planting Mother of Thousands Succulents
This Kalanchoe plant prefers a light growing medium with good draining properties. Choose a special medium for succulents, a cactus mix, or simply use a mixture of peat and river sand. Mostly any medium works if is not soggy. It helps if you place a layer of pebbles at the bottom of the container to improve the drainage of your medium and to encourage air circulation. As far as pots are concerned, a terracotta pot with a drainage hole is the best choice.
It does not need feeding or any type of special compost. Occasional pruning may be necessary, to keep its foliage in good shape or to control its growth and developments. For maintenance pruning, simply remove the oldest leaves from the bottom of the plant.
If you want to repot your Kalanchoe, be very careful. It has highly sensitive roots that can be damaged when repotting. If possible, try to remove the plant along with the soil from its pot, or dig around to expose the roots without damaging them.
Watering Mother of Thousands Succulents
Mother of Thousands is very resistant to droughts. However, it develops better when watered regularly, although it only needs a minimum amount of water. Depending on its container size, you will have to water it every 2-4 days in the summer. Allow the soil to dry completely before watering it, and when you do water it, do it lightly.
You just want the water to pass through the soil, without moistening it completely. As winter approaches and the temperatures drop, you will need to water it even less frequently. Again, it depends on the plant’s size and the size of its pot, but during fall, you only need to water it every 6-8 days and only once every two weeks in the wintertime.
If your Kalanchoe is exposed to full sunshine, do not water it during the hottest hours in the wintertime as you risk scorching it. On the same order of thoughts, do not water the Mother of Thousands in the evening during winter to avoid freezing.
Tap water will work just fine, and your plant will appreciate it if you use room temperature water. Depending on how many plants you have, you can always benefit from leaving a large container filled with water overnight, as most plants prefer room temperature water. Finally, avoid watering the leaves as much as possible as they are prone to rotting if they remain moist for long periods. Misting is not recommended.
Propagating Mother of Thousands Succulents
This remarkable succulent propagates so easily that it is often called a self-propagating plant. Many gardeners with limited space found young Kalanchoe Daigremontiana plants in nearby pots.
This happens because the plantlets that develop on the leaves can sometimes fall in nearby pots and, since they do not have fancy growing needs, they will catch roots in almost any medium. Once this happens, they are quite hard to remove, so be careful where you plant the plant as you do not want it to invade its neighbors.
If you want a controlled propagation, things are incredibly simple. Simply detach some offshoots from the mother plant’s leaves and place them in new containers, on the top of the soil. You do not need to dig holes and you will not have to wait for more than a few days for the new plants to catch roots.
Worry not, as this plant will grow and thrive, sometimes despite your best efforts to neglect it. In some extreme situations, if the environment is not ideal for the growth of this plant, plantlets may need a little help to catch roots. You can aid them by using a plastic bag to create a heat chamber. Use a transparent bag to observe the plants and remove the bag when the new plants seem strong enough.
If you are a beginner gardener or you do not have a good track record of keeping plants alive, a plant that’s considered invasive is the best choice to increase your gardening self-esteem. As you can see, this plant is very sturdy and while it does have some specific growing needs, it will survive even if those needs are not satisfied. Plus, its unique leaves make it attractive and it will certainly spice up any room.
There is also something endearing in this plant’s nurturing nature towards its new offshoots. The fact that it developed the ability to shoot new plants off its leaves is also impressive. In a nutshell, this is a very interesting succulent, and a nice addition to any home.
Will you add a Mother of Thousands succulent to your collection? Let us know in the comments!