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Panda plants are a type of succulent that is popular among gardeners as they’re easy to grow and require very little maintenance. If you’re looking for an easy plant to grow outdoors or indoors, a panda plant would be a great choice! Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow panda plants.
About Panda Plants
The botanical name of panda plants is Kalanchoe tomentosa which means the plant is covered with fine hairs giving a densely woolly or velvety look which is why it was given the name ‘panda plant’. It is native to Madagascar. This plant grows to a height of two feet tall in its natural environment. But when grown indoors their height reduces depending on their container size. They can live up to 10 years given the ideal conditions indoors.
The leaves of the panda plant are grey-green in color with a touch of chocolate-brown on the edges. They are fully covered with silver hair particles called trichomes. These trichomes that spring up deflect light, limit transpiration and also give the panda plants their attractive velvet look. In some countries, they are known by other names like donkey ears, chocolate soldiers, white lady, pussy ears, cat ears, and plush plants.
Like the other succulents, the panda plant also grows thick leaves that are able to store water. This is helpful to gardeners because it reduces the need to water regularly. The leaves are mainly oval in shape, but you may also see a few leaves taking different shapes and forms. It has a thick stem that branches out having many groups of leaves.
Once the panda plant matures, it can be pruned well, so it develops a bush-like look and produces more branches that grow below pot level making them suitable for growing in a hanging basket. Panda plants also produce flowers but only when they grow in their natural habitat.
It’s very rare to find it blooming when grown indoors. If by chance they have flowers you will see small delicate tubular-shaped blooms at the tips of the branches in spring or summer. As it does not flower, the panda plant is mainly an ornamental plant this is basically grown indoors for its unique appearance.
Types of Panda Plants
There are more than 100 varieties of Panda plants grown in the wilds of Africa and many other parts of the old world. They belong to the Crassulaceae family. They are all very soft succulents with slight differences.
Some of the common types include the chandelier plant which is recognized for its red-orange flowers, the paddle plant which comes without the soft velvety feel, the Snow-White Panda Plant with whitish gray leaves, and the chandelier plant with red-orange flowers.
Planting, Caring, and Maintaining Panda Plants
|Well-drained soil sandy soil and cactus potting mix
|Protect from bright sun and extreme heat Indoors – medium to bright light outdoors – cool and shady spot
|Water once a week when the soil is completely dry Water only to wet the soil, not allowing stagnant water
|No need for fertilizer but can use a diluted liquid succulent fertilizer during growing season
|Temperature and Humidity
|Preferred steady conditions USDA hardiness zone is 11 or 12 Between 60°F and 75°F Keep indoors during winter Keep in shady areas during summer
|Propagation and Repotting
|Stem cutting (15 – 20 days to root). Do a clean cut above the leaf or the stem node dry the cuttings 1-3 days water using a spray bottle Regularly prune once grown for bushier plant
|Pests and Diseases
|Overwatering causes yellowish and mushy leaves. Pluck the leaves out and reduce watering Powdery mildew – use a potassium bicarbonate product Leggy and spindly look on the stem – needs more sun. Prune the stem and move the plant closer to a window where they get enough sunlight Mealybugs – Soak a cloth in alcohol or neem oil and wipe them off Aphids and brown scale – Soak a cloth in alcohol or neem oil and wipe them off Leaves turning brown – use a pair of scissors to cut them off
It is advised to use well-drained soil that helps water run out quickly without stagnating. As stagnant water can cause root rot and eventually might kill the plant. The best types of soil recommended are sandy soil and cactus potting mix which helps the water drain quickly avoiding any problems caused by overwatering. The recommended pH of the soil is 6.1 to 6.5 for better results.
Panda plants love the bright light from the sun, but they need shade as they can dehydrate when heavily exposed to the sun. When choosing a place to grow it indoors make sure to choose a place where medium to bright light either in the morning or afternoon. When growing them outdoors, especially when living in a warm climate region make sure to put them in a cool and shady spot during the afternoon hours so they are protected from the bright sun and extreme heat.
Water is not very essential for panda plants like other succulents, they can also survive without water for a week, but this does not mean the plant can be neglected. When watering the plant make sure to water only after the soil is completely dry. You can check the soil by feeling the soil with your fingers. You can pour water till the pot becomes full and leave the excess water to drain into the saucer beneath the pot. Then when the water has completely drained, discard the excess water remaining on the saucer. There should be no water stagnating at the bottom. During spring and summer, the amount of water given to the kalanchoe should be increased to avoid dehydration.
Since these are mainly found in desert areas, they can manage themselves without the supply of fertilizers. But providing them with fertilizers during the growing season which usually takes place in spring till the end of summer can be an added advantage. Use a diluted liquid succulent fertilizer.
Temperature and Humidity
The panda plants like steady conditions and the preferred USDA hardiness zone is 11 or 12. The favorable temperature for the healthy growth of Kalanchoe is between 60°F and 75°F. A slight change in these temperatures can be tolerated by the Pandas but extreme changes tend to kill the plant.
Therefore, during winter, it is advised to transfer the plants indoors and during very hot climates they should be kept under shade and given more water to help them grow into healthy plants.
Humidity is not a concern when grown indoors as the average room humidity is more than enough for this plant to thrive for many years. Moving it outside during spring and summer can be an added advantage taking into consideration, not letting it get burnt in the direct hot afternoon sun.
Propagation and Repotting
Propagation can be done through stem and leaf cuttings which are usually carried out during the growing season which is from the early spring to the end of summer. Even though propagating with the stem or the leaf is easily done, the most preferred method used among gardeners is stem cutting which they think is easier as it takes only about 15 to 20 days to root.
To propagate a panda plant using the stem, make a clean cut above the leaf or the stem node. Before cutting, remember to choose a healthy and mature piece for better results. Dry the cuttings for about 1 to 3 days before they are planted in the appropriate soil mix. Place the pot on a south-facing window where it receives indirect bright light from the sun.
Do not keep it under direct sunlight as it can be damaged by sunburns. Be very gentle when watering and give them a good drink to avoid drying further. This can be done with the help of a spray bottle. Once they get their roots they can be treated normally as treating a grown Kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe is a slow grower therefore repotting can be done once every 2 years at the start and once it matures it can be reduced further. To make a bushier panda plant, regularly prune it and your panda plant will thrive growing itself into a bush or hanging plant.
Pests and Diseases
Root rot is the main most common reason a panda plant dies. This is because it is a drought-resistant plant that can not withstand too much water. If you start noticing the plant turning yellowish with mushy leaves it is due to overwatering. For the plant to recover, pluck the leaves that turned mushy and let the soil dry out completely. Too much watering can also lead to powdery mildew where the leaves start to develop yellow spots or dead edges. This can be treated with a potassium bicarbonate product and also allow for good circulation around the plant.
If your panda plant develops a leggy look and spindly look on the stem, this means it needs more sun. First, cut them to keep on maintaining a round shape appearance. Then move the plant closer to a window where they get enough sunlight.
The most common pests that can invade the panda plant are the mealybugs, they are attracted to the spongy soft hairy leaves. Keeping an eye on mealybugs can help save your plant easily by removing them with a cloth completely soaked in rubbing alcohol.
They are very hard to spot sometimes therefore a close look at the leaves is advised. But if the plant is infested with mealybugs it requires to be treated with alcohol or neem oil. Other pests that can cause harm are aphids and brown scales. These also can be removed by the same procedure used to remove the mealybugs.
Sometimes you may find your plant’s leaves turning brown which may be because of the end of their lifespan. Don’t worry about it much you will eventually start to see new leaves growing out of the plant’s main stem while the older leaves on the plant’s outer edges die off. For it to look better again you can trim the outer edges carefully using clippers or scissors.
Panda plants are unique and are easily cared for as long as you provide them with the right conditions needed for their growth. As the panda plant is such low maintenance, it makes it easy for children to handle and care for, where they are rewarded with such beautiful plants.
The important thing to remember when growing panda plants is to not water them too much as too much water kills the plant. As it is an easy plant to grow, why not grab a panda plant and try it out in your garden or home?
1. Are panda plants toxic to pets?
Panda plants as a whole are toxic to cats and dogs, therefore make sure to keep them away. They are poisonous and can also hurt as they contain insoluble calcium oxalate crystals that are sharp enough to cut their mouth, gums, and tongue.
If you think your pet had messed around this plant or find them having symptoms like respiratory distress or hypersalivation make sure to visit the veterinarian to help them recover.
2. Is there any alternate method to get flowers on Kalanchoe when grown indoors?
If you want to have a Kalanchoe with regular blossoms when you grow indoors, go for the cultivar Kalanchoe blossfeldiana hybrids. This hybrid plant is like the panda plant but is made to produce flowers even when kept indoors.
3. How fast does a panda plant grow?
Panda plants grow slowly and need to be re-potted only once every 2 years. The more mature it gets, the less often you’ll need to re-pot it.
4. How long do panda plants live?
Panda plants can live for many years in the right growing conditions.
5. Can you put a panda plant outside?
Yes, you can plant a panda plant both indoors or outdoors.