These succulents are go-to choices for texture and diverse foliage
“It’s so fuzzy I’m gonna die!”
That might be the (perfectly rational) utterance of a succulent fan upon laying eyes on Kalanchoe tomentosa. Commonly known as panda plant, the species is distinguished by its fuzzy, velvety, dotted leaves, which kind of look like cat ears.Those who fancy fuzziness and brown bears might like the bear ear-shaped leaves of Kalanchoe tomentosa ‘Teddy Bear’ even more.
Before we go any further in discussing the eye-melting diversity contained within the genus Kalanchoe (kah-lan-KOH-ee), we feel compelled to address that “fuzzy” quote. Young, (mostly) adorable Agnes from the Despicable Me movies says of a ginormous stuffed unicorn: “He’s so fluffy I’m gonna die.” No matter how many incorrect memes or YouTube entries you see that say, “It’s so fluffy… .” But for a reference to one of our favorite picks for arrangements, “[i]t’s so fuzzy” seemed more apt.
So, back to succulent talk. We started a post about kalanchoes, succulent plants native to Madagascar and other areas of Africa as well as Asia, without mentioning the species that probably gets seen the most. That would be the widely cultivated K. blossfeldiana, a flower whiz so ubiquitous it has earned nicknames like “florist kalanchoe” and “supermarket kalanchoe.”
Like most kalanchoes, this boss of a bloomer does not sport fuzzy foliage. And on that point, other than K. blossfeldiana, kalanchoes are prized for their foliage and form. Good ol’ dependable florist kalanchoe is unusual for a succulent in that it’s the flowers that captivate people, not shape or leaf color.
We can’t go any further without highlighting K. luciae (flapjacks or paddle plant). Its paddle-like leaves light up bright red in full sun. It’s understandable that many would presume paddle plant and panda plant to belong to different genera, but aesthetically speaking, what these species share is distinctive foliage that makes each desirable as a textural counterpoint in a garden or planter.
That’s not to say kalanchoes can’t stand out as stars on their own. Variegated paddle plant (K. luciae ‘Fantastic’) is a sight to behold: pure, rainbow-colored eye candy. The same can be said of the variegated form of K. fedtschenkoi (lavender scallops), which is especially purty in mass plantings. Snazzy color aside, here we have another kalanchoe that, with its scalloped leaf margins, shines as a garden choice because of the interesting foliage. To hit on that theme again, Kalanchoe ‘Pink Butterflies’ produces multitudes of butterfly-like pink plantlets on its leaves in summer. Because the plantlets lack chlorophyll — they are pink, after all — this isn’t an easy succulent to propagate. You’ll have much better luck with a non-variegated, prolific spreader to which ‘Pink Butterflies’ can be partly traced — K. delagoensis (chandelier plant), arguably to a fault.
Below are some of the kalanchoes we sell at our online shop. You can also find Altman Plants-grown specimens at stores like The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart.
Kalanchoe eriophylla (snow white panda plant) — Has the appearance of a snow white panda plant with a slightly less upright habit. Fleshy tapered leaves are densely covered with white hairs and have brown tips. Retail link / Wholesale link
Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi variegata (aurora borealis) — Forms clustering stems with bluish-green leaves that have scalloped cream-colored margins that are often blushed pink. Retail
Kalanchoe longiflora coccinea — Forms subshrubs with scalloped oval leaves. Leaves turn crimson in response to drought, cold or full sun. Canary yellow flowers on tall spikes appear during late spring and summer months. Retail