Sunday, January 12, 2014

Maureen's Mystery Plant

Hi, Everyone!

I hope everyone is enjoying our Winter weather.  We have a bright spot in all of this snow up in Michigan ~ our 'Mystery' plant has started to bloom!
For all of you that received one of the baby plants from Maureen's house I wanted to put together what I've learned about it, other than it is one of the strangest plants I've ever heard about.

It is actually a Kalanchoe Houghtonii plant (although there is differing information it may be Kalanchoe Daigremontiana, but that is my best guess).  It is a succulent that grows tall  (about 3 feet) on a single stalk with jagged leaves, which sprout new small plants on every serration.  The leaves are medium green above and blotched purple underneath, and it flowers in the winter.

It is a viviparous plant, meaning it generates offspring while attached to the parent.
When the babies are ready, when they actually develop several tiny leaves and roots, they fall off and root wherever they land.  They are invasive, and those babies, according to Kristina Lucas Francis, even rooted into a leaf of her very tough pineapple plant!  There is a great blog about them at that describes them as an evil genius, dropping babies amongst cactus spines for protection.

As they describe it, "A gene which normally is only used in making seeds has been altered in such a way that it's useless for seed-making. Thanks to the changes, though, this gene can be expressed in leaves. So instead of forming embryonic plants in seeds, it forms embryonic plants in the leaves, skipping the whole pollination-and-seed stage entirely."

The flowers are orange hanging bells that all hang from one basic large flower group at the top of each plant.  The blooms last for over a month, and should be snipped off to prolong the blooming season.   Long stems can be pruned back and cuttings can be taken to start new plants. Kalanchoes root easily from stems inserted in potting soil.

That is a pretty cool plant already, but there's more.  Out of the top of every one of my blossoms, another complete plant started growing!

This made the already 3 foot tall top-heavy plant so unstable it was really difficult to support.
After the flower has finished blooming, you can re-pot your plant in a slightly larger container.
You should use a quick draining soil such as cactus mix with additional pumice or pearlite added.  Fertilize three times in summer with a 10-10-10 fertilizer.  Allow the top two inches of soil to dry out between waterings, do not let sit in water, and during dormancy in winter water only enough to keep the soil from drying out completely.

Kalanchoes need lots of light, preferably a south-facing window in winter and bright indirect light (or east/west window) in summer. If your Kalanchoe plant is looking leggy and thin it probably isn’t getting enough light.  Kalanchoes do fine in normal household conditions, but they need to be kept away from drafts. Keep your kalanchoe above 50°F.

Since kalanchoes are photo periodic you can encourage the plant to bloom again by cutting back on the amount of light it receives. They need 12 hours of darkness to set blooms. Once the blossoms have formed, the amount of light is not critical.

Although they can live as house plants, kalanchoes will grow happily outdoors. If you live in a frost-free area they can be planted in the ground. Their leaves can become damaged by intense sunlight. Morning sun or dappled shade is better.

Here is a photo of my new flower a few days ago.  This plant was one of the babies from Breyerfest 2013: 
And here it is today!

Okay, it hasn't opened yet but it's close...
I hope all of you that took some of these plants are doing well with yours.  I plan on having more at Breyerfest 2014, so stop by the Share The Love room for one of your own.  I can also mail out babies to those who want one when the weather warms up.  I'd love to hear how your plants are doing!