Kalanchoe tomentosa pronounced [kal-un-KOH-ee] [toh-men-TOH-suh] is one of over a hundred varieties of Kalanchoe plants.
The plant belongs to the Kalanchoe genus and the Crassulaceae family. The Kalanchoe tomentosa is a succulent, producing thick fleshy leaves for storing water.
Kalanchoe Tomentosa Plant Facts
- Origin: Madagascar
- Family: Crassulaceae
- Botanical Name: Kalanchoe tomentosa [kal-un-KOH-ee] [toh-men-TOH-suh]
- Common Name: Panda Plant, Pussy Ears, Donkey Ears, Chocolate Soldier
- Plant Type: succulent, perennial
- Size: 1′ – 2′ feet in cultivation
- Leaves: oval-shaped leaves covered with fuzzy, fine hairs
- Flowers: uncommon, tubular-shaped flowers
- Hardiness: USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11
- Exposure: Lots of bright light
- Soil: well-draining cactus soil
- Water: Keep on the dry side
- Fertilizing: balanced liquid fertilizer 1/2 strength during spring and summer
- Propagation: cuttings
Kalanchoe Tomentosa Care
Tomentosa means “covered with fine hairs,” referencing the fuzzy “Panda” exterior of this plant that is native to the island of Madagascar.
However, it’s common names include:
- Panda Plant
- Pussy Ears
- Donkey Ears
- Chocolate Soldier
How Big Does The Panda Plant Grow?
In the wild, the Panda Plant is known to reach heights of several feet. However, when grown indoors, it typically only reaches one or two feet with a two-foot spread. It produces fleshy, oval-shaped leaves.
The plant is recommended for USDA hardiness zones 9b to 11, with a preferred temperature range of 60 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
What Do The Tomentosa Flowers Look Like And Do They Have Any Fragrance?
The Kalanchoe tomentosa produces tubular-shaped flowers that bloom from the tips of the leaves. However, the plant rarely blooms indoors.
If you’re lucky enough to see flowers, the Panda Plant blooms in the spring and summer. Without the flowers, the succulent is still a great decorative plant.
What Lighting and Temperature Does the Chocolate Soldier Plant Grow Best?
The “Chocolate Soldier Plant” grows best in bright light to full sun. If possible, keep it in a bright spot throughout the year.
If you grow the plant indoors, your plant will not get full sun. However, it’s best to keep the plant from getting direct sunlight all day.
When moving it from indoors to the outdoors, you need to slowly expose it to full sunlight. Start by placing it in an area with partial sun and then slowly move it each week.
The gradual transition helps keep the leaves from being scorched by the sunlight.
How Do You Water And Fertilize Kalanchoe Tomentosa?
Like most succulents, the Kalanchoe tomentosa is drought resistant. It can go a while without being watered and tolerates dry air.
When watering the plant, avoid pouring the water on the leaves. Over-watering can easily cause the leaves to rot. Try to water the plant from the bottom to protect the leaves.
NOTE: You can clean the fuzzy leaves with a soft brush, such as a dry paintbrush.
While the Panda Plant is easy to care for, you may want to consider using a fertilizer. Use a product designed specifically for succulents. Add the fertilizer each month during the spring and summer.
The plant doesn’t require frequent watering. In fact, you should allow the plant to dry out between each watering.
Over-watering is one of the most common issues with caring for succulents. You should thoroughly soak the soil but there shouldn’t be any water in the tray below your pot.
If you’re watering outdoors, keep an eye on the leaves. If the leaves show any signs of rot, you are watering the plant too much.
What Is The Best Soil For Growing And Repotting Panda Plants?
The Kalanchoe tomentosa should be planted in succulent potting media that provides fast drainage.
When planting multiple succulents, keep them spaced about 36 inches apart. The spacing offers enough room for the plants to reach their full size without crowding each other.
Outdoor planting is only recommended in ideal climates. Typically, the plant does best in warm, dry regions, such as Arizona and parts of Texas.
If you grow the plant in a pot, it should be repotted every couple of years. When placing the plant in a new pot, you can improve the drainage of the soil by adding a layer of pieces from a broken clay pot to the bottom of your container.
Do Donkey Ears Plants Need Any Special Grooming?
You should not need to perform any grooming. This is a slow-growing succulent that produces a tight bundle of thick leaves. It also rarely flowers, which means you shouldn’t have anything to clean up.
How to Propagate Kalanchoe Tomentosa
Propagating the Kalanchoe tomentosa is easy. You just need to follow these simple steps:
- Cut the leaves in the spring or during the first part of summer
- Allow the leaf cuttings to dry for at least a week
- Plant the cuttings in a container with sandy soil
- Place the containers in bright sunlight
The leaf cuttings should take root within about four weeks. After the roots appear, the leaves should start growing from the stem.
When this occurs, you can move the new plants to larger pots or plant them outdoors, depending on the region in which you live.
What Pest, Disease or Problems Does “Chocolate Soldier” Encounter
One of the biggest risks for the Kalanchoe tomentosa is rot. As mentioned, if you over-water the plant, you risk causing the leaves to rot.
Note: Keep pets especially cats away as all parts of tomentosa are poisonous if ingested. [source]
However, the leaves are used in Cameroon folk medicine for treating various diseases.
What Are Some Other Popular Kalanchoe Varieties?
The Kalanchoe tomentosa is one of the most popular plants in this genus. However, there a few other choices to consider, which are as follows:
- Kalanchoe marnieriana (Marnier’s Kalanchoe) – rounded blue-green leaves that resemble clam shells
- Kalanchoe luciae (Paddle Plant) – features green leaves with red tips
- Kalanchoe beharensis (Felt Plant) – triangular leaves with bronze and silver colors
- Kalanchoe blossfeldiana (Flaming Katy) – includes red, orange, pink, or yellow flowers
What Are The Best Uses For Kalanchoe Tomentosa Indoors or Outdoors
The Kalanchoe tomentosa is most commonly grown indoors as a small single specimen in a pot of is dish gardens.
If you live in a region that remains warm enough to support the plant, it can be an excellent addition for a rock garden or ground cover.