Donkey Ear Plant Care: Growing Donkey Ears Kalanchoe

Botanically called Kalanchoe Gastonis-Bonnieri (kal-un-KOH-ee gas-TON bon-nee-ER-ee), donkey ear plants are annual/biennial succulents and a member of the Crassulaceae family and the Sedoideae subfamily. 

This Kalanchoe plant is native to Madagascar and is called the “Donkey Ear” because of the resemblance its leaves share with donkey’s ears.

Unique look of the Donkey Ear Plant
Kalanchoe gastonis bonnieri

The origin of the term “Kalanchoe” is somewhat unknown. 

Many believe it refers to the Chinese word “Kalan Chauhuy” which means “what falls and grows”. 

This refers to this fast-growing plant’s ability to produce its own roots and develop a new baby plant through its leaves. 

The plant name honors a famous French botanist, Dr. Gaston Bonnier.

The Kalanchoe is also known by the synonym Bryophyllum gastonis-bonnieri (mother of thousands). 

The Donkey Ears plant also has several common names which are as follows:

  • Tree of Life
  • Sprout Leaf Plant
  • Miracle Leaf
  • Palm Beachbells
  • Leaf of Life
  • Life Plant
  • Good Luck Leaf
  • Giant Kalanchoe

Donkey Ear Care

Size and Growth

Under ideal climatic conditions, donkey ears grow rapidly, from 12″ to 18″ inches tall and wide. 

At maturity, they form large lance-shaped leaves, from 1’ to 1.6’ feet long. 

These bronze-green leaves boast epicuticular wax – a waxy white covering – which makes the plant appear gray-green with maroon-brown blotches. 

These ovate-lanceolate leaves also form small plantlets on the side of the leaf margin.

Giant kalanchoes ideally grow in the desert, subtropical, and Mediterranean climate.  

Flowering and Fragrance

The terminal inflorescence with darker reddish-salmon petals and the yellow interior is the most prominent feature of the mother plant. 

The reddish-yellow flowers are marked by inflated calyces – significantly common among Kalanchoe species. 

In the fall or early winter season, small, bell-like flowers grow along a 2’ – 3’ feet tall stalk, often topped with the clusters of pale peach buds. 

The flowering process usually lasts for approximately two months, after which the succulent begins to die back.

Light and Temperature

  • Donkey ear plants enjoy full sun or partial shade. 
  • However, if placed immediately in the sun, the leaves may burn and die. 
  • Therefore, place the plant in an area where it receives part sun or filtered light. 
  • Then slowly and gradually introduce it to the full sun or part shade in the afternoon. 
  • The Donkey ear enjoys warmth so make sure the temperature never falls below 55° degrees Fahrenheit (13° C). 
  • The USDA hardiness zones of this biennial plant are from 10 – 12.

Watering and Feeding

Donkey ear succulents have fairly low water requirements. Growing pots should still have a drainage hole.

The succulent needs a moderate level of watering throughout the summer. However, the plant needs less water in winter. 

Water only when the top 1” or 2” inches of soil start to dry out. 

Feed the plant twice a week in summer, using a liquid fertilizer or a slow-release fertilizer.

Soil and Transplanting

  • The succulent plant prefers humus-rich, well-drained, and fertile potting mix. 
  • They also prefer potting soil with the right amount of loam, sand, and lava grit/pumice. 
  • Transplant the flowering plant in early fall and leave it outside in a bright spot. 
  • The cool temperature of the fall season will stimulate the growth of flower buds.

Donkey Ear Kalanchoe Grooming and Maintenance

Donkey Ears require light pruning to prevent it from getting leggy. 

Gently trim any damaged or dead flowers and leaves from the base of the plant. 

The drought-tolerant plant is able to be pruned at any time of the year.

Always allow the soil to dry before giving another dose of irrigation.  

Keep the soil moist, but avoid overwatering at all costs. 

Bring the donkey plant indoors when the temperature gets freezing cold.   

More Popular Kalanchoes to try:

How to Propagate Donkey Ears

Succulent donkey ear are usually propagated by cuttings in early spring. 

Cut a small length of a leaf with a sterilized knife or scissors. 

Place it on the soil surface of well-drained and moist soil and wait for some time to see the growth of new plants on the sprouting leaf.

Donkey Ear Kalanchoe Pests and Diseases

Aphids and mealybugs are a primary threat to the Donkey Ear plant. 

Life-threatening diseases such as powdery mildew, crow rots, root rots, bacterial rot, leaf spots, and virus diseases also pose a major threat to the perfect growth of the succulent.

Clean the cacti with a wet cloth to effectively treat small-scale infestations. 

However, serious infestations need eco-friendly pesticides.

Donkey Ear Plants Uses

The biennial cacti look great as hanging plants, grown in hanging baskets, or as a single specimen in a dry garden. 

They help enhance the outdoor beauty in winters when they are in full bloom. 

The attractive succulent is often mass planted with other similar varieties to further elevate the space. 

The flowering species also makes for a great choice as a cut flower.

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