How to Grow, Care and Propagate Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe daigremontiana)


Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) also called Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe, Alligator Plant or Mexican Hat Plant is a monocarpic succulent which bears thick fleshy leaves with numerous bulbils on the teeth.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana leaves vary in size, color and shape. They are dark-green to purplish-green with brown-red spots and held up by 2 in. long petioles.

The common name, 'Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe', is in reference to the plantlets that form along the edges of the leaves.

Whereas, these plantlets make propagation of this plant easy, they cause it to be invasive in some regions as they easily drop and begin to grow anywhere there is soil. It is recommended to grow this plant in a container to minimize spread.

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe, Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Botanical name: Kalanchoe daigremontiana
Synonmy: Byrophyllum daigremontianum, Kalanchoe daigremontianum
Family: Crassulaceae
Common names: Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe, Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe, Alligator Plant, Mexican Hat Plant

Origin

Kalanchoe daigremontiana is native to southwest Madagascar.

Size

Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe can grow to a height of about 3 ft and the leaves are about 8 in. long.

Flower

Alligator Plant flowers are greyish-pink or reddish to purple and bell-shaped. They are umbrella-like terminal inflorescences which appear in summer after which tiny follicles containing the seeds are formed.

Toxicity

iNaturalist.org indicates that, Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe like other plants in the Bryophyllum subgenus contains a very toxic steroid called daigremontianin which is toxic to both humans and pets. Keep the plant away from the reach of children and pets to prevent any mishaps.

Where to Buy

Are you looking to acquire these plants for your collection? Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe are available online.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana Care Indoors

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) does well in bright light to full sunlight, average warmth and humidity and moderately moist, rich, well-drained soil coupled with monthly feeding during the growing season.

Kalanchoe daigremontiana requires annual repotting for the young plants but mature plants only need repotting when they become pot-bound. Pruning is necessary to keep the plant neat and tidy. Keep reading for more on these growing conditions and how to achieve them.

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe, Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Watering

Water Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe thoroughly during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

Decrease watering significantly in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time but do not let the soil dry out completely.

Make sure that the pot has a drainage hole to prevent the soil from getting soggy as it can lead to root-rot and death of the plant.

Avoid wetting the leaves of Alligator Plant as it can lead to rotting. Water from the bottom instead.

Being a tropical plant, cold water will cause it to go into shock. Therefore, always water it with water that is at room temperature.

Light Requirements

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe grows best in bright light to full sunlight. Keep it away from hot direct sunlight to prevent scorching.

It can also grow under grow lights where natural light is inadequate. Take a look at these full spectrum grow lights on Amazon.

Regularly rotate the pot to ensure that the plant receives enought light on all sides for even growth.

If you choose to grow the Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe outdoors, gradually acclimate it and place it in a shaded place to avoid scorching the leaves.

Temperature and Humidity

Average warmth between 16-260C is ideal for Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe. The sudden change in temperature between day and night is excellent for this succulent plant as it mimicks its natural environment.

Keep Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe away from cold drafts to avoid sudden drops in temperature as they can lead to leaf drop and reduced growth.

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe has no need for extra humidity. Average room humidity is adequate for this plant.

Fertilizer

Feed Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe monthly during the growing period with a balanced, liquid fertilizer for lush growth.

Do not feed in the cold season as growth is minimal at this time and feeding at this time can cause fertilizer burn.

Potting Medium

The best potting medium for Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe should be rich in organic matter, loose and free-draining to avoid getting soggy soil. The soil should be loose enough to allow water to drain out fast enough. Cactus and Succulents Mix is ideal for the Mexican Hat Plant.

Repotting

Repot the young Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe at the beginning of the growing season. Use a shallow rather than a deep pot as the plant has shallow roots.

The pot should be only 1 size larger than the current one. Ensure the pot has a drainage hole to avoid getting soggy soil as it can result in root-rot.

A clay pot for Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe is preferable as it is porous which allows the soil to dry out faster, therefore, preventing it from getting soggy. Check out these Terracotta Pots with Saucer on Amazon.

Pruning

Pruning Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe requires the removal of dead and diseased leaves to maintain the plant neat and tidy.

Propagation

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) can be propagated at the beginning of the growing season from plantlets that form along the edges of the plant.

It is important to note that Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe is a monocarpic plant which means it flowers only once and then dies. The plant takes about 2 to 5 years to mature.

However, it produces numerous plantlets which develop into new plants. These plantlets have roots attached and they root easily.

How to propagate Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe from plantlets

Carefully detach the plantlets from the mother Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe while ensuring that they have adequate roots.

Immediately, plant the plantlets in moist, free-draining soil in small holes. Only the roots should lightly touch the soil.

Slightly firm the soil around the roots and cover the set up with clear polythene to raise humidity inorder to hasten establishment.

Position the set up in a warm, well-lit place away from direct sunlight to avoid cooking the plants. Water sparingly, only when the soil is dry.

Ensure that the rooting container has adequate drainage to avoid getting the soil soggy as it can lead to rotting.

Once the Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe plantlets are well established, remove the plastic cover and pot them in individual pots.

Place the new Mexican Hat Plants in a warm, brightly-lit place and begin routine care.

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe, Kalanchoe daigremontiana

Kalanchoe daigremontiana Problems

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe daigremontiana) problems include dropping leaves, drooping leaves, leggy growth, rotting, yellowing, pests and diseases among others. Keep reading for more on these problems, their remedies and solutions.

Falling (dropping) leaves

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe falling (dropping) leaves are due to incorrect watering; either overwatering or underwatering.

Water the Mother of Thousands Kalanchoe liberally during the growing season and allow the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings to keep the soil moderately moist.

Significantly cut down on watering during the cold season but never allow the soil ball to dry out completely.

Avoid soggy soil by ensuring that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining.

Drooping leaves

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe drooping leaves is due to underwatering. Immediately water the plant thoroughly and it should perk up.

Thereafter, water the Mexican Hat Plant thoroughly during the growing season while allowing the top 2-3 in. of soil to dry out between waterings.

During the cold season, water very infrequently but never allow the soil to dry our completely.

Leggy growth

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe leggy growth is an indication that the lighting is inadequate. This is an attempt by the plant to reach for the light.

Move the Mexican Hat Plant to a brighter spot where it will receive bright light with some direct sunlight or instal a grow light if the natural lighting is not adequate.

Rotting base, yellowing and shriveled leaves

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe rotting at the base followed by yellowing and shriveled leaves is an indication of basal stem-rot disease which is brought about by overwet conditions. Avoid soil soggy by ensuring that the pot has a drainage hole and that the soil is free-draining.

Pests

Devil's Backbone Kalanchoe is rarely attacked by pests but weak plants can be infested by Mealy Bugs and Scale Insects. Isolate the affected plant to reduce spread to other houseplants and treat it appropriately for the pests.

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